Friday, August 7, 2009

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

Terminator 1 & 2 were treasured movies of my youth and have greatly influenced me, possibly to an absurd degree. So even though I found T3 disappointing (don't get me started) I had been all aflutter for years awaiting for T4, and I did enjoy it.

I will admit that my favorite part of watching the movie was adding new factoids to my mental Terminator timeline and then arguing about them afterwards with Steve. But maybe that is part of the magic of the Terminator franchise, the inherent mindf**k of adding new elements to the timeline and trying to figure out where everything fits.

While everyone else seemed to hate T4, I found it interesting and pretty well made. I think that the backlash against T4 was actually a reaction to Christian Bale's onset behavior and a mix of Bale-overload and normal fanboy curmudgeonry.

That being said, I came up with 2 not too spoilery complaints:

1. This movie was not Terminatory enough. Take the opening scenes; Terminator films are formulaic and should be. THere is a contrast between the pleasent and familiar normalcy of how we live now and the deadly future with the signature Dadum Dum ddum theme. This is not how T4 starts. There is so much material available in the franchise and I wish that the makers would have used more of this. It is a time travel franchise, utilize that further. Can John save himself from the death foretold in T3? Can the future for John even be changed? We know that some things can be changed, but can time right itself? They could handle these ideas in the movies if they didn't include 3,000 characters and all the nifty robots you can stuff in future California, which leads me to #2...

2. Like Spiderman 3 and Dark Knight, T4 had too many characters and attempted to do too much. Like many things in life, it is better to do a few things very well than 16 things ok.
Here is what should have happened in T4: Marcus escapes with important information and meets other survivors including Kyle and, inspired by John via radio transmition, they set off on a rugged trek across the destroyed country with narrow escapes and crazy robots in hot pursuit. Eventually they are captured, but at the last minute John shows up (with Common, because he's hot) to rescue them and says, "Come with me if you want to live." Dadum dum ddum. End credits. Doing this gives time to really develop the few characters, allowing for a tragic death or two, and sustains the mystery of Marcus' existance to use it in the next film where the resistance develops, tests and uses the secret weapon, discovers Marcus' true identity, and explores the confusing relationship John has as a father figure to his own father and emotional torment of knowing he must send his friend/father/son to certain death.

However, even in spite of my complaints, my final assessment of T4 is that if this had not been a Terminator movie, it would have been ridonculously popular. Like so many M. Night Shyamalan movies, T4 is punished for being a Terminator movie, just as The Village was punished for being a Shyamalan movie.

Do me a favor and watch Terminator Salvation and let yourself enjoy it.

Enoying things > not enjoying things.

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