The Rock and John Cena are both rumored to be in the running for the title role of a Terminator reboot, but the latter should play the iconic villain
Both Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and John Cena have recently been talked up as replacements for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role of a Terminator reboot, but the latter wrestler-turned-actor would be a better fit for the role. Beginning in 1984 with James Cameron’s original The Terminator, the Terminator franchise has, in the decades since that slasher-influenced sci-fi horror debuted, turned the effective action of the original movie into a series of post-apocalyptic war movies, more family-friendly sequels, and convoluted spin-offs.
To be fair to The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the story of the Terminator franchise was always hard to follow, and despite how effective the sparse, scary atmosphere is, Cameron’s original movie is not an easy plot for viewers to piece together upon first viewing. But as complex as the knotty plot can get at times, the original Terminator and its blockbuster first sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day both made the canny decision to focus more on thrills and violent action than lore, making both movies entertaining despite their time-jumping backstory.
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However, like the movie’s earlier, critically dismissed sequels Genisys and Salvation, the 2019 installment Terminator: Dark Fate proved unable to recapture this delicate balance of punchy thrills and time-travel plot mechanics. The failure of Deadpool director Tim Miller’s movie to make an impact with both critics and audiences alike means the Terminator series will likely be in for a full-blown reboot rather than another sequel if the studio does revive the franchise despite Dark Fate‘s flop, and some exciting names have been reported to be attached to the project. No official word is known yet, but according to insider tips, a pair of prominent wrestler-turned-actors, John Cena and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson have both been considered for the title role of the franchise reboot. Both actors have been rumored to be attached to a potential new Terminator movie, but Cena makes more sense in the titular role than Johnson.
The Reboot Could Re-Establish The Terminator As A Villain
From the unfocused story of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines to the appearance of a beleaguered Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Terminator-turned-retired-drape-salesman named Carl in Dark Fate, it’s fair to say every post-Judgement Day Terminator series outing has not known what to do with the title character. The first film established Arnie’s android assassin as an iconic villain, the second made him a hero — and this reboot could take an equally charismatic wrestler-turned-leading-man in John Cena and make him an instantly iconic, un-ironic chilling villain. Without re-establishing the Terminator as the villain of the series, the reboot would likely fall into the same trap as earlier outings such as Terminator: Salvation, which failed to offer a T-800 or-1000 style villainous threat after cutting Helena Bonham Carter’s promising Serena and became bogged down by boring backstory as a result. With Margot Robbie being eyed as a lead, there is no need for the Terminator to also be a hero in a series reboot, meaning the movies can get back to their roots.
The Rock Has A Troubled History As A Villain
Despite being a solid heel, the Rock has not yet had a big-screen villain role that went over well with critics. The much-hyped Black Adam will soon see him try to shift this, but so far his only experience as a villain was as the unintentionally hilarious Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns and the quasi-villainous antihero of Pain & Gain, neither of which were straight-up villains like the original Terminator and neither of which were well-regarded upon release. Cena also has little experience playing villains, but unlike the Rock, he has no history as a screen baddie rather than an unfortunate history as flawed villains, meaning the actor has a clean slate from which he can recreate his screen persona. Schwarzenegger himself was best-known for playing a string of heroes before The Terminator, and Cena could surprise audiences by going dark for the part as the actor has no history of villainous roles.
The Rock’s Roots In Comedy Could Work Against The Terminator
Whether it is the regrettable disco-shades he donned in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or his aforementioned reinvention as a mild-mannered suburbanite in Dark Fate, many of the Terminator’s most misjudged onscreen moments come from attempting to inject a little levity into the character. A select few moments of deadpan comic relief have indeed proven effective throughout the history of the series, be it the humanizing scenes from Terminator 2: Judgement Day wherein he learns hand gestures from John Connor or the affectless “give me your clothes” that makes the original movie’s Terminator both scary and oddly funny at once. However, the Rock’s most popular screen outings have seen the actor indulge in broader, less subtle comedy than this, and this tendency would likely work against him in the role of the titular android assassin. A brief look at his best-performing movies, both financially and critically, reaffirms that comedy is home to Johnson onscreen. Jumanji, Moana, Baywatch, and Central Intelligence have the actor in full-blown comedy roles while even the increasingly silly and over-the-top Fast & Furious movies, their spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, and Rampage are tongue-in-cheek, a far cry from The Terminator’s slasher movie roots.
John Cena Can Subvert His Screen Persona
Early in his screen career, Cena transitioned into Hollywood stardom by playing mostly muscular heroic he-men in uncomplicated action fare like 12 Rounds and The Marine. He has since subverted this persona by taking on goofy comedic roles in everything from Trainwreck to Blockers to The Suicide Squad, and playing a non-comedic villain is the ideal next step for his onscreen progression. Unlike the Rock, Cena has not yet attempted to take on a villainous role, although the long-delayed Fast 9 was intended to be the actor’s first attempt at such a subversion of his good-guy image. Time will tell whether Cena’s character works as a villain in that franchise, but regardless, the tone of the more far-fetched Fast and Furious sequels is a far cry from the self-serious horror of the original Terminator. As a result, Cena would still be taking on his first dead serious movie role since his early action heroics if he took on the part, and his history of more self-serious action proves that unlike Johnson Cena does have an interest in taking himself seriously onscreen. As such, playing the title villain of a Terminator reboot could allow Cena to reboot his own screen persona and take on fewer comic parts as Johnson continues with the campy, goofier roles that have netted him critical acclaim and audience adoration in recent decades.
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