Harry releases the review of the flaming turd he's clenched for 2 days: TERMINATOR SALVATION!
(Given every paper/site online has broken embargo. Here ya go)
It is a very rare thing for a film to shit squarely on my open and unexpecting eyes to such a degree that absolute hatred and loathing festers out of my every pore… but McG managed to do it with TERMINATOR SALVATION.
This is odd.
I’ve been wildly excited about this movie throughout production. I love the trailers, tv spots and the special internet trailer thing that wasn’t a clip like it said it was. I’ve been circling buying many of the toys – I’ve been thinking of picking up a couple of the SIDESHOW TOYS things they’ve been advertising on my site. I was so excited I even sent my wife into a 7-11 to get me a Slurpee cup for the TERMINATOR SALVATION movie.
But today, I began to get a tad nervous about seeing the film. I dug out my TERMINATOR Blu-Ray, my foreign T2 HD DVD and I thought about watching the last 15 minutes or so of Mostow’s. I put fresh batteries in my Stan Winston/ Terminator head that McG gave me at Butt-Numb-A-Thon… and I was going to tune my brain into the fevered state necessary for a new TERMINATOR film.
But as I held that TERMINATOR Blu-Ray… I sat it down and I didn’t put it in. I thought. You know, maybe that would be stacking the deck against McG. This is a beginning of a new series. I should just go in and let it play for me.
Yoko called me from work about 30 minutes before she got off and I was already annoyingly excited about the movie, demanding that she come home immediately so we could get to the theater. I wanted to be at the theater. I wanted to see the line of anxious fans. I wanted the excitement to envelope me. I feed on that kind of psychic geek energy. This is big summer movie energy.
But it was more than that.
I was 12 when THE TERMINATOR came out and thank God, my parents were the kind of awesome people that let me watch it. Now – that movie is all kinds of awesome greatness – but the thing that captured my imagination were those glimpses of the future mythology. The resistance. Purple lasers shooting & blowing the fuck out of robots. In a fearful world where anyone looking human could suddenly whip out a gun and start killing everyone. It scared the fuck out of me, but it fascinated me.
When TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY came out – I had purposefully stayed ignorant of everything about the film. I knew nothing. I was obsessive about seeing it – and I remember the giant ass line I stood in for the film. And while Robert Patrick was amazing with the help of ILM – I was left amazed by the brief glimpses of the future – that lone shot of a scarred John Connor with the binoculars. That reinforced the dream of John Connor and the Future War.
I’ve been dreaming and chatting about the “Future” for a long time. With Mostow’s TERMINATOR 3 – I loved the idea of a machine sent back to just ensure the preservation of Skynet and if it could take out the future leader of the resistance or key associates of the resistance… all the better. But I didn’t like the Termanatrix, but I really loved it when Connor found himself in that bunker – with radio messages coming in and he suddenly found himself exactly where he was always meant to be. This was how it began for John Connor. In this mountain, these weapons, these tools… this is where he began to build the resistance. So, while I didn’t like bits of the film or the antagonist… I didn’t feel betrayed or a sense of loathing for the film. But it was not either of the first two films.
This brings me to TERMINATOR SALVATION. An experience that I fucking loathed.
First off – the screen at the Gateway was warped slightly at the top and along the side. So not the theater I wanted to see this “hopefully” awesome film at.
But the screen didn’t cause me to hate the film. Nor was it the dispassionate audience that laughed mockingly at a few particularly awkward sub-ARMAGEDDON cutsie-poo scenes.
TERMINATOR SALVATION is about accomplishing 3 things.
1st – John Connor has to meet his dad, Kyle Reese and hand him a photograph of his mommy.
2nd – John Connor must become the leader of the resistance.
3rd – John Connor must get his scar.
What causes TERMINATOR SALVATION to fail in a way that has all the power of a yawn?
Well, first off – nothing has any weight to it.
Christian Bale looks like he could give a shit about all of this. Somewhere while he was holed up in his mountain with his wife he has suddenly developed a slight British accent. Which just doesn’t feel right. I never buy that he loves his wife Kate Connor that is played by Bryce Dallas Howard – whose sole job in the film is to really open her eyes wide. (and I like Bryce, it’s just she’s given not one solid scene.)
But by incorporating a structure kinda like PEARL HARBOR and all big movies that leave their soul – to tell a lot of pieces of an overall epic story – this film doesn’t have a main character that we care about. And doesn't develop any of the characters we're left with.
The star of the film is Sam Worthington. He plays a Death Row inmate that is written terribly. His scenes with Helena Bonham Carter are so mind numbingly awful, that you will not be able to not stare with train wreck in your thoughts (especially the latter scenes). She hasn’t been this bad since Kenneth Branagh’s FRANKENSTEIN. But wow, she’s excruciatingly awful here.
