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The UNpopular Opinion: Terminator Salvation

08.17.2010

written by J-A Hamilton

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

“You think you’re human?” –John Connor

“I am human.” –Marcus Wright

The TERMINATOR franchise is an old one and has seen its share of ups and downs. The first one was light years ahead of its time story wise, from a technological standpoint and even conceptually. The second one reinvented the action movie as we know it, with an even bigger story, insane special effects and unbelievable battles and then three set the franchise backward on its heels with a less than lackluster installment that felt more like a lazy man’s TERMINATOR 2.5 rather than taking the first one’s adrenaline level and squaring it like the second film did. TERMINATOR SALVATION had impossibly big shoes to fill and everyone knew it but as a big fan of the series I have no reservations when it comes to expressing my love for the film. Perfect? No (I’ll get to that) but an ambitious step in the right direction, most definitely.

There were two very vital, very volatile issues to consider here when making this film, the first one being the story. Clearly the “send two Terminators back in time to a have a bloodbath orgy with John Connor” thing was getting old, so it was indeed time for a change. I wasn’t against the post apocalyptic future overrun by Terminators (it was bound to happen) and feel it was probably the only direction this film could have successfully gone in. Yeah it was a little bleak, cold and heartless but be that as it may it still made sense. The other trick with the story was to avoid gaps in logic when compared to the previous three. I feel they did well in that respect too. On that note, the Terminator storyline can be somewhat overwhelming (especially to newcomers) so Linda Hamilton’s voiceover and Arnie’s likeness certainly added some much needed perspective whilst trying to bridge the gap and connect the series.


"I get that you're angry but you're seriously invading my personal space."

The second issue was of course Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, the defining symbol of the franchise. Many people felt that it just couldn’t be done without him and on some levels they were right. Revitalizing an iconic franchise with a new lead character is dangerous and tricky on the best of days. McG did the ground work, thought this through and mapped out a great plot line featuring a slew of characters both old and new. John Connor was in the lead as he should have been (personally I’d have loved to see what Edward Furlong could have brought to the table here but unfortunately he’s not part of the A-list leading man club these days so to take a gamble on him in an already risky situation just wouldn’t make sense I guess) but they kept Arnold’s dream alive and as small a part as it was, it still made a tremendous impact for me.

There was nothing wrong with the acting and/or casting choices as far as I’m concerned. Christian Bale and Sam Worthington worked well together and were both essentially key components to making this a successful character driven adventure. The Resistance is the Resistance but these guys gave them hope and purpose. Bale’s performance rang a little close to his Batman/Bruce Wayne persona (especially when he yells, “WHAT ARE YOU” at Worthington after the water battle. I was cool with it though, as I was cool with the idea of a meatier role for the Terminator good guy this time around. I liked Marcus Wright, his story arc and his humanity. Moon Bloodgood continued to look sexy (thank you Lord for her topless scene, I thoroughly enjoyed it) and also fit well into her action role which was impressive.


"Yep, we can definitely use this fella to replace the can opener."

Some critics said the Terminators themselves were lacking in their supremacy this time around as far as being unstoppable killers is concerned, I would have to disagree. The Terminators were just as vicious and relentless as ever, only this time there were multiple kinds to look out for. I didn’t care for the huge Transformer looking “gatherer-bot” that was rounding up all the humans but him aside, these guys were bad ass looking. The new models were a bit more buff, the new motorcycle and water units were lethal as hell and of course (SPOILER ALERT) the newest breed of human-looking Terminator was a decent (if not a tad predictable) way of upping the ante.

My only real complaints here are pointed mostly toward the marketing. All things considered I knew this wouldn’t be rated R. I enjoyed the Unrated Director’s Cut but I felt it came about as too little, too late. Such is the way of things though as PG-13 is the best way to make a buck in theatres. The trailers are what really let me down though. I just don’t get why they decided to ruin the Arnold cameo by presenting a TV SPOT trailer dedicated to simply that. Sure, the cat was already out of the bag but the mystery was a selling point in itself, they didn’t have to show it. I also think they could have left the fact that Marcus Wright was a Terminator out of the ad campaign as well. Build up the animosity between him and Connor sure but again, why ruin the mystery?


I love how they made the Terminators look even more evil this time around.

TERMINATOR SALVATION was a solid way to expand the Terminator mythos, which is exactly what I was looking for at the end of the day. Sure it was risky, much like re-vamping PREDATORS for a new generation and possibly new franchise was also risky (yes, I enjoyed PREDATORS). McG was hoping for a trilogy (what director isn’t these days) and after this one I admit to being curious as to where they’ll go from here and how they’ll keep the edge sharp. There was a great deal of winks and nods to the past films (my favourite being the G&R song from T2) which to me shows that everyone was trying hard to make this sequel worthy. I feel they succeeded. Is mine the unpopular opinion? It could be but in all honesty I know just as many people who loved it as I do hated it so we’ll see how you guys feel about that one.
Extra Tidbit: I tried watching the first episode of THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES but couldn’t get into it. I’ve heard good and bad things about that series as well. What did you guys think?
Source: JoBlo.com

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