' ' Cinema Romantico: Terminator Salvation

Friday, May 22, 2009

Terminator Salvation

I should have watched the fourth installment in the "Terminator" series from a lawn chair on a driveway while watching traffic pass by - which is to say, I'm an old man anymore when it comes to action movies. For one thing, director McG's take on this successful franchise is noisy. Like, really, really noisy. I was lamenting the fact I didn't bring earplugs to the showing. This approaches Michael Bay levels in unwieldy volume. In fact, for awhile I wondered if I mixed up my release dates and wandered into a showing of "Transformers". There were gigantic robots who looked a lot like Transformers (I don't recall having seen any robots this gigantic in the other ones but I could be quite wrong) and a comely though bland young woman who looked an awful lot like Megan Fox. (The credits indicated she was played by one Moon Bloodgood. Moon Bloodgood? All I can say is this name is infinitely better than the one she's given in the film. She's goin' places with that name.) I checked my ticket stub. Nope. "Terminator Salvation".

Second, remember in "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" when Arnold Schwarzenneger is on the motorcycle and at the last second before the semi truck plows into him he swoops around in front of it? You know why that was so cool? Because a motorcyle really swooped around in front of a semi, that's why. "Terminator Salvation" is just packed wall to wall with fake explosions and fake Terminator motorcycles (or something) and fake guys getting thrown from fake Terminator aerial crafts (or something) and thrown into fake rivers where they fake skip across the water. Perhaps to these young whippersnappers driving by me as I kick back in my lawn chair it's all well and good but it b-o-r-e-d the heck outta me. You want to whine about wobbly steadicam in the "Bourne" movies? Fine. Gimme all your wobbly steadicam that's still expertly edited, I'll give you all the CGI explosions you want, and we'll call it a day. Kapeesh?

The story of "Terminator Salvation" isn't so much a story as it is snippets of story wedged here and there between gunfire and fireballs. The year is 2018, post "Judgement Day", and John Connor (Christian Bale) is among those leading humankind's resistance against the machines. We quickly catch up with Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) hiking through the barren landscape. Who is he really? Well, the twist the filmmakers have saved for us might have been just a bit twistier minus the prologue that opens the movie. Did they not want it to be a twist or did this simply slip past everyone involved?

In any event, before long, in the wreckage of Los Angeles, Marcus has encountered young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who you might recall from the first "Terminator" film way back in 1984 as the heroic Michael Biehn, the man who saves Sarah Connor from the machines and, well, becomes John's dad in the process. We know it's Kyle Reese because he introduces himself by saying the line that Michael Biehn said the first one which has always been my favorite line in the series and, thus, made me so mad I almost picked up a nearby empty soda cup to hurl it at the screen screaming, "It's a great line, damn it, not a catchphrase! Can't you people let anything be sacred?!"

But Reese will be taken prisoner by the machines, Marcus will inevitably find his way to John Connor who will realize that if the machines kill Reese he's never born and that's gonna be a serious problem. There are a few supporting characters, too, and the film saves time in their development by making them the usual cliches so we're up to speed immediately. We have the Mute Kid who doubles as a Sidekick and the Commanding Officer who disagrees with the Hero every step of the way and barks lines like "You're relieved of your command!" and the Pregnant Wife of the Hero back at base camp (she is played by Bryce Dallas Howard in a performance that generates as much excitement as the Great Salt Lake). I will say, however, Bale is pretty good considering what he's up against. I believed the speech he had to give to the resistance near the end.

In the end, though, I don't even think it was the movie itself that disappointed me as much as the premise. I'm a guy who likes a little mystery. I like some questions to be unresolved. I revel in the unknown now and then. And I didn't like seeing the "post Judgement Day" world. I know we saw glimpses of it in the previous films but they were mere glimpses, a window into the world that open and shut quickly which just added to the intrigue. Leaving certain things offscreen can add to their effectiveness. It's why I hated the idea of the "Stars Wars" prequels. I didn't want to see things like the Clone Wars and I guess I never really wanted to see "post Judgement Day" so up close and personal. It's that old man in me. Why can't some things just be left to the imagination?


Rory Larry said...

Are you talking about "Come with me if you want to live?" cuz that got uttered again by Arnuhld in the sequel. It is a catchphrase.

Nick Prigge said...

Did he say that in the sequel? I guess it slipped my mind. Or that made me mad, too, and so I just blocked it out of my mind. But, trust me, when you see it in this one - although if it wasn't already obvious I recommend that you don't - it's just awful.

They, of course, also resurrect the "I'll be back" but Bale sells that one a little bit better.