Thursday, June 18, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Terminator: Salvation, Part II

Yesterday, Kozy and I started with our analysis of Terminator: Salvation, posting Part I of our back and forth conversation. So yeah, read that first. Today we conclude with Part II.


Yo Reed,

Sorry for the tardy response. I ended-up buying a last minute ticket to Frankfurt for a weekend getaway. Sitting at Schiphol Airport, waiting for my flight I was spaced out, listening to the constant din of overhead announcements outing irresponsible passengers causing flight delays. “Passenger Connie Lingus, you are delaying the flight to Shannon.” What? Did they say what I think they just they said? Two more repetitions. Yep. They said that. And with no hint of irony. I’m not sure if Connie is a distant relative of Aer, or if Bart Simpson is crank dialing the Netherlands these days, but you'd think with a name like that, she'd get her ass to the gate on time.
A little more cheesecake for the ladies

But back to Terminator Salvation. To answer your question... No. I do not think that you are being too harsh. You are a self professed Terminator nerd and for that reason you have every right to expect the same quality delivered in the past 3 films. The faults you describe are real. Connor is not played with the same brilliant self-doubting awareness. The machines are dumb and either too easily destructible or impossibly indestructible, determined singularly by the needs of McG to move the scene forward.

Terminator Salvation is really a one trick pony. And that trick? Action of course. As I stated previously, I left T4 with a smile on my face. That smile was produced by all of the action and effects. I can compare the feeling to a day at Six Flags. After walking off the Eagle at Great America I have a smile from ear-to-ear, knowing that what I just sat through was a fun time-wasting adrenaline rush. Five minutes later, I am in line for the Demon. To judge this movie against the standard set by its lineage will certainly produce an unsatisfactory result.

I have a feeling that this movie creates a new action roller-coaster format for the series -- a ride that you will likely not want to take. During an interview with Christian Bale I heard that two more Terminator films are in future production. Who knows? If this film's predictions are correct, we won’t need to worry about watching the next two installments, as Skynet will have destroyed the world we know and we’ll be occupied with scrounging for fuel and food in a desolate wasteland. Now that’s something to look forward to.

If all does go to hell as predicted by McG, at least I can take salvation in a final great weekend in Frankfurt. Actually, I think the part of Frankfurt near Main Station may already have arrived to that nasty, unrepairable future John Connor is half-assedly trying to save us from.

Later on,


My globe-trotting amigo!

South Africa followed by Frankfurt? You're quite the jet-setter! We may have to change our map or the name for these reviews. Then again, A to SA to F to BA is quite the mouthful, and I spent six solid days photoshopping that map and I'm too tired to change it now. Please stay put for at least a little while.

I don't think I need to defend my action cred on top of my previously established nerd and terminator cred. But I like a good action movie as much as anyone. That said, any action thrill ride must adhere to its own premise. If, after taking a spin on the Demon, you realized that the last three loops were simulated via bluescreen technology, you'd be pissed, even if you only realized it ten minutes later while downing some cotton candy or bowl of Dippin' Dots. Furthermore, Terminator: Salvation is the kind of rollercoaster with a big drop followed by a towering loop and then just a bunch of boring turns. A great action movie doesn't blow its wad in the first half hour. Think about it: Die Hard, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Matrix, Aliens, Fight Club, Lord of the Rings - completely different types of "action" flicks, but they all have the big crescendo near the end.
Wheeee! AKA McG's idea of a plot.

While there were a few relatively impressive sequences, nothing in this movie really holds together - even within its own standards. The plot is self-contradictory throughout. You mentioned Christian Bale said there will be sequels. These are just rumors, but I heard from various people that he exercised a lot of control over the movie's production, forcing script rewrites and demanding that he play John Connor instead of Marcus Wright (which would have been much, much better casting, let's face it). Plus, he's listed as "Assistant Editor." So who was really making this movie? Did McG adhere to the wishes of his star, who we know has problems with both ego and rage and has never written or directed a movie in his life? Does McG even know that this isn't a music video?

The bottom line: this is a Terminator film. And if McG had such a hard-on to do some dumb action movie, he could have just gone and made Hart's War II or farted out a Gobots flick. Making a decent robot movie doesn't cut it here. He was handed the keys to one of the most successful and beloved sci-fi series we've ever known and drove it into a ditch. A friend pointed out something really important to me. Ever since 1984, we have been waiting for this movie. As much as I adore T2, in the grand arc of the story the middle two films are technically placeholders. This movie is technically a bigger let-down than Star Wars: Episode I. I can't fathom that I will ever watch it again. I doubt there's anything else to get out of it, and certainly nothing left to "get." The more I think about it the angrier I become.
Waiting for someone to go back in time and at least prevent this hack from getting into film school.