Perhaps I should tell you the opening scene. We open with Sam’s Marcus sitting on his prison bed as a ridiculously awful looking Helena Bonham Carter comes out. She’s there to get Marcus to sign his body, post-execution, away. She tells him she can give him a second chance at life. Wouldn’t he want that? He tells her a sentence about how he killed his brother and some other men, he doesn’t deserve a second chance. She continues to go after his body and he agrees, but on the condition that she kiss him. Her lips are so sickly looking, and he kisses her by grabbing the back of her head and forcing her face into his suddenly. When he pulls away he says rather absurdly, “Now I know what Death tastes like!” – the line and the delivery were BAD! I’m talking the kind of bad that you repeat as a watermark of awfulness. It’s a shame that Nolan wasn’t the sole screenwriter here… but those guys from CATWOMAN and T3.
Anyway, Sam Worthington. He’s the star of Cameron’s AVATAR and the upcoming CLASH OF THE TITANS. McG gets nothing out of him. He’s got sad eyes for the entire film. Which fits his morose Death Row Inmate, who wakes up naked in mud in the wasteland of the apocalypse. I can see a performance in him, he’s got a great face and body for film – but McG really seems to have asked for nothing out of him. But he certainly doesn’t come out of this as a star.
His Marcus does come across a real performance though. Anton Yelchin’s the real deal folks. His CHARLIE BARTLETT was great. His Chekov was spot on in JJ’s STAR TREK, but his Kyle Reese. Man, I just wanted to spend time with him. He’s perfect. He’s playing Kyle as a young man trying to find a way to become a member of the resistance, but he can’t get his radio to even work.
When Worthington’s Marcus meets Yelchin’s Kyle – things seem to pick up ever so slightly, but then we get introduced to one of the many utterly worthless characters in this film. Kyle’s sidekick is this little girl with a perm and a beret – that says nothing, but seemingly is always on hand with the right prop at the right moment. She’s oh so adorably worthless in the film. When I first saw her, I thought – “Oh wow, this is going to be our Ferel Kid from the THE ROAD WARRIOR or Newt from ALIENS… a cute kid raised in the wake of Judgment Day – a mean little kid that kills robots. Nope. She’s just mute and delivers useful props in the film.
These two characters get picked up and taken to SkyNet in San Francisco – probably because SkyNet needed the most powerful computers in the world… which are probably ILM’s computers. Heh. But no, they don’t do anything that fucking cute. Sigh.
With Marcus no longer with a thoroughly interesting character like Yelchin’s Kyle Reese… he’s given the horrifying acting cohort of Moon Bloodgood as a downed Resistance pilot that goes into battle with Geisha makeup, even though she’s half Korean and not Japanese. If you hated “Animal Crackers” – wait till you see her cuddle scene. FUCKING AWFUL.
Shortly after this – we have Marcus’ machine reality blown – and he now has to escape the resistance in order to save Kyle Reese. His scenes with Christian Bale are dreadful. First off, there’s zero smartass or fun in this John Connor. Having been helped by one Terminator – well it doesn’t seem to have given him much insight into anything. And you can tell that Bale doesn’t give two shits about the first two films, or anyone that has done anything with the character before. Or how the character was described. He’s got his own take on the material and it is BORING, UNINVOLVING, and without a single iconic moment. His performance is FLAT, and this is an actor I love on film, but not this time.
Also in this travesty is COMMON playing BARNES. Apparently his brother died, he hates the machines. End of character. There’s also Michael Ironside as the leader of the resistance known as General Ashdown. He’s really got nothing to work with other than taking a bit of the piss out of the prophesized Savior John Connor. Whom he doesn’t believe in.
By the time Marcus Wright is infiltrating SKYNET helping John Connor to rescue Kyle Reese before the Resistance blows it all to hell… We’re in the midst of pointless action and nonsensical meaningless bullshit.
Somehow in this film – it is fairly fucking common knowledge that Kyle Reese is John Connor’s daddy. Somehow- even fucking SKYNET knows this. Now you might think – AH – so the tension is – they have to rescue Kyle before they scan and recognize him – somehow. Well, except SkyNet finds him pretty quickly – but decides to use him as bait. Instead of killing him, which would have resulted in SkyNet winning.
Ok – so then – through the most painfully excruciating sequence of the film – when Marcus is in Skynet and is trying to access the files on where Kyle Reese is… suddenly McG “nukes the fridge” by giving SkyNet a face. SkyNet is Helena Bonham Carter – the chemo lady that visits Marcus when he was on Death Row to get him to sign his body over to Cyberdyne. And through this really long and grotesque hand-holding monologue catching the painfully slow-witted Marcus up on what’s going on… well, it’s bad! Really bad! I’m talking, you want to look away from the screen cuz it’s fucking embarrassingly awful bad.
