By Chauncy Telese
Normally it is against protocol to express my love and adoration for a film franchise, since you only really care about my opinion for the film at hand. However, I need to project why I felt the way that I did so as to provide a little perspective.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was the first action movie I ever saw as a kid and I fell in love instantly with the “Terminator” series. It managed to blend action and brilliant story telling in a way that really hadn’t been done before. I went into “Terminator: Salvation” with the highest of hopes and to answer the question Christian Bale posed in his much publicized on-set rant “how was it?” Well, to again quote Bale “You’re amateur.”
This film felt as hollow and lifeless as the machines that the resistance is fighting. It completely lacked the human element that made the first two (the third screwed this up as well) iconic. Everything just felt flat, even the famous dundundundundun score from the previous Terminators felt off (I’m not kidding).
This film was supposed to be about the rise of John Connor from normal resistance soldier to the prophesized leader he was built up to be. Instead what the audience is given is a film that tries to tell two stories at once, and doesn’t give enough time or love to either.
The film opens up in 2003 where death row inmate Marcus Wright (Australian newcomer Sam Worthington) is visited by a cancer patient played mechanically by Helena Bonham Carter (“Fight Club”, “Sweeney Todd”) who convinces Marcus to donate his body to science once he’s executed. After that, we’re whisked into 2018, when the machines and humans are already at war.
I will admit, the action sequence does a thrilling job of introducing us to the future, as John Conner (played without any emotion other than intense yelling and low whispers by Christian Bale) leads a raid on a machine bunker. In fact, action scenes just like this one are about the only redeeming factor in the movie. Throughout, Connor’s fate as a leader is often called into question by his superior (it’s never revealed why), played by Michael Ironside (“Top Gun”, “Total Recall”).
Connor obsessively listens to the tapes his mom recorded for him and tries to figure out a way to win the war. Meanwhile, Marcus wakes up and has no clue what time period he’s in. All he knows is his name and that he needs to go to San Francisco (where SkyNet is located), and he runs into a young Kyle Reese played brilliantly by Anton Yelchin (“Charlie Bartlett”, “Star Trek”).
Reese, as fans would know eventually gets sent back in time to be Connor’s dad. And while Reese doesn’t know this, Connor does, and curiously the machines do as well.
Marcus follows Reese until Reese is snatched by a harvester and taken to SkyNet. Marcus is taken to the base where Connor is and then a major plot twist is revealed (well, not major if you’ve seen the trailers but why be a heartless machine and ruin it for you). After all is said and done, Connor must go with Marcus to rescue Reese. That is your story.
And it is with that story that we run into problems. The film lacks a main character as Marcus and Connor are both focal points which makes this seem more bipolar than cohesive. There are no “Terminator” moments, just a bunch of action sequences and bad dialogue that just gets us onto the next action sequence.
I will admit there was one cool moment near the end that almost makes up for a lot of bad things in this film…almost.
Here might be another way to relate this film to you. It left the same sour taste in my mouth as the fourth “Indiana Jones” film did last year.
It seems that Memorial Day weekend is no longer a showcase for awesome action movies but a schmorgishboard of “should have quit while we were ahead” moments that are slowly but surely killing every franchise from my childhood. In the last five years I’ve seen “Indiana Jones”, “Star Wars”, “X-MEN”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and now “Terminator” be killed.
If you liked all of those movies, then you will find happiness in “Terminator” and all of its big-budget eye candy.
If you feel the same way I do, then you’re not as easy to please and you should not set the bar so high for this latest “Terminator” installment…it will only break your heart.
I recommend that even if you don’t have children go see “Night at the Museum 2 instead, or see Star Trek (again).
Thanks as always for reading, and tune in next week as I get vertical with Pixar’s “Up”.
Recent Reviews (in a nuttshell)
Angels and Demons: Better than the Da Vinci Code…but of course the Da Vinci Code wasn’t very good. Definitely won’t send you home with regrets, but don’t plan on getting your socks knocked off either.
Star Trek: Yes. Yes. Yes. Trek fans and regular folk can both rejoice in this well made, action-pact funfest.