May 20, 2009

Terminator Salvation

You ARE trashing my set!!

Grade: C

Director: McG

Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, Helena Bonham Carter, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Common

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

If (and I stress if) James Cameron looks with lament upon what has become of his beloved, genre-redefining Terminator franchise, well, the fault, dear Jimmy, lies not in the stars but partly in yourself. Make no mistake: Cameron is an extraordinarily gifted, even underrated director cast from the DeMille mold, who managed to marry the broad visual canvas of cinema with the heart of a storyteller. Twelve years removed his last non-documentary feature, Titanic, Cameron is finally scheduled to return this December with his highly-anticipated Avatar.

However, both the wake of his influence and the void of his absence first germinated the rise of directors like Michael Bay, who grasp the wide scope of the big-screen but forgot the soul of moviemaking in the process. They, in turn, begat tech-heads like McG, whose filmmaking profundity extends no deeper than the music videos and video gaming they usually cut their eyeteeth on.

Just as Terminator is essentially a Frankenstein update – manmade machines rising up against their makers – both the franchise and those now tabbed to sustain it have betrayed their cinematic opificer. And, while the passable Terminator 3 was at least blessed with the sanction of Schwarzenegger, the perfunctory Terminator Salvation is built upon a foundation of rehashed theme music and tableaus, including a “cameo’ by a digitized Ahnuld.

The continuing sin of each Terminator film since T2 is to render moot the chapters before it. Ergo, in the year 2018, an adult-age John Connor (Christian Bale) leads a gritty band of post-Judgment Day survivors in their apparently unavoidable, seemingly never-ending war against the machines. Connor's messianic aura has never been more emphasized or seemed more inexplicable, as each step taken to ensure his birth, growth, and survival throughout the film series has not slowed man’s slow road toward mechanical extermination. Yet, here we go again, this time battling the omnipresent Skynet while trying to save a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) so he can one day go back in time to impregnate Sarah Conner, ostensibly bringing the saga full-circle.

If watching Lost has taught us anything (and it probably hasn’t), then why would Reese need to return to the past (or is it the present…I can’t keep track) again when he has already been sent back and fathered John Connor? Would John Connor be in danger of fading away, Back To The Future-style, if daddy now gets offed by a T-100? These are just a couple of the questions you can’t answer and/or won’t care about by film’s end.

Plot-craters aside, the eye-popping CG imagery and heart-pounding sound editing alone are nearly enough to sustain this glorified TV pilot for an hour or so. Unfortunately, McG’s rust-bucket, Mad Max vision of a post-apocalyptic future mirrors the barren script originally penned by T3 scribes John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, only to be rehashed by at least three or four other screenwriters. The end result is head-scratching and mind-numbing. While all the previous Terminator films significantly advanced the overall storyline, this chapter lacks both a pivotal purpose and sense of discovery. By contrast, look no further than the Star Trek for a sci-fi reboot that emotes both traits in spades.

Aussie actor Sam Worthington acquits himself well as a death-row murderer turned mysterious humanoid (it’s a long story…), while the rest of the supporting cast – including Bryce Dallas Howard, Helena Bonham Carter, Moon Bloodgood, and Common – are given nothing roles filled with throwaway dialogue. Meanwhile, a sullen Bale spends the whole film alternating between speaking with his guttural Bruce Wayne inflection and screaming with the same voice used to lambaste errant cinematographers.

If Stanley Kubrick were alive and directing, then Terminator Salvation’s depiction of humans as ever-increasing automatons could be taken as intentional and insightful. However, this isn’t 2001; it’s nothing more than a loud, loopy cash-grab. The battle against Skynet rages on. Sadly, the Hollywood machine has already won the war.

Neil Morris


KoolDrMoney Esq said...

I have no idea how this got a C.

It is among the stupidest things I have ever seen in my 30 years. Hollywood in intent on destroying my childhood.

How can 100 foot robots "sneak up" on them? Heart punches?? Is the black girl psychic? SWEET BMX JUMPS?!?! Robot Loving?

The only thing good thing about this movie was the fact I got to see Chekov for the 2nd week in a row. He will be a decent actor. And maybe that the Asian chick was hot as hell and McG made sure to give us boob shots. And the Ahnuld cameo was badass.

Nomad said...

Observation: The fact that Christian Bale is turning into a male diva shone through his performance in Terminator Salvation, the other guy was good though

Visit Site said...

Ok, I'm prejudice when it comes to the Terminator series. I love anything Terminator but to be objective Christian Bale did a excellent job at being John Connor; the plot was also excellent. I highly recommend this movie.