A Waste of Terminators

17 Jul

Let’s not pretend that the Terminator franchise is a science fiction property.  There cannot be “Terminator fans”.  They’re trashy big budget “flicks” that feature robots and a story so incomplete it makes me want to vomit.  But I was excited for Terminator 4, or Salvation, whatever.  Whoever cut that trailer knew what they were doing.  But this whole situation should have been left to my imagination.

In the previous Terminator movies they alluded to the robot-human war and showed snippets of badass things like oceans of skulls and machines shooting big guns in a dark dystopian hellscape full of fire and sweet gunships.  When Salvation opened with A-10 jets running a sortie on a Skynet installation I perked up — will this be good?  But then the helicopters landed, and Christian Bale stepped out and jumped into a big hole.  Fuck.

What’s behind all this angst is the fact that I could imagine a better movie.  Humans fighting a guerilla war against a centrally-controlled machine race?  There are countless hours of military science fiction scenes running around my head.  You’d have to try really hard to isolate a combination of scenes where all of the amazing material would be left out, leaving a weak character drama supported by a nauseating filmmakers-are-out-of-touch style comment on the “war on terror”.  But the acronym that directed this film managed to find that combination and put it in front of my eyes, which transmitted the information to my brain, which imploded.

Before I dig in any more, there were cool bits present — the animation and FX team were a bunch of pros.  There’s a scene where we see a motorcycle robot calculate the trajectories of the debris in front of it and then maneuever cinematically to avoid it.  That’s what I’ve always felt is the meat that is never quite meaty enough for the franchise — artificial intelligence scares us when it can think better than we can; it makes us feel imperfect and outmoded.  This sort of thing is probably only dealt with for about two minutes collectively throughout the film.

What the director really wanted to do is show that he wasn’t just some guy directing a robot movie — NO, he is an auteur.  So he ignored the premise he was given and instead built up to a scene where it’s explained that the difference between machines and men is the strength of the human heart, as the engineered super-heart from a robot is transplanted into John Connor, because his heart is failing.

There are so many parts where drama is supposed and then you are ripped back to the reality that this movie is terrible, not good.  What makes it more terrible is its awareness of what good is and its continued avoidance of it.  A character rescues one of the machines and betrays her friends and is shot in the leg while escaping with him.  Again I tensed up.  Kill her; her own side has to kill her to show that the humans have gone over the edge long ago.  She escapes and Christian Bale lets her go “just because”.  Damnit.  The “friendly” terminator has his super-heart punched into little heart pieces by an evil terminator (yes, this is the same heart that is given to Bale at the end) and the good terminator is left for dead.  Bale defibrillates him and he comes back to life.  It’s as if the writers read a book on dramatic metaphor and then made an effort to do everything the opposite way.

This movie is not bad.  It’s just so not good that you’ll be depressed after watching it.

Maybe I expected too much science fiction (you know, because of the robots) and expected too much from a franchise built around an Austrian bodybuilder saying cool things with a jacket on, but it’s just…uhhhh.  There are no words.

P.S. Why is Christian Bale always Batman?  He uses his Batman voice throughout the entire film and has the emotional fidelity of a piece of cardboard.

P.P.S. Never, ever reveal who the good, human-looking terminator is in the first few seconds of the movie (or the trailer…).  There are so many lost moments that could have been good and interesting and thoughtful but are instead trite and silly because of the knowledge the audience has been given.  This movie ripped itself a new asshole before I ever got around to writing this blog.

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One Response to “A Waste of Terminators”

  1. myfantasyweb September 19, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    Terminator is not only a sci-fi. I thiking Terminator serie is a anticipation concept. One of these days. Before the end of this century .Some armys of the world will operate real war cyborgs and robots.

    Politticaly correct because no more human lost ….

    For me The Terminator movie is a revelation !!!

    I invite you to TERMINATOR MUSEUM:
    http://www.myfantasyweb.com/terminator/terminator.html

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