Terminator Salvation

Friday, June 19, 2009

You might as well just give up trying to see another decent Terminator film. It just isn’t going to happen now. With Rise of the Machines, Jonathan Mostow made a jokey parody of the first two films and now with Salvation McG has made Transformers. The straight-ahead, gritty, blue collar, white-knuckle thrills of the first two films have given way to tedious, humourless, colourless robot mash-ups. All the life has been drained from the series.

The film opens with a prisoner on death row called Marcus Wright talking to a bald Helena Bonham Carter. She has terminal cancer and wants him to donate his body to science after his execution. He resists a little but eventually gives in. And then if you haven’t already figured out that he’s going to become a robot when Helena gives him a form with a Cyberdyne Systems logo on it (a name familiar to fans of the franchise), it’s really rammed down your throat with a gratuitous crucifixion pose – when he’s given a lethal injection, he’s briefly raised, while strapped down, just in case he has any final words.

So this guy is going to be resurrected, right? And is he going to suffer and have to give his life so that he can save mankind? You betcha.

He even has to suffer another crucifixion pose just in case people didn’t get the subtle symbolism at the beginning. See, Marcus doesn’t know that he’s a robot and eventually hooks up with a resistance pilot. She leads him back to the resistance base and he steps on a mine. But it doesn’t kill him. You know, which on the one hand is nice, but on the other hand it’s pretty bad because humans don’t like robots much. So poor Marcus gets strung up in another crucifix pose and people shoot guns at him. But because he’s flesh with a gnarly robot skeleton, it doesn’t hurt him. It just makes his skin look bad.

Marcus is different from other characters in the Terminator series because while he has a robot skeleton, he has a human brain and a human heart. Arnie in the other films was just a robot with skin over it – the brain and everything else was mechanical. But making Marcus part human seems like terrible thinking on Skynet’s part (Skynet being the evil supercomputer made by Cyberdyne Systems that nuked the world and decided to kill every human). Why give Marcus free-will? Apparently it’s so that he can be a mole and gather information on the resistance for Skynet, but wouldn’t it be easier to have him kill John Connor? Or maybe you could have a bomb implanted in him and the second he sees John Connor, it activates. But that would make too much sense. A super-intelligent, super-ruthless supercomputer would never think of that.

So what ends up happening is that Marcus meets the resistance, gets found out to be a robot, escapes and then helps John Connor find Skynet’s head quarters – John wants to go into the lion’s den because his daddy Kyle Reese is being held prisoner there along with loads of other people. And when Marcus goes to Skynet he wanders into a room with a big screen. All of a sudden Helena Bonham Carter’s face turns up. She then tells him he’s a mole and lets him in on Skynet’s retarded masterplan to have Marcus lead John Connor to them. Fucking hell, just have Marcus turn into a giant cheese grater when he meets John Connor and have him grate Connor to the bone. It would make more sense.

Something else that would make sense is for Skynet to kill Kyle Reese when it spots him. You kill John Connor’s daddy and then John Connor can’t exist. Right? But no, even though Skynet identifies Kyle Reese, it decides to put Reese in a plastic cube cell rather than rip his head off. The poor guy has to sit there as a T-800 watches him through the glass – the shot of it watching him is filmed in such a way that it looks like the robot is peeping at him; if the robot had a cock it would be jacking off like crazy and squirting white oil all over the cell.

But anyway, how the hell does Skynet know who Kyle Reese is? How did it find out that he was John’s daddy? It doesn’t make any sense. Are the robots psychic? Did John get drunk one night and tell Skynet? Did he phone them up?

But back to Helena Bonham Carter’s face turning up on a computer screen. The filmmakers have completely missed the point about Skynet. It’s a faceless intelligence. There’s no personality to it. Once you plop Helena Bonham Carter’s face on it, you completely eliminate the dread of a faceless, unstoppable foe that you can’t speak to or reason with. And Bonham Carter’s acting is atrocious in this scene. She mugs and overacts like crazy. And to make it even more risible, her face even morphs into other characters. Even the scene in Matrix Reloaded with the Architect wasn’t this bad. Well, actually, thinking about it, maybe it was. But it’s close.

One of the most remarkable things about this scene, though, is Marcus’ reaction to the news that he’s a mole for Skynet. He reaches into his head and removes a chip and then goes and helps John Connor fight a CGI Arnie. What the fuck? How stupid is Skynet? It’s going to make it that easy for Marcus to disobey them? It would be like someone putting a sock on me and saying, ‘Now while you’re wearing this, you’re not allowed to do anything naughty.’ And then I’d just take the sock off and go mug some old grannies.

Arnie’s appearance is pretty pointless and once again demonstrates the limitations of computer graphics. As good as it looks, it doesn’t look very good. The skin looks plastic. And before you can get used to it, Arnie’s face and skin are burnt off and he’s just a metal skeleton. It’s a pointless homage to the previous films.

Speaking of pointless homages, there’s a bit where John Connor captures a robot motorcycle by using a Guns ‘n’ Roses song (‘You Could Be Mine’ from T2). It’s kind of amusing but only serves as a reminder of how much better the first two instalments are.

Other pointless homages include the use of the lines, ‘I’ll be back’ and ‘come with me if you want to live’. Again, it didn’t make me want to cheer. It just reminded me of the first two films.

I also want to know why Skynet would create massive walking robots. What’s the point of that? You have aircraft that can hover. Why do you need the Iron Giant?

Another gripe is how fucking loud the film is. The film started and then towards the end of the first scene the projectionist turned it up to eleven. I swear I thought my ears were going to start bleeding. I mean, my brother and I talk about an action sequence in Die Another Day (the hovercraft scene) that had the cinema vibrating and shaking it was so loud. Well, Terminator Salvation is like that throughout the whole of the movie. Maybe McG thinks he can bludgeon us into submission with sound effects and make us overlook the fact that his film is a colossal piece of shite. Unfortunately for him his ploy doesn’t work.

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  1. Hi Tom from Oz again, good review, I agree, while it had some awesome moments (Connor executing the first t-600 after the helicopter lands on it and Marcus' fist fight against those thugs are all i can actually remember at the moment), as a whole it was pretty fucking disappointing. It says a lot about the inherent storytelling skill of James Cameron that a movie he made on a shoestring budget more than two decades ago is about ten times better than this