Jun 20, 2009

[Movies] Terminator Salvation (2009)

Terminator SalvationLonger-term readers of the Geeky Guide should already know that I have a bit of a thing for the Terminator franchise - I did write a tribute entry for the series some time back and despite the monstrosity that was Terminator 3, I still love series.

What's not to love about human-killing robots, post-apocalyptic nightmare worlds and time travel, right?

When they announced there was going to be another addition to the franchise beyond The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I was fairly excited although with a generous dose of caution - yes, Terminator 3 really burned me bad, I guess - but the movie did promise to show us more of what had always been only scarcely glimpsed in the previous movies - the dark future where Skynet rules supreme.

Terminator Salvation takes place well into our dark future but not too far away - just 2018. In the previous movies it had been established that John Connor (Christian Bale) was detined to be the leader of the resistance movement against the machines but here he seems to be just another soldier in a larger army. Humanity is continues to fight against Skynet from various locations around the world as coordinated from a hidden base.

At the same time, a man named Marcus (Sam Worthington) finds himself in this same world and is inevitably involved with the resistance and a very young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who will one day grow up to travel into the past to protect Sarah Connor and eventually sire John. So yeah, he's pretty important too, in the classic Grandfather paradox kind of way.

TerminatorImage by lrargerich via Flickr

Now initially the movie received some pretty bad press ranging from Christian Bale's outbursts on the set to the movie being panned by many critics. Admittedly, the movie does have its flaws (like any other film) and could have handled a number of things better. Some of the Terminator fight scenes did seem a bit too much like rehashed Transformers footage, but that's not quite the point (even though there were some pretty awesome fights).

I think the biggest challenge to the film is the misconception that it's about John Connor. Sure, he's played by a big name actor, but from the very beginning of the film you'll realize that it's really about Marcus - John Connor is just an incidental character who is still important in a general sense, just not necessarily to the story. Once you get accept that notion, it'll really go a long way to helping you appreciate the film.

The movie is also a slight homage to past films in the franchise such as quoting the classic line, "Come with me if you want to live" or even having the original Sarah Connor tapes played in the film - the same dialog recorded at the end of the first Terminator film. And yes, there was the CGI Arnold cameo and even that seemed fitting enough and not overly cheesy.

Props to Helena Bonham Carter (as usual) - she didn't have a major role but definitely handled her part in the whole story very, very well. I'll never quite look at the franchise ever again without imagining her face...

I can do without another major Christian Bale movie. Seriously - he's a decent actor but the constant stream of films is starting to make him seem somehow stuck in the horrid curse or typecasting as the rough hero or something. Worthington was okay and Yelchin was amazing in the sense that you'd never think he was the same guy who played Chekov in the last Star Trek movie.

As for the fact that this was yet another blatant attempt by Hollywood to milk an existing franchise for all its worth, I guess it can't be that bad. I mean seriously, they could have done a lot worse with it and I don't see why the critics were so pissed. This doesn't mean I want to see another trilogy with Bale or anything like that - what we really need is some fresh, new ideas and continuing efforts to push the limits of storytelling.

Terminator Salvation remains a great movie for any fan of the series or of Christian Bale or of wanton destruction involving killer robots. 4 out of 5 naked Arnolds, haha.

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