He’s back…

Yes, he really is. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed on to make and star in a fifth Terminator movie – news that has pretty much split me straight through my solar plexus. The fanboy in my head can’t help but jump up and down with a “woo, yes!” while the concerned filmwatcher in me is sobbing: “Fools! Foooools!”

Let’s look at the facts. Arnie’s now 63 years old. He was 37 when he made the first Terminator back in 1984. He was already looking a little creaky in the third film Rise Of The Machines, released in 2003. That was damn near 10 years ago.

Putting aside any questions of this new sequel’s quality, are we really expected to believe that a killing machine has been designed in the future that resembles a 63-year-old man? Or will the filmmakers be giving Arnie a CGI facelift like they did with the more recent Terminator Salvation? For that film, a body double was used in order to recreate the circa ’84 Arnie for a smackdown with Christian Bale.

If Justin Lin (yes, the director of Fast Five, who’s also attached to helm this new Terminator) decides to go that CG-heavy route, surely that’s a lot of work just to have the franchise’s star return? Furthermore, will T5 be a continuation of McG’s box office flop Terminator Salvation? While that film has its haters, it did at least feature some stunning aesthetics – and McG had hinted a fifth film could involve Sarah Connor (and hence, yippee, a return for Linda Hamilton).

Of course, that’s all conjecture. Nothing is known whatsoever about the plot of T5, so it’s a bit early to start complaining about geriatric robots. That said, perhaps the entire film will centre around a new vision of the future where the war is over and robots are now filling up retirement homes and fighting over the remote…

Four play

Recently, a buddy of mine wrote a (cracking) blog post about movie threequels. Which, it seems, is a topic that everybody has an opinion on. Alien 3 has its lovers. Spider-Man 3 its haters. But in light of Scre4m hitting cinemas earlier this month, my brain began to ponder the subject of fourquels. The result is this meandering post – a blatant fleecing of Stephen’s threequel blog. Or maybe a belated sequel…

Fourquels are tricky things, no question. If an emergent franchise does the impossible and creates a decent first follow-up (see Friday The 13th Part 2, Aliens), it’s almost always let down by a dreary threequel (see Friday The 13th Part 3, Alien 3). Which is where the fourquel comes in. Slowly, of course, because many fourquels take their bow a fair amount of time after their disappointing predecessors – Scre4am took 11 years to arrive after a fan-dividing trilogy-closer, Alien: Resurrection took five to recover from Fox’s Alien 3 meddling.

But are fourquels actually any good? When even the brains behind them know a third sequel is pushing things (see F13: Part 4, which attempted to put a lid on Jason Voorhees forever, then failed miserably), isn’t it time to call it quits and move quietly along?

Some are undeniable stinkers. Case in point A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, which not only had the audacity to re-cast fresh Final Girl Patricia Arquette (introduced in Part 3) with a saucer-eyed soap opera reject (and then ingloriously kill her off), but insisted that we believe Freddy Krueger could be raised from the dead by a quantity of flaming dog piss. Dream Master is a fine example of fourquels that are travelling on the same beaten track as their predecessor(s), but are now squealing along on flat tyres.

And who could forget the hilariously unfortunate Jaws 4: The Revenge, which maintained that a sea-dwelling fish could not only hold grudges, but also set out in search of bloody vengeance? Fishy isn’t the word.

The fourquels that come off best (and “best” is all relative here) are the ones that seek to reboot and rejuvenate. Alien: Resurrection, armed with Buffy’s Joss Whedon on scripting duties, endeavoured to take the character of Ripley (who had little to do in Alien 3 except hate herself) in a kick-ass new direction. Yes, it failed in other areas, but by exploring new avenues in a tired concept, it at least gave the franchise a boost.

The same can be said of Halloween 4: The Revenge Of Michael Myers. With Jamie Lee Curtis long gone, Revenge effectively stirred up a Carpenter-esque mood while giving us one of the cutest ever little Final Girls (thank you, Danielle Harris). Yes, it was as subtle as a knife in the gut, but at least it respected the original. Sadly the same can’t be said of the atrocious Halloween 5 and 6, both of which are the definition of hackjob (there’s a fivequel discussion in there somewhere).

One the best horror fourquels tumbled along with 1998’s Bride Of Chucky, which revamped (quite literally, in the case of Jennifer Tilly) the killer doll franchise and dragged it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Okay, it was ‘hip’ and ‘in’, with clever references (hello Pinhead) and better humour than horror, but it effectively gave the Child’s Play series a shot of sugar that it was desperately craving.

The minus column, of course, almost entirely eradicates the plus. Die Hard 4 (explosive mess), Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skulls (saggy mess), Resident Evil: Afterlife (pure ugh), Critters 4 (no Leo), Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (Nuclear Man), Terminator Salvation (McG)…

Does the world need fourquels? They’re often rightly held up as examples of diminishing returns, but those occasional tarnished gems at least help keep the discussion interesting. With Mad Max 4 (Fury Road) and a possible X-Men 4 both on the horizon (producer Lauren Donner’s been teasing us about the latter for years), it seems Hollywood still isn’t ready to throw in the towel when it comes to profitable franchises. The fourquel lives on…