The week before I saw the film, I had to present to a client here in Argentina. One of the people in the room had a legitimate complaint about the presentation. I tried my best tapdance, albeit in a foreign language. I nearly had him convinced by talking about minor points that painted a potential story to address his issues. But then he'd think for a second, shake his head, and respond with a vociferous "No." I kept thinking about him during this movie. I wanted to believe what they were selling me, but no matter how hard I tried, after just a couple seconds I had to declare, "No." My OWR will come when we're finished with this back-and-forth, but it will be hard to top that client's reaction.

Sorry I had to be so harsh, but they broke the franchise, and I'm not happy about it. I know the Halcyon Company wants to make their money, but they're not investing for the long run. The level of excitement for Terminator 5 is going to be considerably lower. That's their fault.

Care to finish us up with a big crescendo?



Hey Reed,

I don’t think you need to defend your action cred one iota either. Your roller coaster analogy cracks me up! I have to say I agree with you on all the points. Except one maybe – that being that Fight Club has a crescendo ending. Do you really think that? Fight Club is beyond brilliant for first hour and then devolves into a stinking stupid mess with all the dudes running around the city playing pranks and blowing up credit card companies. And I’m not just being critical because I used to work for the 4th largest US credit card company. It was idiocy plain and simple -- much like the final 30 minutes of Terminator Salvation. Well, I guess not quite as bad the end of T4, but still, pretty bad.

The Christian Bale stories you mention confirm he is officially a bonafide asshole. According to the imdb his “In Production” movies include T5, so it seems more likely then not we will see him reprise the John Connor role. I did not know that he was originally slated to play Marcus Wright. I agree that would have been a much better role for him. I guess he thinks he’s got to be the franchise, which of course is quite silly as everyone knows that John Connor and Batman are the less interesting characters. Of course, that may just have something to do with the actor that portrays them.
Bale as Bruce Wayne. And you thought we weren't going to have any more boobie photos today.

Like you (or maybe because of you) I no longer have that big smile when I think of T4, like when I walked out of the cinema. Terminator: Salvation simply does not deliver the goods in a satisfying way. And for that reason it has already faded from my thoughts over the past week. The Halcyon Company. That just sounds evil. Kind of like Skynet. I bet some crazy bored hacker dude could find a way of rearranging or combining the letters of both companies to create a word that is truly unholy.

So I think the next flick should be my pick. Let's get off the action schnide for a bit, huh? I am scanning the marquee for Romantic Comedies as I finish this email.

Take care,


Josh said...

Thank you for mentioning Dip n Dots, I'm a huge fan (mint chocolate chip is da bomb) and ready to cash in my 100,000 shares of stock once it finally hits it bit. I've been waiting for 10 years.

Matías Potel Feola said...

Hi Reed, I've just finished to read the review, and as you know we disagree because I consider this movie good enough to hold the sixth place in my top 10 2009 movies list.

However, I think you both have very valid points here. First of all, it's hilarious how you were getting angrier as you were writing the review, in the first one it seemed like if you had somwhat enjoyed it.

I agree that the action in the end is not as great as the one at the beginning. Also a female lead is missing, I think that Linda Hamilton has set the bar so high that nobody even bother to try after that. But T2 was one of the movies famous for having a woman in one of the most kick-ass action roles in history, it's a shame to see that that's lost now.

I didn't thought either in the doubts that Connor had before, and I agree with you, that's gone. But I think that this is because he's closer to being a leader now, he cannot be a whimp anymore.

The thing with the machines being stupid is also true, but I think that is impossible to portray them as scary as in the first movies while maintaining the illusion of a human resistance. If any of the machines here were as badass as the T1000 they will be all dead, and that's it... they had to dumb it down a notch. Also, the humans fight with better weapons and knowledge in the future, and that's something that Kyle Reese adresses in the first filme.

I think that McG had some things right, a few nods to the first movies, and also the fact that the future is changing. I still believe that the movie falls short of all the expectations, but I don't think that is horrible, with a few touches here and there they could've made a cool movie. The main problem for me is Connor, I wanted to see Connor taking charge since 1984 (even if I had 2 years then) and they've missed the oportunity here, big time.

Did you hear how the movie was supposed to end? This story infuriated me. I've also heard McG saying that the fifth movie should have Connor running in the streets of our time scaping from a robot, and that did it... if he's saying that I agree with you, somebody should go back and kill him. We already saw that, and nothing could top T2, ever. We need to see a cool story of the future and Connor taking charge, give us that.

One last thing, I think you really enjoyed the third installment, and I did as well, but I think that it cannot even be compared with the first two. The ending is the greatest thing that movie has, without it, it sucks.