Saturday, June 6, 2009
Guest Review! Terminator: Salvation
Full disclosure: The Terminator trilogy has never interested me. I really don’t know why but if I have to guess, it probably has something to do with the existence of Eddie Furlong. Yes, I know he was only in T2 (Terminator Two) but his smug presence still lingers over the franchise like a droopy eyed rain cloud.
It wasn’t until Christian Bale’s notorious meltdown on the set of Terminator Salvation that I started to realize the full potential of these Terminator films. Bale’s little blooper combined two things I demand to see in every movie: horrible assholes screaming their lungs out and very intense discussions about lighting. I was looking forward to a film in which Bale wanders around an apocalyptic hell-scape verbally assaulting any android that’s stupid enough to get his latte order wrong or accidentally give him full eye contact. Unfortunately, Terminator Salvation turned out to be nothing at all like I expected. But once I got over my initial disappointment the film turned out to be an entertaining summer movie. In fact, it’s far better than any movie directed by McG should be.
Stumbling awkwardly out of the gate, Terminator Salvation opens with a decidedly odd prologue involving a death row inmate named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) who donates his body to a sinister scientist (Helena Bonham Carter, inexplicably) but not before he mocks her cancer and makes out with her. Yeah. Sure. These things happen I guess. At any rate, the story picks up several years in the future; Skynet has destroyed most of humanity in a nuclear war. As the previous films have predicted, an adult John Connor must lead the human resistance against the machines. This time, however, the machines plan on killing John’s father (Anton Yelchin) who for some reason or another is a teenager that’s stuck in the current apocalyptic timeline. Complicating matters is the strange reappearance of Marcus who isn’t sure where he is, why he’s still alive or what role he plays in the resistance.
Make no mistake about it Terminator Salvation is a big dumb action movie and like most big dumb action movies the film is engaging as long as it sticks to its frenetic set-pieces. Once it strays into more subtle character based territory the film stumbles badly (particularly any scene that involves the uninteresting and bland Marcus character). The film also seems to struggle with the pretense that it’s something more than it actually is. There are a handful of distasteful and ill-advised allusions to the Holocaust that are completely out of place. Especially considering that they’re preceded by footage of a giant robot with a gun for a head as it launches motorcycles out of its shins. Terminator Salvation also boasts some hilariously clumsy callbacks to the early Terminator films. Case in point: there’s a scene where Bale announces he’ll “be back.” The moment is handled so awkwardly I’m surprised he didn’t wink at the camera and shout “wocka wocka."
At this point, I realize that it sounds like I hated this movie. I didn’t. In fact I really liked it. It’s fast paced, some of the performances are strong and the cinematography has an unsettling washed out quality. It may not be a good movie but it’s consistently entertaining and for a summer movie that’s good enough. Oh and one final note, I also really liked Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull so understand that this recommendation also functions as a warning.