How is it possible McG continues to get these huge directorial movie projects? I’ll tell you – he is capable of making the trains run on time, but not much else. He has no vision, discernible style, wit or knows how to get much out of his actors. Whenever I watch one of his films, I think of this scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strikes back where Matt Damon is doing a sequel to Good Will Hunting and he asks the director how he should do a scene and the camera cuts to the Director saying “Just do it however you want to,” while he counts his piles of cash. Terminator Salvation is one soulless endeavor.
A lot of this is the fault of a bad script combined with lazy direction, but I also am officially sort of fed up with the entire franchise and how it treats time-travel. It’s the saga’s magic bullet that solves – or muddles everything. They have used it so much that I just no longer care about anything that happens in this Universe and there seems to be no consequences to them using it other than nothing major ever seems to change. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles television show made me care again, but they canceled that and this movie has nothing to do with the events of that, so again nothing matters.
I was immediately turned off by this film when once again, we are in “present day” LA. I was surprised, because everything I heard this story was supposed to take place after Judgment day, but we spend the first five or 10 minutes setting up Marcus Wright’s (Sam Worthington) which was unnecessary and it’s part of the thing that destroys any narrative “mystery” push his character’s presence is supposed to convey. The fact that they tell you that he’s a new breed of Terminator in the TRAILER! Doesn’t help matters either. Now that crappy marketing and a bad setup have spoiled the main plot point what are we left with? Christian Bale as John Connor and a lot of badly staged, bland action sequences.
I understand what Bale was trying to do using his deep Batman voice while barking out orders to his crew, but it seemed weirdly out of place, I also didn’t like the idea that everyone knew he was the prophesied savior of the human race. I’m sure Connor didn’t go around telling everyone it was his destiny, did this knowledge come about because of all the time traveling? I think we’re supposed to assume so, but it’s never mentioned.
Then there’s the whole subplot involving Skynet once again trying to change the “past” by killing Connor’s father, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) – in the present so he never goes back in the first place. Here again, the script is just freaking DUMB, because the time-line doesn’t make a lick of sense. Again, I understand that it’s established in the first movie that it’s John Connor who sends Kyle back in time in the first place, but actually seeing them together when John is at least 13 years older than his father was just weird and doesn’t work.
This movie is more about everyone else other than John Connor and that was really irritating because the entire point is to finally show us the war between the machines and humans, John taking control of his destiny, what we get instead are a lot Marcus and Kyle walking through the desert. The film spends too much time building up and establishing Marcus and his internal conflicts at the expense of everything else. Yes, I understand the movie’s central theme is what makes “humans better than machines?” But I didn’t care about Marcus, they set him up as a murderer who was executed in the beginning from that moment on, I didn’t care. Especially since they never explain why he did it, just that he was filled with regret. Then the fact that he sold his body for a last kiss and said “This is what death taste like,” so completely turned me off, it was a horribly stupid line, delivered about as stiff as it comes.
I’m sure screenwriters John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris were hi-fiving each other when they came up with that gem and others like, “When you point a gun at someone you better be prepared to use it.” When we get to the final moments in the end when Skynet explains Marcus’ purpose, that was truly a moment when I wanted to scream, “WTF! This makes no f’ing sense!!” It took two writers to come up with this nonsense? Then there’s the final moments of the film where it’s set up as though this is it, the final showdown – which had me thinking, come on all of Skynet can’t be in this one building, it’s a freaking computer NETWORK! But the script built it up that way and then realized, oh, yeah, we have two more movies to do, so nope, this is just a battle in a long war. And the script never made it clear if this facility was just their US one, or just one of many in the US, etc. Normally if an action movie delivers on the action then I don’t care about the nitpicking questions like this, but when there’s nothing else going for it, these logic gaps become gaping holes that I can’t let go of.
I could have forgiven a lot of this movie if McG at least gave us some decent to great action scenes and cool, original, explosions, but we didn’t even get that. There were a couple of moments that did make me smile and that was when he did little homage’s to the first two films namely the photo John had of his mother, her tape recordings to him, and this totally unexpected moment when Connor is stealing a motorcycle and they play the Guns and Roses theme song from T2. Why couldn’t we have gotten more that and less of Marcus?
One last thing, I’ve been on this soapbox for almost 20 years, but Danny Elfman please go away. I can’t stand his bland, boring, musical scores. He hasn’t done a good score since his great on for Tim Burton’s Batman; everything he’s done since has been a hollowed out version of that. He’s just as lazy and visionless as McG, so I guess it is a perfect marriage.
Final Grade D
By Michelle Alexandria
Originally posted 5.23.09