**Attention – Spoilers ahead**
The Terminator films have become classics within the Sci-Fi/Action realm, 25 years after the initial release. Most of you know the the story; one man, John Connor, is the leader of the human Resistance against Skynet and his mechanical minions. The humans band together under his leadership and eventually destroy the Machines. The original storyline used Time Travel paradoxes to setup the inter-connectivity of Fate and the Human condition. Although used as a plot device, the time travel aspects created a storytelling vehicle that had many applications. The previous directors saw fit not to incorporate these any more than they should as it is not an easy path to negotiate and can quickly fall into the absurd, e.g., ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife.’
The emphasis is put on a new character; Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington – the new flavour-of-the-month). The year is 2003, one hour away from execution for an unspecified crime, he receives the visit of Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter – who got the gig by pseudo-nepotism). She is a geneticist working for the Cyberdyne Systems bio division and has been trying to coerce him to donate his body to science. She is working on an advance project in bio-engineering towards a cure for cancer (oh! the originality), of which she is dying. He relinquishes with the promise of “a second chance”. This quickly becomes the focus and oft repeated concept of this movie. In music, this type of repetition of idea/archetype is called a leitmotiv and it quickly becomes infuriating, because you already know who will get shot, who will live and who dies.
Cut to 2018, John Connor (Christian Bale – wooden, as always) and his soldiers are assaulting a Skynet base in search of intel. They obviously find something, are shot at, get blowed up and John Connor is the sole survivor, duh! But wait, what’s this? A lone figure emerges from the NUKED remains of the base…it’s Marcus, alive and well and hasn’t aged a day. Can’t get worse from here, right? Let see about that.
Lets go back to the intel gathering part. They hack into the system to retrieve a signal used by Skynet. Now how the Hell did they figure that one? Oh and here’s another one; that hacker plugs his laptop into a terminal, launches a login override code and infiltrates Skynet. Hack the system, wtf!? Skynet is not an MS operating system nor is it your garden variety gray box. It’s a sentient, omnipresent, non-corporeal entity. It shouldn’t have a user interface/terminal (but sure enough, lotsa eye candy in that dept!). It doesn’t want or need to communicate with humans, it’s not a HAL 9000. This is a super-computer that systematically eradicated 2/3 of the world’s population using its creator’s own weaponry, so you would think that a system which operates with such irony would not have a ‘weakness to exploit’ …unless it was doing it on purpose, right ok. didn’t see that one. Therefore, we know the signal is a trap. Arrghh, who writes this shit! It just can’t be faked and we’re only at the ten minute mark!
You know what, I’ll make this painless. Are you a hardcore Sci-Fi buff, thanks but come again. Looking for solid, character driven story telling, this ain’t it. Are you a (mindless) action movie fan, who is able to suspend disbelief? Then this one’s for you. It’s all about the new Terminators that McG, – the director guy with the pretentious nick – could come up with; hydro-nators, bike-a-nators, Mecha-nator, all hilarious. It’s about how many times people can be bounced, thrown, exploded, shot, punched, impaled and still be alive, focused squarely on a mission, to save Kyle Reese and enlist him in the Resistance.
John Connor is never given his fair shake, again. After the events of T3, we know Judgment Day came to pass. What is still unclear, is how Connor becomes THE leader. This Christ figure (John Connor, J.C…get it!) was not portrayed adequately because the persona of John Connor was never established to begin with. This should’ve been the perfect opportunity to develop the character. Right now, he’s not a fearless leader but rather a foot soldier with a vision. A vision that was planted years before and must be fullfilled. So he is driven not by the passion of saving Humanity but rather as an automaton fixated on running the course of his (Pavlovian) programming (ring a bell?) – oh look, I made a funny! His wife takes more command decisions than he does (ok, I guess wives do that) but it results somewhat of an emasculation of his leadership. Instead, the story focuses on a cyborg that believed it was human until told differently. Even then, the W-5 of his existence is clear as mud.
Terminator Salvation will change nothing from a time travel POV. It represents simply the time and space between the events of the Endgame and the Origin story of the first film. Kyle Reese must enlist as a soldier to be returned to the past, done. JC must become the Leader, not done. Marcus has to die, done. Skynet must be destroyed, not done. Incidentally, the Salvation, so-called, part still pissed me off cause you see it coming from a mile away. The metaphysical aspects of Fate, Future and Humanity take the wayside. Why bother with philosophy when crash, boom, bang rakes in more coin! McG does not deserve ‘a second chance’.
Easter egg: pause the picture when you see the hacker inputting the code, the first string starts with A113 – this is not an animation movie, so either the s/fx programmer was from CalArts or this is a deliberate band wagon jump.
Rating: 2 shells out of 5
Terminator Salvation: available on DVD/Blu-Ray on Amazon.ca