Friday, May 22, 2009

Terminator: Salvation

Terminator Salvation
By: Judson Rusk

Terminator is one of my absolute favorite series. I would watch T2 when I got home from elementary school almost every day, and march around in front of the screen with a toy rifle acting out all the action sequences. I had the first movie almost completely memorized by the time I was ten, and I was in the theater on opening night to see T3. And just to pump me up, I re-watched the series before I went to see Salvation last night. So, needless to say, this was by far my most anticipated movie of the summer. I was giddy in the weeks leading up to last night.

What I was most excited for was the idea of seeing the actual Terminator machines how they should be: human-like. Let me explain. Due to technological restrictions in the previous movies, the actual robots themselves have never been very scary. In Terminator 1 for example, when the robot is still covered in flesh, he can do anything a human can do. He’s very maneuverable and fast. So, logic would suggest that the skeletal robot without the flesh would be able to do the same sort of actions. But alas, at the end of the movie when Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are fighting just the robot, they are no longer fighting the greatest killing machine ever created, but rather a clunky, slow moving, clay-mation menace that looks like it could be taken down by accident. But thanks to advances in CGI, Salvation gave us the chance to see just how scary a human hunting/killing robot could actually be. How could this movie possibly let me down?

Turns out, it can do it in a number of ways. After writing that last sentence, I stared at my computer screen for a good fifteen minutes trying to figure out where to go next. Do I start with the casting, or the acting, or the direction, or the story, or one of the many other things in this movie that bother me? Was there a particular thing that really got under my skin more than others? Is there something so absolutely glaring that is must be addressed? No, not really. Nothing “huge,” but rather just an incredible amount of small things that stacked up together with relentless persistence that it left me with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment that is still resting firmly in my gut.

What did I expect out of Salvation? I don’t know. What did I get out of Salvation? An experience that was full of campy action clichés, poor character development, continuity errors, linear writing, and a total lack of familiarity.

Action Clichés: Torin put it best when he said, “For being such effective killers, Terminators really suck at killing people.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard any truer words in my entire life. The action sequences in this movie go through every single cliché that you can think of. We saw, among many others, the “he’s not dead yet,” cliché, the “switch clothes to promote a mistaken identity,” cliché, and the “dramatically jumping out of an explosion,” cliché. It seemed like they had just pieced together shots from other summer block busters from years past, added robots, and re-printed them. This added to the fact that apparently terminators are the worst marksmen ever and they have a pension for punching, not killing, took the action in this movie just a tad bit too much into the side of ridiculousness.

And I know it’s tough to draw a line of “ridiculousness” when I am talking about a movie that focuses on killer robots from the future, but take for example the scene where Kyle Reese and Marcus Wright are at the gas station with the old woman and her gang. In the middle of conversation, a harvester smashes through the building and takes the humans as prisoners. Except for not 5 minutes before this happens, Marcus and Kyle were walking through the open, completely flat dessert towards this gas station and there sure as hell wasn’t any 30 story tall, human harvesting robot anywhere on the horizon. And at another point in the film, John Connor captures a motorcycle terminator, pulls some wires, and then rides it like a motor cycle. This begs the question, why would Skynet even make a terminator that is able to be ridden by humans?! Doesn’t that seem like it has potential to come back and screw them? Its things like these that prove that logic wasn’t put into the action in this movie, but rather they did it just so they could make a cool sequence out of it.

Poor Character Development: Marcus Wright, Kyle Reese, and John Connor were the three best developed characters in the entire movie respectively. In fact, they were the only characters in the movie that were developed at all. Every other character including John Connors wife and un-born child, pretty much got the shaft. They only said his wife’s name once and literally didn’t mention a single thing about the fact that she was pregnant. Not a thing. The soldiers under Connor’s command that are played by Common and Moon Bloodgood are forgettable and insignificant. I can’t even remember their names. And John Connor himself seems to take a back seat to Marcus, assuming that we are already supposed to know all about Connor. News flash, it doesn’t matter. John Connor is the driving force behind the story and the franchise at this point and you can’t overlook him in favor for a new comer. And as an extra little tid bit, it really didn’t help that Sam Worthington acted circles around Christian Bale throughout this entire film.

Continuity Errors: Now, when dealing with time travel in general, you have the potential to seriously screw up continuity, and it is hard to keep the story compelling while paying close attention to every detail that comes with the prospect of altering time and space. So I’ll concede all the continuity problems that arise from that. But there are so much more blatantly obvious problems in this movie that could have been easily caught and corrected; the most obvious being that in multiple scenes, the pouring rain will stop and start again every time the camera angle switches. Another one that could have been easily caught is the fact that the T-800 (Schwarzenegger’s model from the first 3 movies) doesn’t look anything like it did back in the original trilogy. In Salvation, it is significantly bigger, scarier, and parts of its body (specifically the feet) are designed completely different. And my favorite continuity problem is, in Salvation the war is being fought with modern weapons; things that we have today. But in T1, 2, and 3, we get to see just glimpses of the future and everyone is using lasers and futuristic weapons. In fact, in Terminator 1, Arnold is at the gun shop and asks the clerk for a “plasma rifle with a 40 watt range.” What happened?

Linear Writing: The line “I’ll be back” is in this movie not once, not twice, but 3 times. The third time, I hung my head in shame. On top of that, the story was very predictable and the dialogue wasn’t necessarily bad, but there was nothing there that was super original or moving. It was just…there.

