Screw this; I'm going home. On the first day of production, the people footing the bill for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins have announced that the future is actually ending prematurely, as the violent, perennially R-rated franchise is going PG-13 for its fourth installment. The reason? I'll bet you can guess. In addition to "broadening the audience base," the producers are hoping for (or have already signed; it's not really clear) a merchandising deal with Playmates Toys. Dear God. Clearly, they're trying to bring about a fanboy mass suicide.

Maybe it's not yet time to panic. After all, I still managed to have a blast with last year's PG-13 Live Free or Die Hard, and that franchise, what with John McClane's penchant for the f-bomb, was arguably even more dependent on the freedom of the R than Terminator. And with a few exceptions (that unforgettable shot of the T-1000 disguised as John Connor's mom impaling Xander Berkeley on its pointy metal arm comes to mind), the reasons the Terminator films -- Judgment Day in particular -- are so disturbing have little to do with heavy violence; Robert Patrick rising out of the linoleum floor is scarier than any amount of gore could be. The MPAA is surely tone-deaf enough to censor the blood but let the really scary stuff through. And anyway, as the producers point out in the article, the PG-13 ain't what it used to be.

But still: DO NOT WANT. Partly because I have serious doubts about whether McG has the chops to make an unsettling PG-13 film, but mostly because the tenor of this announcement just screams "give up" to anyone who was hoping for a fourth film that's worthy of the series. One of the producers pays lip service to our kind: "We are carrying on in the tradition of the mythology, with an exciting approach to the action," he insists. Yeah, okay. I hope he remembers that it helps to have a good movie to sell a lot of toys.

Do you think this helps or hurts the franchise?