Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

“I knew it. I knew it was coming. But this is not the future my mother warned me about. And in this future, I don’t know if we can win this war.”

Introduction

So, finally, a short plan to watch all the Terminator films has finally drawn to a close. And it really has petered out – nothing special to finish. I think its fair to say that Terminator Salvation is the weakest of the four films. They really tried to make it special but I think the desire to create a family-friendly big-ass blockbuster sci-fi action film is the problem – where are the darker themes of industrialism and capitalism? Gone, replaced with clear and obvious themes of ‘who am I’. An identity crisis – you would think John Connor would’ve dealt with than in T2.

You Would Think The Revival of Batman was a Good Choice…

Christian Bale is John Connor. I think it is fair to say that, at this point in the franchise, the role of John Connor has to go to someone everyone is excited about seeing. Discussions about Chris Nolans The Dark Knight and Batman Begins often veer into the terriotory of Christian Bale: Is he a good Batman? I think most people feel that he is not flawless – there are issues. A lack of expression and emotion – a sinister charm that could be sweeter? Nevertheless, the gritty John Connor seemed ideal for Bale but I think the biggest problem is the script – and it reckon Bale, therefore, phoned it in. No real effort in the role methinks. His lame gravelly voice – Nick Stahl and Edward Furlong didn’t have a destroyed voicebox – whilst delivering lines from the franchise that have simply been squeezed in for no clear reason: Kate Connor asking “What should I tell your men when they find out you’re gone?” and John Connor replies – “I’ll be back”. Eugh. Then there is Kyle Reeses opening line – “Come with me if you want to live”. Its non-sensical and doesn’t help the film in any respect. Nobody is sitting in the cinema waiting for these lines to be re-delivered. Think McG, Think.

Time-Travel

There is none! A franchise rooted in ‘turning-the-clocks’ back – regret and remorse about our capitalist actions. One of the best aspects to the weak-Terminator 3 was seeing Skynet and their resources build the first terminators. Deleted scenes on the DVD too show a very strange clip as the actual Arnie speaks with a deep-south accent as a military-man states “we’ll change the voice”. The first two films utilise time-travel to save any depth shown of the future. I think this is a staple of the series. We want to see the smaller-scale story as the bigger-scale story continues in the background. We didn’t even see Kyle Reese go back in time – now that would’ve been cool.

Considering how simple the original stories were, this film is that much more complex. How can this be?  It can be as we follow the story of Kyle (Anton Yelchin) himself and his ‘LA’ resistance, then we have the pseudo-complexity of Marcus: a murderer placed on death-row, only to be resurrected again as a robotic-human … but alas, he has a ‘strong heart’ (Worthington? Strong Heart?…). Finally we also have the huge-scale resistance John Connor is setting up. All of these issues at play … remember when it was a simple terminator-is-trying-to-kill-sarah-connor. Easy. Everything else was secondary in The Terminator. (I think there is much more depth in The Terminator but, one the surface, it can be seen as a simplistic story … I think you ca lose your way with Terminator Salvation)

Identity

As previously mentioned, the film is less focussed on Capitalism and Industrialism and, instead, focusses its attention on identity. Who makes us who we are? Is John Connor only who he is through who his Mother was? Is Marcus human or not? Is his heart in the right place? And what decides who we truly are? Can we give murderers a second chance?

Ironically, identity is something the film lacks. We have alot of nods to the previous films – much like Terminator 3 – a similar look to The Terminator: industrial settings and boiling molten-metal that is used – the steam lit up by red light whilst we cut to huge chase sequences in (take a guess), the Nevada desert. I felt that the use of a CGI Arnie was appropriate and was a highlight – it reallt was effective and only rang false because we all know Arnie is not that young and will not star in a film for a long time yet. The classic theme is used briefly but is not overbearing – but I missed it a little bit if i’m honest.

Back to the identity issue – all the other films had a consistency regarding the anti-capitalist theme (I would say anti-technology – but in T2 and Terminator 3 – the technology that is Arnie, is what saves the day), but this is not explored in Terminator Salvation. Ironically, with such an epic-scale – end of the world, post-judgment day destruction – the themes are quite small: what makes us who we are? In contrast, The Terminator was actually quite a small-scale story: bad robot tries to kill innocent woman, but with an epic-theme: the progress of technology and the lack of foresight of these companies – ignoring the knock-on effects of their actions. McG brings to the table some nice continuous tracking shots – but its just not good enough. That perfect example of the bad script with a hard-working cast and crew.

John Connor tells us that this is not the future his Mother, Sarah Connor, warned him about – I don’t think Terminator Salvation was the future James Cameron predicted either. Hence, Cameron has disassociated himself from the franchise. Forever.

Though, in a very capitalist way, I’m pretty sure he takes royalties from anything made associated with the franchise – going a little bit against the morals established in his two films… And like the franchise, the Terminator-world has turned to shit. Where do they go now? I reckon they will go back in time and reboot the franchise… its only a matter of time.

Remember – you can always email The Simon and Jo Film Show directly using this email: simonandjoshow@gmail.com

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