Thursday, May 21, 2009

Box Office Review - Terminator Salvation

In the first Terminator, Sarah Connor while recording a tape for her unborn son speaks about what she should tell him so that nothing is affected in the future. “Should I tell you about your father, will it change your decision to send him here”? She then says “You can go crazy thinking about all this”. That saying should have been printed on all the posters for TS. If you go into this film comparing it to the previous films you will end up going crazy.

Originally written by John D. Brancato, and Michael Ferris (their responsible for Catwoman, Terminator 3, and Primeval). Looking at these guys track record, the film went through some obvious rewrites. First Paul Haggis (Crash, Walker Texas Ranger) takes a crack at it, and then Shawn Ryan (Nash Bridges, The Shield), and finally Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento) did on set rewrites. Interestingly when director McG was talking up the film he gave Nolan all of the writing credit. Usually when a film has this many writers it is detrimental to the final on screen product, and this is no exception. The dialogue was corny and over the top. There were multiple forced uses of the franchise catch phrases. Sometimes the story would disregard things that happened in the early movies and other times it would uphold to the franchise mythology. Either you do away with everything that has come before, or make the story follow everything that has happened religiously. A ridiculous script goes to new levels of ridiculousness in the last twenty minutes of the film. Multiple people in the theatre (including myself) laughed out loud at what happens.

Could this have been prevented with a better crew working on the film? I doubt it. I have no major qualms with McG, he is just a gun for hire. The cast was good with one surprisingly poor performance. I, like many other people enjoy the acting of Christian Bale. I even like his films that do not get as much attention (Swing Kids anyone). In this film he was not very good. He plays brooding dark Christian Bale for the entire movie. I would say that about eighty percent of his scenes involve him yelling about something (that may be a hyperbole, but it seemed like a lot). The good thing is that Bale’s character John Connor is more of a secondary character for part of the film. The story follows Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) and Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) for a period of time, and this is when the movie is at its best. Worthington plays a man wrestling with his own humanity, and he is great. He is a very sympathetic character. Yelchin has a smaller but much harder role as he is playing Kyle Reese. He does a very good job, and I believe that he would grow up to be the character he was in the first movie.

I have been giving the gears to this film, and it might sound like I would not recommend it. I could dissect the story more and point out exactly how bad it is, but that doesn’t matter. We have entered the summer movie season where we get one big movie a week, and quality story takes a back seat to action and beautiful people. Are there some good action scenes in this? Yes, enough to overlook (somewhat) the terrible story. There are multiple big explosion scenes that look great. There is a scene where a motorcycle being dragged by a truck is used to destroy a helicopter. Some of the Terminators have mini guns that shoot massive amounts of bullets ,usually at a single person. All this stuff was very enjoyable to watch. The only problem I had with the action was how artificial the scenes felt. McG stated that he was inspired by Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men in the way that he shot the battle scenes. Cuaron was able to create a living breathing world for his film. McG is not able to convey that sense of realism. The camera moves around a lot and there was much happening, but the whole time it felt like a well choreographed stage fight in front of a green screen. All of the locations feel like sets, and some of the cg was very bad. There were a couple of green screen shots that were terrible, and should not have been let out of post production. At times the effects were so bad they were distracting, but it was not a continuous problem. To give credit to the film, it was able to create a style that was not a copy of Michael Bay's Transformers.

The action was good, and looked pretty. Some of the actors gave solid performances, and in the end the film was worth the time spent with it. Has McG been able to shake away his previous directorial efforts and become a director who garners respect? No, basically he is just the poor man’s Zack Snyder. I guarantee that if you go into the film with knowledge of the films in the franchise and check continuity, none of it will line up. Go into the film knowing that the story has more holes then the T-1000 from Terminator 2 after a shotgun blast, and you will get enjoyment from the action scenes.

A Good Banana

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