Sunday, May 31, 2009
THE FUTURE BEGINS
By Reymundo Salao
It is the year 2018 and the machines have pretty much decimated the human race, after an uprising of the machines have declared war against humans in an apocalyptic event known as Judgment Day. The remaining survivors are the ones that wage a war for survival against the machines. John Connor knew of this as his mother and himself have been targets of time-travelling terminators, and they also were trying their best to prevent Judgment Day from happening. But in this future, it is obvious that they have failed and Judgment Day did come. They only delayed it. Now, John Connor is one of the leaders of a resistance movement that is bent on crushing the machines. Many believe Connor is indeed the “prophesized” leader that will lead mankind into salvation. But there are many others who also think of him as a False Prophet.
This is a two-part review which will contain spoilers on its second part. We will be eventually talking about spoiler parts of the movie on the second part. That means that my review will contain some revealing details of the movie which can spoil your moviegoing experience if you indeed read on before having watched the movie (Don’t worry, the second part will actually be published on this paper next week, so you can read on to the end of the article). Let me just tell you now that Terminator Salvation is an excellently-done hardcore heavy metal action. This indeed succeeds in showing us the post-apocalyptic world after the machines have waged war upon all mankind. It succeeds on delivering what is really a great war-torn epic action movie.
I used to really hate McG. He directed the Charlie’s Angels movies, which to me, were really lame commercial, product-endorsing, “cheap-pleasures” movie that employed really awful renditions of various copied styles. In those movies, McG seemed to be only capable of making movies out of poorly-copied styles of the likes of other directors, from the Wachowskis to John Woo. But now that McG has been given a serious movie to direct, it was such a pleasant surprise for me to find out that he can really direct an excellent hardcore action movie. Yes, McG does really deserve praise for being a superb action director. There were many moments in the movie which made me cheer, none of the sequences made me yawn or roll my eyeballs, which proves how much of a great leap McG’s reputation is from that of a hack to somebody who knows how to make unique eye-catching scenes that would make you raise your eyebrows with delight. The movie’s bleak atmosphere, its war ravaged feel is beautifully brought to life by McG’s team. From the cinematography (Shane Hurlbut) to the editing (Conrad Buff), all did a great job. The weaker points of the movie that I would point out is the weak script (despite a strong plot) and the barely satisfying music. Danny Elfman is one of the best music directors/composers, having created classic and timeless scores for such projects as Batman (’89) and the Simpsons TV series (along with a seemingly countless more). But the guy is not really a god, and it is in this movie where he shows us just that. The theme music he made for this movie feels weary and boring. They could have easily just adapted or tweaked the original Terminator theme music (by Brad Fiedel), but it was only used in few scenes. But I do love the use of the songs “Rooster” by one of my favorite bands Alice in Chains, which fits the hopeless atmosphere of the story, and its use of Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could Be Mine” which was established in the previous Terminator 2 movie as one of the songs John Connor listens to when he was still an upstart kid. As for the script, there were many lines that felt pretty corny. Some were out of place. On the other hand, I would not agree with the opinion that some of the familiar catch-phrase lines from the previous Terminator movies were delivered on this movie in order to make a cheap wink at its fans. I believe it is merely character consistency at work (Kyle Reese’s “Come with me if you want to live”), making such characters have the tendency to use and re-use those lines, which for me is just a form of character development. While in other cases (John Connor’s “I’ll be Back”), it is just mere coincidence
Before we do indeed get into the spoilers, my verdict for this movie is that it really is a movie that deserves a full price, a great summer action movie, it is honestly not as great as Terminator 2 or not as great as, say for example, something like Star Trek. It is great but not really enough to make you stop shitting your pants for a moment and give it immediate attention, except maybe for geeks like me who adore this genre of movies. But the film does manage to deliver what it is expected to do: make us see and feel the war against the machines as promised in the previous Terminator movies. And in that specific point, it is an explosive success.
Many critics complain about the plotholes of the movie. But I believe many of these plotholes can only be solved if one would just surrender to good old suspension of disbelief. Its original story from the first Terminator movie was one big plothole from the very beginning. In the first movie, the machines sent a terminator back in time to the year 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of the leader of the resistance waging war against the machines. As a counter-measure, the resistance sends one of their soldiers Kyle Reese in order to protect Sarah Connor. As all of this chase-fight events were going on, Kyle and Sarah were able to consummate their love; they had sex. As a result, Reese impregnated Sarah. And the son of Sarah is of course John Connor, the destined leader of the resistance. Don’t you think that John Connor mistakenly changed his own fate and existence the day Kyle Reese fathered John instead of Being fathered by his original father (if Reese had not traveled in time to meet Sarah)? Now comes the new movie, which tells us that in the early days of the war, the number one target of the machines is a teenager named Kyle Reese. But why? How then did the machines of that time, know that Reese would soon become the father of John Connor? This is just one very tiny bit of plothole that you should gladly just ignore and exempt from your nitpicking, if you want to enjoy the film in its full capacity. On the other hand, these are plot-holes that is still open for a fix. Who knows, if a sequel can eventually provide answers for the minor nonsense involved here?
Another criticism is that Christian Bale’s performance as John Connor was too monotonous, like he was just merely gruff and tough all the time that it leaves no room for audiences to understand or even like his character well enough. While I may half-agree with this issue, I think audiences should take into consideration that the character of John Connor is one which is so dark and so serious; John has been and is facing his nightmares come true, nightmares worse than expected as is said in the movie (“this is not the future my mother told me about”) and continues on to predict the possibility of failure. The progression of his character from Terminator 2 to this movie is such that he has become devoid of any human emotional weakness by this movie, and is nothing any more or less than just a great soldier determined to win the war. Such to a point that when he sees the familiar T-800 to once as a kid, he once had a friendship with, there is not a single drop of emotional reaction from him because it is so clear in his head that this is the enemy and not the same machine he once knew. Speaking of the T-800, its appearance was the extra-sweet little extra little icing on the cake. Even though that Schwarzenegger did not make an actual appearance at the shooting, the filmmakers were able to recreate him with a model stand-in and with the aid of CGI. It was as if Arnold really was there. On the other hand, the execution of this effect was good but not flawless. Keen eyes can tell that this was CGI. But it was really a smart move to position the angles so that there would be a minimal use of CGI.
In some other aspects of the movie, it doesn’t underestimate the intelligence of the audience. So when Blair (Moon Bloodgood) attempts to set Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) free from the arrest of the resistance, she does not stutter in desperation as she convinces the guard to leave the room, and she even convinces him further by pointing her gun and shooting directly at Wright. And when Connor hears the lies made by the guard, his reaction is just ahead as the audiences’.
While half of the film focuses on the character of John Connor and his struggle with the resistance, the other half focuses on the character of a young Kyle Reese, a kid, and a mysterious man named Marcus Wright, and the dramatic revelation that he really is one of the machines. The marketing of the movie can be blamed for partially ruining the surprise of this revelation. Even though that many may have already guessed it from the very beginning of the movie, the film accomplishes on trying to divert that thought or that guess by presenting scenes where Marcus coughs and bleeds on the earlier part of the movie, a smart way of covering up the big surprise.
Many argue that there was not really one main character to root for, and not one main villain to hate. But that is what makes it a great movie in my opinion. The conflicts seem to be divided into conflicts with self, with trust on people, and then of course the violent conflicts on the battlefield. The movie feels more like a war-survival movie, standing apart from the previous Terminator movies. The film feels closer to something like a cross between Mad Max and a good Vietnam movie. Even though the movie held the number one US box office for only a brief period, it cannot destroy the fact that this is one hell of an action movie that deserves a better success.