Lack of Familiarity: I wanted to see what we had been promised for the last 25 years. And that was a future with John Connor at the head of the human resistance against the machines. His soldiers revere him almost as a god and they band together to save themselves. Instead, we got a future where John Connor is relatively un-known and is considered a joke by the command of the resistance. I don’t know how to describe the feelings this instilled in me. I guess the best word would be “betrayal.”

This is where the MAJOR spoilers come in, just to warn you. Back when this movie was still in production, the end of the script leaked out on the internet and the fan backlash to how this movie ended was so great that they re-wrote and re-shot the end. They totally changed how it was originally supposed to go. I was discussing this with Mitch and he said that he was glad that this happened, because “that deserves to happen to any bad movie ending.” And although that is true, I wanted to say something along the lines of “but what if they make it worse?” But I kept my mouth shut because I was pretty sure that it couldn’t have gotten much worse and Mitch was probably right. Oh boy, I should have said something.

The end of this movie has got to be one of the worst endings I’ve ever seen in my life and it is about 100 times worse than the “original” ending. Here’s a quick rundown. T-800 punches through Marcus Wright’s heart, killing him instantly. John Connor brings him back to life by electrocuting his dead body…somehow. Then, T-800 runs John Connor through the heart with a giant piece of metal. Marcus kills T-800, and they both hobble out of the building to the helicopter and fly away as John Connor blows the entire building to hell. Later, in a field tent in the open air in the middle of a windy, sandy, desert, John Connor’s heart is giving out on him and he’s going to die. Marcus offers his heart for transplant and everything is happy.

Ok, first off, why is there so much severe chest trauma in this movie? And being punched in the heart by a Terminator is an awesome way to die, but being electrocuted is not going to bring you back to life. It was very reminiscent of Friday the 13th part 6. Or was it part 7? I don’t remember and I don’t care, the point is it was retarded. Second, if someone gets run through the heart by a piece of metal, you don’t live long enough to do…anything. You just die. No questions. Third, Marcus shouldn’t be able to give up his heart for transplant for many reasons, the most obvious being that we saw said heart get punched…by a giant f**king robot. It shouldn’t even exist anymore let alone be harvested. And what are the chances that Marcus and John have the same blood type and the heart is even a match? Because if they’re not, then you’ve just killed TWO people for no reason. And finally, an open field tent in a desert is quite possibly the worst place ever to conduct a heart transplant operation. Especially one that is being preformed by a veterinarian. I wouldn’t trust her with MY heart.

Some final thoughts: Christian Bale is a great actor, but not in this movie. He would just start yelling for no apparent reason. Even in situations where he had JUST gotten done resolving whatever he was doing. And then he would YELL AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS!!! John Connor would frequently have “revelations” about Kyle Reese having to live in order for him to exist. Except he already knows that. Since the day he was born, he has known that. Did it really just hit you now? Stop it Christian Bale. Just stop it. This movie also shows us that in a world controlled by a computer program who hates humans, random spurts of flame coming out of EVERYTHING will be a must. I mean, what kind of post-apocalyptic world would it be if there wasn’t fire shooting out of…things? Not one that is suitable for Skynet, that’s for damn sure.

So finally, in conclusion, McG’s reboot of the franchise was a serious let down. What Terminator Salvation delivered in cool looking robots, it failed to deliver in passion for the material. But in it’s defense, it is still better than T2.


  1. You cannot blame Christian Bale for his role in this movie. You could tell that it was all in the crappy writing, even if it wasn't him, there would still be pointless yelling. WHAT ARE YOU?!?!?!?!

  2. okay, the part where they are walking through the desert and there is no '30 story tall robot' is in the middle of the plane robot and when it lands or is close to the ground or w/e, it jumps off, you see this in the scene where he is ''sitting'' in the middle of it on the bridge.... and also, if there are 'human robots' why not create another robot that can get it into and out of combat faster by allowing the 'human' robot to ride the 'motorcycle' robot?

    i didnt even notice the 'i'll be back' lines ever.... lol

    yes, ending was bad, but it was said that he heals at an incredible rate, maybe the machine part of him was repairing the flesh part....still not sure if it would have been repaired that fast. the desert heart transfer was hilarious as well:P

    also, we saw the bad aim with the gatlin guns from terminators earlier in the movie, the terminator (arnold) had bad aim and just grazed, or passed by his heart possibly just severly brusing it, i mean, how accuratly could you diagnose the heart's condition in that desert enviroment?

    also, the RPG's explosion/flame when marcus was let down by the hot chick was ridiculous, i'm so glad insurgents didnt have the RPG-1,000,00A37 in iraq. also, the magnetic mine field....they were driving around what sounded like a jeep and a motorcycle.... through a magnetic minefield..... also the new m4 magazines with 150rds are awesome, i want one.


  3. Don't you know Judson? the very reason why this movie didn't have any of the cool futuristic weapons is because those are either going to be in the second or the third movie that they are making (though i doubt they will have money to actually do them both) the main thing that really pissed me off about this movie was the whole 'Redemption' crap. what makes a human blah blah blah it's been done a million times by "do androids dream of electronic sheep" the inspired film "Blade runner" also "Ghost in the shell" that list for that theme is nearly endless. If Skynet is so smart. Why the fuck was it responsible for the destruction of one of it's own factories? (marcus having free will and all) and if they can create a terminator that is so human like already, why can't they do that for all the T-900's?

    Working on becoming an audio engineer myself, i couldn't figure out if all the new robot sounds were a good addition, or a bad one.

    It seems like after that horrible remake of "War of the Worlds" and "Transformers" it seems like everyone has jumped on a band wagon to make robots as noisy as possible... I want to know why.

    AND THEY CHANGED THE FUCKING THEME!!!! That shit does not fly with me

    Tom Jones out.