Terminator Salvation: A Kwon & Juan Review
Catchy, ain’t it? So this is a new thing Juan Carlos and I have cooked up, born out of our long talks regarding what we love and hate in all things cinema. And we’re hoping to make it a regular thing. Expect some gravity, humor, snark, outrage, fights to the death (not really), and overall passionate dialogue… because that’s what movies are supposed to do. Enjoy!
Our first review after the jump: Terminator Salvation
KWON: So the (sorta) bad news is that Terminator Salvation is just okay, really. The good news is, it erases enough of the memory of the crapfest that was T3: Rise of the Machines, and perhaps by extension, may seem even better than it actually is… at least initially.
JUAN: When T3 came out I was sure we would finally get to the future. Finally in T4 we make it 2018 to witness this post apocalyptic world, and yet it’s missing what I’ve always dreamed of. For some reason most of the battles take place during the day in a cliched war torn desert with skeezy locals which is all reminiscent of Reign of Fire, The Postman, and Resident Evil: Extinction. From the first two T movies I was actually led to believe their world was one of interminable night, caverns, and terror. What I arrive at are bleak landscapes that hide no Terminators and have zoning between people and machines. I guess I had always figured that a world littered in skulls would host no safe haven for our last group of freedom fighters.
KWON: There is an underlying tone of despair, which is probably derived less from the plot, and more from a hackneyed action director (McG), yearning for legitimacy. He doesn’t exactly fail, but there are holes… and it gets majorly explainy at the end, which I loathe, and also have issues with its logic. Someone got LA.ZY. Yeah, writers, I’m talking to you.
JUAN: T4 is not Batman Begins where Christian Bale is a fresh breath of air from Kilmer and Clooney. In this one his labored breathing and raspy voice just don’t have the same resonance. I blame our three lettered friend McG. I actually had fun watching the film. However, I had to forget that it had anything to do with the Terminator franchise. It’s pretty easy to do though since they haven’t kept any of the original actors, and most of the machines worth writing about are new in this one. One scene, where they introduce a Transformer (much like Shockwave) crossed with a BattleTech mech, was truly inspired. I was giddy, I yelled a little, was on the edge of my seat, and excited to see how it all panned out. Unfortunately, the good part didn’t last into the epic final battle at Skynet. If this 30 minute segment were to stand alone though the movie would receive a B- from me.
KWON: There’s a certain amount of authentic conflict that allows the audience a moment of insight into the burden of being John Connor. It’s one of the few quietly compelling aspects of the story and is anchored nicely by the current plot and what we remember from the first two films. But it’s pretty shallow… and brief. I wanted MORE. A little time devoted to this new older/wiser John Connor would not have been monumentally out of line. This is the guy who’s going to save the human race from extinction, a threat so great to these monomaniacal robots, that they sent a machine back in time to try to kill his mother… before he was even born. What? Too boring?
JUAN: There is a scene that is injected near the beginning with Helena Bonham Carter which seems like it was construed after they filmed and edited the entire thing. I think one writer said to the other… “Wait a minute this doesn’t make any sense at all.” “Well they won’t reshoot the whole thing” “Yeah, the effects really are coming along nicely.” “Let’s just tie it all up in a bow.” “How do we do that?” “Let’s just inject some random person…” “What do you think of Helena Bonham-” “CARTER?!, Perfect” “We can always put Carter’s face on some random digital wall, and have her bookend the film.” “Yeah! Bookends!” “I love those…”
KWON: I’m 98% sure that the scene during which that famous dust-up between star and DP occurred isn’t even IN the movie, since Bryce Dallas Howard has about 4.6 seconds of screen time… and she’s totally forgettable. Pointless… and annoying, since it’s just gonna make people think Christian’s full of shit.
JUAN: What is so problematic is the protagonist for the first time in our Terminator lives is not John Connor. The story centers around this lost soul whose past remains unilluminated. The love interest occurs between our new Terminator, and a lady we don’t care about. McG had such a fascination with this incredible idea for a Terminator (read: lame) that he lost who the story was supposed to be about in the first place.
KWON: Speaking of… I heart Christian Bale, but he really doesn’t do much in this film. I do think you need a real actor playing John Connor, so in that sense, he fulfills his duties, but the man can do more than scream and be raspy, okay? And he’s our way in to the story, remember? We don’t know anything about this Marcus fool. And we don’t care about him because we’ve never seen him before. He only matters to us, if he matters to John, which doesn’t actually happen until way too late in the film. And Sam Worthington is decent enough, but his storyline doesn’t hold that much surprise. He also slips into his Australian accent at one point, which threw me off for a while.
JUAN: I suppose this is the point where I rant and rave about inconsistencies in the time space continuum, but you can get that information from anywhere. My problem is this: Why is it that the Skynet compound has five working Terminators? What is up with that? This place is supposed to be a hive of them. We’re literally in the factory itself, and only one or two actually are around to take care of business. Since Skynet is connected via uplink wouldn’t they all know this is where they need to be?
KWON: Point of contention: I would argue that the lack of T-800s at the Skynet compound actually does make sense, as I believe <pausing for thought...> at this point in time, the T-800 is a new model and have not all been assembled…? My major plot gripe is basically the entire last act. It’s lazy, we covered that. And I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll just say: I had a similar reaction to Ocean’s Twelve (which was nonsense personified).
BUT. Style points could be awarded. The movie has a great look. And the SFX are a nice aesthetic mixture of high end (fluid/computer-techy sophistication… since Skynet, you know… took over the WORLD) and low end (broken down decaying machines), without either of them looking cartoony… or worse, like Spiderman 3. There’s also some nice photography, specifically in the sequence when we first see John Connor. And there are also several mildly enjoyable callbacks that I probably shouldn’t spoil, so I’m just gonna end it right there.
JUAN: In the end I don’t want some modified Tin Man story from Alice in Wonderland in my T4. Even with a couple of really cool action sequences I just can’t get rid of the bad after taste. The more I think about it, the greater my animosity grows. I’ll conclude with a grade of “I” which stands for Incomplete. There is just no closure in the story, in the series, or in my [strong] heart.