Thursday, July 7, 2011

Terminator Salvation (2009)

A Marginally Entertaining Addition
To The Terminator Film Series

- The Terminator series has never been a huge favorite of mine. I mean, the whole premise ties my brain in a knot because none of the films really takes any time to explain how the saga perceives time....

I mean, who is to say that Skynet's many evil plans (to go back and time and kill people in the past so that they do not exist in the future) would work anyway? Wouldn't Skynet only be killing the John Connor of the alternate timeline with the John Connor of their time still existing? Are the films operating on a linear timeline? What could possibly happen to their John Connor even if the films are operating on a linear timeline? Would he disappear? Would he spontaneously combust like the drummers in This Is Spinal Tap (1984)? Who knows?

Still, some of the films have been an entertaining couple of hours. The original The Terminator (1984) is pretty good but has its pitfalls; Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) is a great sci-fi/action film, very entertaining and very cool; but Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) is just blue-ribbon garbage (the only good thing T3 did was allow for some funny Ah'nold gags on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien"). Terminator (4) Salvation (2009) has its problems but the Terminator franchise generally rebounds from the awful Terminator 3 with this marginally entertaining Terminator action/adventure.

One needs to view The Terminator (at least) before viewing Terminator Salvation mainly because it revolves around characters and events from The Terminator more than any other Terminator movie. The plot begins in 2003 with Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a criminal waiting to be put to death by the State via lethal injection, signing his soon-to-be-dead body over to a Dr. Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) for a big experiment. Wright closes his eyes in 2003 but then wakes up in 2018 Los Angeles not long after Skynet's nuclear attack on the city called Judgment Day. Wright meets up with a very young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), one of the few people left to defend Los Angeles, who is unaware of his future role in the war against Skynet (as are those who have never seen any of the previous films). John Connor (Christian Bale) is also alive and active in 2018, not quite the leader of the human resistance against Skynet yet but a very popular player nonetheless, finding that his present era is not as his mother prophesized.

Then some more stuff happens: Wright meets up with Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) and strikes up an alliance/romance, Wright and Connor meet up and Connor does not know whether or not to trust him, the resistance leaders give Connor a hard time and generally act like jerks, and Connor finds out that Skynet is trying to find and kill his future father Kyle Reese.

I, uh.... I think that is everything.... Yes, one could say that the plot is convoluted - that, and one needs to graduate from some sort of Terminator Arts program to follow it. On top of being convoluted, the plot is filled with inconsistencies and stupid movie stuff that makes no sense when you really think about it. But it's like Scott Evil said to Dr. Evil in Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999): "Why don't just go back in time and kill him (Austin Powers) while he's on the crapper or something?" Well, you could do that, Scott, but then there would be no movie.

Of course, the most memorable aspect of Terminator Salvation does not have anything to do with the film at all. That's right; I am of course talking about Christian Bale's rage-filled explosive rant at the film's cinematographer Shane Hurlbut which was caught on tape and played back ad nauseum on TV. After watching the film, I cannot help but find humor in the whole thing. The film is just not good enough to have a freak out about! Plus, and this is even more important and hilarious, Shane Hurlbut is the only person connected to the film that did an excellent job. The cinematography in Terminator Salvation is terrific! Hurlbut gives the film a dark and grimy look, but he does it in classic sci-fi style: making the dark and deadly look beautiful at the same time. Hurlbut is at the top of his game in Terminator Salvation.

The same cannot be said for Christian Bale, who is most obviously not at his best. While not exactly phoning in his performance Bale is certainly not up to the same high standard that he has set for himself in the past; when he is not yelling his dialogue he is half-whispering it, which is just weird. Sam Worthington is not very good either. One has a small sense of a struggle that his character contends with but Worthington has more than plenty of instances throughout the film where he is either overacting or not acting with enough intensity. Neither Bale nor Worthington is the worst actors in the film however, that honor goes to Michael Ironside who is just flat-out horrible to watch as the leader of the resistance. The most successful actors in the film are in supporting roles - Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese and Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor - which, you know, is great but you only see so much of these good performances and more of the mediocre-to-bad performances from the lead actors.

Alright, so Terminator Salvation is a little weak in the areas of acting and plot - but it can be viewed as a marginally entertaining movie. Like I said earlier, Hurlbut gives the film a great look, but the special effects are also fantastic (including an amazing cerca-1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger CG creation). Terminator Salvation works pretty well as a popcorn sci-fi action movie - but a great film it is not.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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