Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Terminator: Salvation review.

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When filmmaker James Cameron made The Terminator in 1984 - and its exponentially larger budgeted sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in 1991 – he essentially raised the bar for action filmmaking so high that few filmmakers have come close to touching it.

Unfortunately, the few who came close does not include the guy who calls himself McG, director of the newest Terminator outing called Terminator: Salvation. He lacks the almost scientific calculation Cameron used to generate thrills, and there are a few beats in McG's film that are no less goofy than the name he insists people call him.

Terminator: Salvation is the first outing of the Terminator franchise, which also includes a TV series and a theme park ride at Universal Studios, to completely address humanity’s war with the machines in the future.

Played by Christian Bale, freedom fighter John Connor leads the resistance against the machines that, like all mechanical creations in movies, turned against humanity shortly after they became self-aware. The resistance has discovered a radio signal that has the potential to stop the robots dead in their tracks, which Connor intends to use so that he and his fellow freedom fighters can level Skynet’s base of operations located in a bombed-out San Francisco. However, before Connor can allow the destruction of Skynet, be must discover the location of Kyle Reese, the man who would ultimately become Connor’s father after he sent him back in time in the first Terminator film to protect his mother.

This brings us to another character named Marcus Wright, who is played by Australian actor Sam Worthington. A man of mysterious origins, Marcus knows that Reese has in fact been kidnapped by Skynet, and will be executed unless they attempt a last-ditch rescue. There is of course a secret about the true nature of Marcus that anyone who’s seen the movie’s trailers will know about (i.e. that he is in fact a robot-human hybrid), and the film uses this to explore the notions of what makes machines like humans and vice versa. That said, the most recent incarnation of TV’s “Battlestar Galactica” handled the same topic in a far more engaging and thoughtful way.

But Terminator: Salvation has about as much to praise as it does to criticize. McG is not a confident action film director like Cameron, but he is competent one. He uses his skills to essentially mount action scenes from the first shot after the prologue until the credits in the end. He also packs in enough references to both the original and second “Terminator” films, that no fan of the series can watch the movie without smiling once or twice. The film could be best described as a gigantic-budgeted internet fan film. Or better yet, the cinematic equivalent to karaoke.

Sure, it doesn’t push for high artistic value like the original films, but for those who know all the lyrics, there are moments when it can still be a lot of fun. And if you're one of those people like my buddy Mike who thought Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was 'good' or even 'okay,' you'll probably feel the same way about this movie.

Price of admission to Terminator: Salvation will get you...

-Sam Worthington slipping out of his character’s American accent into his native Australian one during the scenes where his character whispers -– an odd flaw, since he is a fairly capable actor otherwise.

-One machine communicating to another in English as opposed to binary.

-John Connor rocking out to the same Guns n’ Roses song he used to listen to when he paled around with the red-headed kid from Nikelodeon’s “Salute Your Shorts.”

-and-

-A couple of inventive cameos by original “Terminator” stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schawtzenneger, both of whom got to appear in the film without spending a single day on the movie’s set.

This won’t be the film that turns new audiences into fans of the Cameron-spawned franchise, but I can’t deny that the film wasn’t an action packed-spectacle made for, and perhaps by, fans of the original films.

(** & 1/2 out of ****)

2 Comments:

Anonymous need coffee said...

after Terminator Salvation, i count a total of three choices in the Christian Bale voice arsenal: his normal voice (with a lisp), Broadway singer (Newsies) and hoarse tough guy (Batman and Terminator)

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4:12 AM  

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