Say what you will about TERMINATOR 3, but there were quite a few things to enjoy about it. It had an amazing John Connor, one spectacular chase scene (unparalleled as far as smash ’em ups IMHO), a great ending, and it stuck to most of the sensibilities of the Terminator mythos. Not all, but most.
TERMINATOR: SALVATION. How the fuck did this happen? This movie should have been rated PU. I’m not the type to hop onto the interwebs after an opening weekend to vent my geek frustrations, but there was something about this film that struck me as insulting and…arrogant.
I’m not going to summarize the film. I don’t have the energy or the want. But basically we have the future we were promised in all three Terminator films. The future that struck me when I was 8 years old and my father first showed me the original TERMINATOR. I was awe-struck. And when I was twelve my father took me to see TERMINATOR 2. This, more than anything else, is where my life spun off from. I spent half of that summer looking forward to that movie, so much so that I recorded the Guns N’ Roses music video for You Could Be Mine so I could watch it to see the FX footage again and again. This begat my taking a liking to rock music, Guns N’ Roses specifically, which begat Led Zeppelin, which begat Danzig, which begat spending every weekend getting drunk and stoned watching ERASERHEAD when I was in high school. And the downward spiral which followed. Yes, I credit TERMINATOR 2.
Like most children, I grew up with Terminator movies. Ask any twenty-something male in America about the franchise and they’ve seen it multiple times. It was the perfect mix of mind-bending science fiction, action, testosterone, special effects, and tough-guy isms. The Terminator’s status as an 80’s icon is matched only by Sigourney Weaver holding a flame thrower in one hand and Newt in the other. And every child who watched the films had that itching desire to see as many cuts to the future as possible. That was the red meat of the franchise. Skeletal robots shooting fucking laser guns at mercenaries with rocket launchers. Humans living like rats in a vision of the world where it was always night and you were always about to be snuffed out. As a kid, this truly scared the pants off of me.
My problem with TERMINATOR: SALVATION begins and ends with those aforementioned scenes. Because while there were certainly some incredible sequences, there was nothing which lived up to those two-minute future segments which Cameron put to the screen. McG’s future wasn’t dangerous, wasn’t scary, it had no purpose and told no story. And I resent the fact that if it hadn’t been for its mega-budget and Stan Winston’s pre-existing machine designs, this film would have premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel between MANSQUITO and S.S. DOOMTROOPER. How the hell does James Cameron draw you a map and you still get lost? This was an unforgiveably lazy mish-mash of modern franchises, taking bits of the MATRIX universe, a dab of TRANSFORMERS, and a touch of MAD MAX and setting it in an absurd story in which the machines were as stupid as Elmer Fudd. I can forgive the inexplicable elements, such as The Resistance having a fleet of fighter jets and helcipoters, but what I can’t forgive are the moments in which logic and continuity simply vanish:
SKYNET’S METHOD OF KILLING KYLE REESE
1. CAPTURE KYLE REESE
2. HOLD ON TO KYLE REESE FOR UNKNOWN REASONS, POSSIBLY TO AGE HIM LIKE WINE
3. FILL KYLE REESE’S CELL WITH POISON GAS
5. OPEN KYLE REESE’S CELL, FUCKIT, GAS IS EXPENSIVE
6. COME ON KYLE, INTO THE HUMAN MEAT MACHINE YOU GO
And why do they know who Kyle Reese is? How do they know who John Connor is? How do they have pictures of Kyle Reese from which to draw a facial recognition? Wait, Kyle and John are downstairs trying to blow up Skynet? Wouldn’t Skynet have some additional robots in the vacinity of their robot-making factory in their robot-making headquarters in their robot city that they could send down there to stop them? Nope? Fair enough.
Hi! I’m the machine that was in the trailer that wasn’t in the movie! Twenty-three skidoo!