Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rage Against the Machines: “Terminator Salvation” Proves This Franchise Must Be Terminated*

When Christian Bale can’t even make your movie interesting, authentic or emotionally satisfying then your movie isn’t that good. I can’t believe I just said that mostly because I’m not even the biggest Christian Bale fan. I mean I like the guy and he’s a great actor who is capable of playing an extremely wide range of roles, but I don’t necessarily get super excited just because he shows his face. And wasn’t his growling Batman voice a little ridiculous? But I digress… back to the important issue at hand. Guys and gals, the new Terminator movie kind of stinks! I guess I’m not really too disappointed seeing as though I didn’t think it was a good idea and never really looked to amazing to begin with but here we are with “Terminator Salvation,” the only salvation being is that it’s less than two hours.

“Terminator Salvation” takes place in 2018 which, in my opinion is the biggest mistake right there. I enjoy the Terminator flicks because they are sci-fi movies that take place during the present day, I’m not so interested in the aftermath of ‘Judgement Day’ and I assume a lot of people aren’t seeing as though it took this long to make a movie about it. So in this future the machines have taken over like the past three movies have told us. They’ve also created some sort of human/machine hybrid which here is played by relative new comer Sam Worthington (he’s from Australia so he’s new to us Americans). Worthington is Marcus Wright a man who is going to be executed but not before agreeing to “donate his body to science.” Turns out he’s giving his body to Cyberdyne the company that is responsible for Skynet and the whole apocalypse thing. He becomes this film’s half-man half-machine and while the guy is a good actor, he certainly can’t replace Arnold in whole acting like a machine thing.

Speaking of which. This doesn’t really feel like a Terminator movie. Arnold is severely missing, which is only time I’ve really missed him. And I still miss Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor which is one of cinema’s greatest female action heroes (well she was in T2 not so much in T1, whoa that hair!). We do get Bale playing an adult John Connor who is helping to fight the machines who have waged a war with the humans. Bale is decent, but can’t help cover up the weak script by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris who also penned “Terminator 3.” Terminator 3 was more successful in that it felt more along the lines of the first two films even though it wasn’t nearly as good. This new vision of the bleak future hardly even stands on its own as an interesting view of how dreary things will eventually be for mankind (I’m assuming ‘The Road’ which opens in the fall will be better).

At least the writers have shown us more of Kyle Reese who here is now played in a younger former by Anton Yelchin. Reese as any Terminator fan knows was a solider sent to the past to protect Sarah Connor who would eventually give birth to John Connor who would then lead mankind to victory over the robots in the future. Mr. Reese ended up helping to conceive John in what is certainly one of the film’s more interesting paradoxes. Yelchin is pretty good but isn’t really given anything too exciting to do except help shoot at robots. And speaking of robots they actually weren’t that scary. They could have easily made this more of a horror exercise like the first film and had suspenseful sequences of robots killing humans but we get a few half assed attempts like swimming robots trying unsuccessfully to kill John when his helicopter lands in a river.

Overall Terminator Salvation is an utter disappointment. Actually it wasn’t even really a disappointment since I had no real aspirations to begin with. Even Danny Elfman’s non-Burton score isn’t all that memorable. With new director McG at the helm its no surprise that the film is mindless action and special effects, and actually pretty boring at parts. He doesn’t really seem to understand what makes a Terminator film work and that is sad. Maybe he should have made Charlie’s Angels Salvation instead. GRADE: C-

*thank you Anthony Paolucci


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