Saturday, July 12, 2003

the TERMINATOR Saga (& T3 review)

The Terminator Saga
by Reymundo Salao
The Guardian, July 12, 2003

It was like almost ten years ago when the old Allegro theater was showing it. The moviehouse was so crowded. Many of the patrons were content on having to stand up while watching the film. I was one of them. A high school sci-fi geek who was watching the film that probably was the monumental sci-fi film of the late 80's/ early 90's; TERMINATOR 2, JUDGEMENT DAY (the first Terminator movie was in the mid 80's). In the history of sci-fi films, T2 (as it was called), was among the most popular. Everybody even got infected by the catchy lines of the protagonist played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the film like "Hasta La Vista, Baby!" and the "I'll be back" The movie was written and directed by James Cameron, the director who made the biggest blockbusting sci-fi movies "Aliens" (which was the sequel to Ridley Scott's "Alien") and critically-acclaimed "The Abyss". His creation, the world of the TERMINATOR was so famous that it deserves to be standing alongside icons like "Star Wars" and "The Matrix". And why not? It has a brilliant storyline which stood side-by-side with its heart-pounding action.

In the future, there is a war between humans and machines (sounds awfully familiar). In order to further their chances of victory, the machines had sent their cybernetic assassin, the Terminator, Model T-1000, back in time to eliminate John Connor, who was destined to be the leader of the human resistance that will crush the machines. Anticipating the move of the enemies, the human resistance also sent a stolen and reprogrammed Terminator, the T-800, to protect John Connor. There in the present time (which was actually way back in the early 90s), both terminators battled for the life of John Connor. In the end, John had the initiative to prevent the war in the future. That is by destroying every last bit of both terminators. And so he did. And Judgement day was prevented from taking place.

And now, after more than ten years, HE'S BACK. Arnold Schwarzenegger rises back from the ashes in TERMINATOR 3, RISE OF THE MACHINES. (Spoiler alert on this paragraph) John Connor is now a bum who was haunted by the nightmares of an apocalyptic future, so he lived a peaceful life that stayed away from technology. Not until a new Terminator, the T-X has been sent back from the future, to eliminate certain people, the other "destined-to-be" military leaders of the resistance. Similarly, another Terminator, the T-101, was also sent back by the resistance to counter T-X's mission. Judgment Day was never prevented. It was just postponed. And so war must begin. And this is where it starts.

In as much as I would like to express how much I loved this movie, it honestly didn't really offer anything original. The plot would've been superb, except that it did not add any details that spiced it up. It was the fast-paced action that was its weakness. Many of the stunts looked original and worthy of awe. But the pace was too fast that you wouldn't have time to relish the moments. It is as if it gave you a breathtaking action scene, but didn't give you enough breathing space, when it rushes to another breathtaking scene. In a blink of an eye, the movie is over, and you'd scream that it was bitin. You would have to watch the movie's action scenes all over again to have that higher sense of contentment.

The gaps of dialogue that made up the storytelling part of the movie was never interesting. Everytime they would have to stop for some chit-chat, you would find yourself not listening with an attentive ear, but that which yells "Hey, let's get on with the action".

Perhaps it was a bad choice to have a "nobody" direct such a prominent sci-fi saga. There was nothing special that director JONATHAN MOSTOW brought to this sequel. In one way or another, it even pulled the dignity of the Terminator saga down. Instead of giving it a rebirth, it just made T3 look like "Jaws part 2" or "Jurassic Park 3". If you ask me, I would blame its creator James Cameron. His creation would've gladly had stood up to becoming a timeless sci-fi icon by helming its third installment at an earlier time (T3 was originally planned to have been made as early as 5 years ago). Instead, he'd chosen to make the biggest love story film, the historically-adulterated TITANIC. A movie so famous that everybody wants to deny having liked it. It was as if George Lucas of Star Wars, Chris Carter of the X-files, and other sci-fi icons were seated in one presidential table, while James Cameron had to sit on with the rest of the non-icons. If only Cameron took good care of this project, he would've made The Matrix look like a copycat (Matrix will always be better though)

If there was one other thing that this movie was all about, it was the so-called "return" of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, he hasn't really been gone, since he'd have made other movies (flops) like "Collateral Damage" and "The Sixth Day". But because his new movies were box-office tragedies, this was the one ace-card movie which he probably hopes would reclaim his dignity as a box-office action hero. In this movie, I would have to say he did fine. He was definitely kick-ass here. It kinda made the hair on the back of my neck grow cold when he walked into a smoking scene in slow motion. But his overwhelming presence here is sadly just a mirror of the image he portrayed in T2. Nevertheless, he rocked and I really couldn't say much except raise my fists and scream like an adolescent again "Bakod pre!" I could say the same for actress Kristanna Loken who played the dominatrix-like Terminator. This is one chick that I'd want to beat me up (VAVAVOOM! Shwing!). The film also stars Claire Danes and Nick Stahl, who plays John Connor. I couldn't figure out why they didn't get Edward Furlong, who played John Connor in T2 since he is about the same age as Nick Stahl by now.
In totality, TERMINATOR 3, RISE OF THE MACHINES was a rockin' movie. Kick-ass with an ideal twist. It may not be one for the classics, like we would've wanted to, but it was well worth the money. I'd even want to watch it again.