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Monday, June 08, 2009

Movie Watch: Terminator Salvation

I'm going to through in some spoilers here because, well golly, as I've said before some things just deserved to be spoiled.

Terminator: Salvation starts off pretty strong. One of the early action sequences is actually a pretty impressive showing of cinematography and directing. A lot of the premise elements make it seem like the movie is trying to build into something more than just an action movie - something almost like a Philip K. Dick novel in places.

And then, about half way through, the entire movie gives up completely on all of the above and turns into a vapid Hollywood blockbuster before turning the corner to being blind, stupid and annoying.

I'll try to be vague, but let's just say that about the time John Connor decides to napalm an entire forest - it's about time to bail. It doesn't entirely make sense, and just serves to set up another (this time much more banal) action scene and worse - opens the plot to numerous blunders of the movie's progressive downfall.

For one thing - it begins to baffle the viewer as to why John Connor, who should have more advanced knowledge of Skynet, Terminators and hacking phones for free service (though that last bit is probably of little use anymore) acts like such a dimwitted grunt for most of the movie. Gone is the intelligence that we've seen in previous movies, in its place is a role that feels like a boilerplate from every other action movie. Bale's strategy through all of this is to give us his angry puppy dog look through most of the movie.

When the movie reaches its "twist", the wheels have officially come off the bus. There's the right way to do a twist - which is the careful seeding of hints and foreshadowing, and there's the Terminator: Salvation method which is to just wait until you need a nifty plot moment, make up a bunch of crap and hope the audience is still impressed with all that napalm blowing up.

As the movie moves into Skynet Central, you might think to yourself: "this can't get any worse". Surely all these computer interfaces designed for humans in a machine world gone made is bad enough. Or maybe that in a city full of human killing machines, the incredibly powerful AI decides to send a lone robot to kill off its most wanted prize. Or maybe the revelation that all terminators are, in fact, just walking nuclear bombs. Or the "salvation through electrocution" scene.

I won't spoil the ending - but I will warn you. Yes. Yes, it gets worse.

It's a horrible movie. Highly, highly not recommended. Seriously, Terminator 3 was much better if only because it knew it was just a stupid action film from the beginning.


jvm said...

For the marketers:

"[Terminator Salvation is] [h]ighly, highly [...] recommended." -- Cathode Tan Movie Reviews

Josh said...

No doubt. Or "Like a Philip K Dick movie, this is highly recommended..."

sterno said...

Yeah I saw this a few weeks ago and I basically left the movie with a shrug thinking, "well, it's standard Hollywood action fare, and maybe the sequel will be better." The ending bit was the worst of Hollywood sledgehammer over the head BS I've seen in a good long while. The rest was a bunch of neat action sequences strung together by a weak and convoluted plot.

Over the years of seeing blockbuster crap, I've become rather numb to it though. I'll see such a movie with the full expectation that if I pay too close of attention, it's going to suck. I had some hopes for this film initially, but some of the reviews helped manage my expectations. Oh yeah and a stiff drink before hand didn't hurt either :)

Overall, good action sequences, but the plot is terribly convoluted and, in the end, doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. I can't figure out why they couldn't just make Connor the focus of the movie and have it be more about his character development. All we got out of this was that his heart is strong. Blah.

A more clever writing crew would have taken this and maybe planned out a 3 film war epic. Why do we need to invent a new Terminator every time? Humans are being hunted down and obliterated by these machines on a daily basis. They are low on medical supplies, ammunition, and morale. Think BSG for inspiration on how you do this right. Isn't that struggle enough without having a T-239303 come anal probe them as part of some nefarious plot by the machines?

First film: focus on character development. Build a crew around Connor as his trusted Lieutenants. Play up that rebellious bit against the people who were trying to run the conflict initially. Have his team discover some weakness in what the machines are doing but have it be a struggle to pull off.

Second film: the hard slog a la Empire Strikes Back. They continue to push forward but key members of the team are killed. The machines get some victories and ultimately the film resolves as a dark stalemate.

Third film: They achieve victory at a painful cost. Inevitably they will have to spend decades mopping up the damage that was done. Plenty of room for the machines to come back if they want to continue the series.

But no, they just had to screw it up. Damn shame Cameron had better things to do...

Ronald said...

Better than T3??? It's got christian bale? Hmmm, mabye your right it may be his worst role ever. :(

Nah, This movie is better than T3 but not by much.

Josh said...

Yeah, I needed some different chemicals than a tall glass of Fat Tire, I think.

The war epic is more of what I was hoping to see. Actually, I've always thought the post-Judgement Day world of Terminator posed an interesting problem - how exactly would the human race fight against a vastly superior army with apparently superior resources? Remembering that both armies at some point get *time travel* - which may pose as much problems as solutions (How much of the current war is based on messing around with the past?)

But no. We get napalm.