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Monday, June 01, 2009

Terminator Salvation

**½ Terminator Salvation. Science fiction action/adventure.

Directed by: McG
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin
We saw this last night at the theater on post.

I'll say up front that we were equally divided in our opinions of Terminator Salvation. Carl and Camden loved it. Curran and I thought it was too much action, too little plot. I liked the original movies--though we're planning on re-watching them to see if they're as good as I remember.

I read an article that said the original script was changed to make it a star vehicle for Christian Bale, and that seems to fit. Well, if you assume there was a script, and not just a string of explosions.

Terminator Salvation takes place in 2018--a date I'm guessing comes from the original movies, but it really threw me. Yeah, right. All this technology will be around in just 9 years. There was really no reason to give the date like that, particularly when it was patently impossible. If they wanted to set the time frame as the future where John Connor was leading the fight against the machines, that's really all they had to say--maybe something like "year X in the fight against the machines." I've been informed that it's a minor detail, but it was right at the beginning of the movie, so it stuck in my head. Plus, the guy behind us loudly warned his companions "all this will happen in just 7 years!" The movie was long, but I thought it was more like 2 hours than 2 years.

Like Star Trek, it started with mostly incomprehensible action scenes. Unlike Star Trek, however, it didn't have much of anything else. What plot there was was predictable and cliched, and took maybe fifteen minutes. The rest was explosions.

According to the original movies, John Connor was the key to defeating Skynet and the Terminators. In this movie, however, he was just a middle-level grunt who didn't do much of anything. After the initial action scene, he mostly sat in a generic-looking room (I've seen that set in a lot of similar movies), made a couple of radio broadcasts, and told the commander not to blow up the civilians, whereupon he (of course) got fired.

And the dialogue... straight from any number of B movies. They got "I'll be back" in there--but it was John Connor who said it, and not in the right context. There's a repeated line of "don't point a gun at someone if you're not prepared to pull the trigger" (or words to that effect--the exact quote isn't on the IMDB yet), which appears to pass for witticism.

The point, I think, was supposed to be to save Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, who was also in Star Trek), who'll be John Connor's father if/when he survives for John Connor to send him time-traveling back to the past (we'll have time travel in just 9 years, too? Cool!). Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is trying to do that--he's a death-row inmate turned cyborg at the behest of Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter). Now this could have made a good movie. There was some nice conflict, and even what could have been a touching moment at the end... if it hadn't been so incredibly rushed. And pitifully predictable.

And maybe if they'd spent some time on the plot, Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) might have made sense. As it is, she's just the eye candy, I guess. She and Marcus save each other, but there's not a lot of point to her. Or to the kid Star (Jadagrace), who's there solely for the cute factor. What I'm objecting to isn't their presence in the movie--it's to their being cardboard characters.

They also never really explained why Skynet was collecting humans instead of just killing them. I got the impression that there needed to be a reason to rescue Kyle Reese, and that was it. And what was the point of the pregnant woman? If I'm reading the IMDB right, she's John Connor's wife? Could they not have spared ten seconds from the interminable explosions to tell us that? And why was she in the attack force that went to rescue Kyle Reese from Skynet? Heck, why make her pregnant if it doesn't play a part in the story? It just didn't seem that a lot of thought went into anything but the special effects.

Okay, the special effects were good. I'm sure they were amazing. But special effects should be there to support the story, not the other way around. I'm a little surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reviews for this movie, but I suspect they were blinded by all those explosions. I did think it was cool that they got a CG Arnie in there.

Bottom line: if you like special effects, particularly of the pyrotechnic and big giant robot variety, you'll be happy. Just don't expect an interesting plot or scintillating dialogue.

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Yes, the original two movies were as good as you remember (except maybe the special effects in T2--they don't hold up). I blogged about my disappointment with this new take--extreme disappointment, actually, especially in the face of how good Star Trek was. Sigh.
I'm sorry that you were disappointed with the movie, Darla. I was really looking forward to watching this movie, since I've seen the other two original movies and love them. But now, after reading your take on this movie...am scare to see it *LOL*

And you know, it may or may not meant to be funny, but you got me cracking up when you said: "(we'll have time travel in just 9 years, too? Cool!)". I laugh like looney and my family heard me and thought I was nut *LOL*....
Thanks, Carrie--that was an awesome review! It reminded me of why I liked the original movie so much, and explained why this one was such a disappointment.

Julia, lots of people loved this movie, so don't just take my word for it. I think if you don't worry too much about the story and just enjoy the action and the special effects, you'll be fine.
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