And if that wasn’t bad enough – she has to show off crazy nonsensical morphing capabilities to show how her face could be anyone’s in Marcus’ memory. And it feels like the scene will never end.
I’ll stop there and not go into the rest of the film – with the exception of Arnold’s scenes, which he had nothing to do with, other than a body cast that Stan Winston did on him years ago.
Charlie Gibson and his team at ILM did a stunning job, for the 3 shots they deliver of 1984 Arnie. There’s no dialogue. But it is cool. Although pointless. It did cause a momentary buzz of excitement in the theater. And this is really the only thing besides a few scenes of Anton Yelchin’s Kyle Reese that are even vaguely compelling in the film.
The action is dead because I don’t really care about the characters at all. I’m not emotionally on board for anyone other than Kyle. The effects work is top notch. But it really doesn’t matter.
The idea that McG made a John Connor adult leader story that makes John seem worthless is insulting. No character in the film gets the time to be anything. Even Anton’s Kyle Reese – as wonderful as it is – it’s there and gone, back for a bit, but ordered off screen. John’s fight with the Terminator is badly edited. In one scene you’ll see the Arnie bot throw John across a room hiting something metal that just folds up from the impact… then the next time you see John, he’s like a SWAT member, coolly and calmly checking his corners for bad guys.
Beaks asked me, “didn’t you love the Harvester sequence?” It has some nice action beats – but I didn’t care about it. It’s basically sub-ROAD WARRIOR stuff. And when I say that, I don’t mean slightly… One of the reason that amazing action sequence with the big semi worked is that George Miller built that character to be an icon, and he was.
I think that’s what really kills me about the film. I wanted to come away from this wanting to believe in John Connor. He’s the future’s EL CID. A man of legend, and sure – we’re not quite at that part of the story yet, but hell – John Connor was a bit of a badass as a teenage bastard in TERMINATOR 2. Here – he’s just a man that screams his dialogue and says everything through a headache.
As soon as you realize that Marcus is a MAN built into a robot – you can’t help but think of Peter Weller’s ROBOCOP – and how effortlessly human and heroic that character was. This film frustrates me, because this was supposed to be epic. This was supposed to be amazing. This was something I have wanted to see for a long goddamn time, and it’s a piece of shit that occasionally looks really good.
I’m astonished that anyone that loves the first two films could possibly vaguely give this film a pass. Yes, the craftsmen and the visual effects artists did their job, but the film just left me furious at it. At a professional level it is superior to WOLVERINE, but in WOLVERINE’s series – well… frankly the X-MEN movies can’t even begin to compare to how awesome the first two TERMINATOR films are. And TERMINATOR 3, is much better than X3. But in a way – I feel about this film, the way I do with Ratner’s X3.
In both cases, it feels like children playing with material of which they haven’t the slightest grasp of. They can’t conceive of what actually made the material great to begin with. To them, it’s the props, the hardware, the most rudimentary iconography. Not how the characters were LOVED by their creators. That the first TERMINATOR was a love story first and foremost. That the second TERMINATOR was a story about an overly protective mom and her son. This? This movie is about how he got that scar – and it isn’t Quint’s story about the tattoo removal, this is about the time a Terminator scratched my face. Seriously.
In the same way that Ratner let me down with the Phoenix saga, McG has let me down with the untold epic story of John Connor.
I know nothing I will say will stop you from seeing this film this weekend. The result will be a frustrating experience for many of you. Those of you that can divorce the myriad of conundrums regarding everything about this film. And really, how fucking stupid is Skynet? And is it self-aware of how stupid it is? At best, it is artificially average intelligence. At the very least, Skynet is obviously PC based.
I hate the film. Pure and simple. I loathe it. I hated it so much I didn’t want to see my friend’s faces afterwards. I just wanted to go home and vent. I really really hate this film. I hate how much effort so many great artists and technicians put into a film that’s this fucking bad. Ultimately its just shit moving, like a sewer pipe. I hate that there isn’t a sustained scene or sequence that I love as much as the best moment from TERMINATOR 3. I hate that when I left the theater I felt empty and let down. That I felt like writing a review like this instead of fucking dry humping a great TERMINATOR movie.
This feels like ALIEN RESURRECTION to me. Something that kills something wonderful for me. I’m no longer interested in Terminator. McG terminated my enthusiasm. I love the first two films. At least I’ll always have that. Fuck this movie.