Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation sucked.

OK, let me take a step back here. I think most movies suck, I really do. I'm probably the harshest movie critic I know. Most of the drivel the studios who control the system put out these days are not designed to be great. They're designed to sell great. Shit like Titanic, Armageddon, Music and Lyrics, it's all based on a formula that the major movie studios just repeat again and again and again, because experience and time have told them that it works. I won't even go to see that crap, I don't care how many billions of dollars in worldwide sales the thing generates. That just means they hit the formula precisely right this time, not that the movie is actually great. I probably don't see more than one or two movies a year that I actually think of as "really good" movies.

And Terminator Salvation was definitely not one of them.

I like a movie that makes me think, that tells me a great story, or that moves me in some other way. You show me Shawshank Redemption and I won't turn it off, no matter where you are in the story. I've probably watched Castaway 50 or 60 times by now because whenever it runs through the cable channels I am all over that shit, whenever I see it. I'll even watch Pulp Fiction on TBS, with literally every other word bleeped out of all the best scenes in the entire flick. But there was just nothing in the fourth installment of the now officially defunct Terminator franchise that did any of this for me, like any truly good movie has to do.

What Terminator Salvation comes down to is simply a string of scenes of running away from the machines' attempts to kill them, and large explosions when the humans managed to achieve a small victory here and there. There's almost no actual plot to the movie other than that. I'm going to give a spoiler below about the plot to make my point a little clearer, so if you're planning to see this movie then you will want to skip down until the big spaces are done below.

OK, so one of my biggest complaints about this movie is the plot, or lack thereof. They try to tell a story that the machines have created a new kind of Terminator, one that is a real human on the outside and a real machine on the inside, such that even the terminator itself does not know it is anything other than human. Then they program this terminator to trick John Connor to meeting him inside Skynet's headquarters, where of course they are waiting to immediately kill him on sight. And the whole thing works, all the way up to the part about them killing him. But the guy does manage to convince John Connor (played very unenthusiastically by Batman star Christian Bale) to come to Skynet, but then of course the machines' plans to murder him do not go exactly as planned from there. I'll leave the ending to those brave souls who go to see this movie anyways just because of how undeniably awesome Terminator II was.

The main problem with this plot is that, when you actually watch the movie, you realize that there are holes so big that only a writer of Heroes could actually be responsible for them. I mean, this guy befriends John Connor, and yet he is all the while unknowingly programmed to trick Connor into meeting him inside Skynet, because killing John Connor is crucial to the machines' victory in the war. But obviously, if the machines had "control" over this new terminator all along via its programming, then they would surely have programmed it to trick Connor to returning to Skynet, or to kill him on sight if given the opportunity. And boy did this terminator have the opportunity. He went out of his way to save John Connor's life, at least once if not twice. It's so stupid if all the machines wanted was Connor dead, that they would program a terminator to go and specifically not kill him but instead to bring him alive somewhere else where he can then be killed.

One other big problem with Terminator Salvation was that at some point they have this big "reveal" scene in the movie when they finally show you, the viewer, that this human-looking helpful guy is actually a machine underneath, which they discover when he sustains an injury and they try to treat him. But the scene, which was portrayed with the shooting and the music and the suspense as some great, amazing reveal, #1 happens only about 30 minutes into the movie, and #2 is totally telegraphed on purpose earlier on in the movie. I mean, they start off showing how this murder about to be put to death agrees in his jail cell that his organs can be donated for reuse in Cyberdyne's science labs, and then they show the humans discovering some plans in a Machines-run facility for this new kind of terminator that is half human, half machine. Then as they show the picture of what this thing will look like in the Machines' plans, they immediately fade to the actual character's face in our story. So they deliberately indicate to you early on that this is the new terminator guy, then they show us him be nice to John Connor for maybe 15 minutes, and then they "reveal" to us in a very dramatically-shot scene that he is in fact, the half human half machine new style of terminator. But it actually reveals nothing, and the whole scene -- shot to be the most dramatic in the entire movie -- really falls flat on its face as a result.

OK that's it for the spoilers for now.

I'll also tell you the other major problem with the Terminator franchise over the last several years. Try as they might, both with the girl terminatrix and all those other terminator models at Cyberdyne in in T3, and here again with some of the machines they come up with in Terminator Salvation, in the end the best, baddest bad guy they ever came up with was now a full 18 years ago, in Terminator 2. The liquid metal terminator played by Robert Patrick would ultimately have whipped up on the Terminatrix, and even though in the latest movie they constructed some very large, at-at looking terminators (for you Star Wars geeks out there), in the end these guys are still not as cool or as badass as Robert Patrick was, plain and simple. Unfortunately, this four-film movie series peaked three whole movies ago, that's the bottom line.

As I mentioned, Christian Bale, who I thought did a good job in the last Batman movie other than the ridiculous voice of course, did nothing for me whatsoever in this film. He didn't have anything to act -- nobody did. As I said, basically all this movie called for was just blowing some shit up, running away a lot, and throwing in a couple of deadpan lines along the way. Some people have given some acting credit to the guy who plays the human terminator combo. I say big whoop. He just got to act really pissed when he finally realized what he actually was. Anyone who thinks this was some kind of an ocsar performance doesn't know what they're talking about. The movie was boring, the story was ultimately ridiculous, and at the end of the day it failed to advance the story of the Terminator series even one little bit. It didn't try to advance anything, there was no real conflict, no real resolution, and no real attempt at a story that made good sense. I guess we'll never know if this was the fault of the original writers or of Christian Bale himself who insisted on several changes to the script prior to filming, but ultimately it sounds like both versions pretty much sucked. If you want to see some airplane-looking terminators, some transformers-looking terminators, and a cute 2-minute "digital cameo" by the 1980's version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, then this movie could be for you. Otherwise, I'd say skip it.

Hoy rating: 3 out of 10.

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Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

Hoy did you catch JJ Abrams Trek? I thought he did a very good job with a stale franchise, something both those hardcore trekkies and non-hardcore movie goers alike could watch.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Nah Queens. As soon as I heard that Spock and Uhura fuck in the new Star Trek movie, I knew I would hate it.

Like I said, I have very tough standards when it comes to movies these days.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Shrike said...

Trek had giant problems with its plot.

I guess Hoy and I could start a competition about who could pump out the highest volume of negative film reviews ...


3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the adverts for it here and then saw it was rated 12 (meaning you only have to be 12 to see it here in the UK) and decided I will not watch it.

Sounds like I made a good decision! Shame really as Terminator 1 and 2 were great films IMO, they fucked the franchise up in the lastest few movies though

1:14 PM  
Blogger James Johnson said...

Looks like a good Strategy game.

7:16 PM  

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