Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Terminator Salvation

The woman blows on her fingers to warm them. "I'm a little cold." The man sitting a few feet away eyes her, trying to discern the connotation of her comment. She rolls her eyes and moves next to him. "Relax," she says, pulling his arm around her "I just want some body heat." She puts her head on his chest, nestling closer to ward off the cold. Closing her eyes she listens to his heart beating. "You have a strong heart...god I love that sound."

Machines have annihilated most of the human race; a beating heart is a rare sound in 2018. Little does she know that the man whose heart she's listening to may be less man, and more Skynet's latest plan to slaughter what's left of the human race.

Skynet is an artificially intelligent defense system created for the US military. When Skynet became self-aware its creators attempted to shut it down. Skynet then viewed mankind as a threat to its existence and initiated "Judgment Day". In a nuclear holocaust most of the human race was decimated. It is now 2018 and John Connor, the prophesied leader of the Resistance, is on his way to fulfilling his destiny and destroying Skynet. But something is amiss.

Skynet has been trying to kill John Connor (Christian Bale) for years by sending Terminators, killing machines, into the past to murder the future leader of the Resistance. John Connor has been prepared for the future, because of all his mother had told him, but somewhere something changed. And the future is no longer the one she predicted. And this time, mankind might not make it out alive.

Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is a death row inmate who donates his body to science before Skynet is brought online. Wright awakes years into the future after Judgement Day. Wright knows nothing of Skynet or the Machines and he must reconcile his drive for self-preservation with the desire to make up for his past wrongs by aiding a young Resistance fighter named Kyle Reese.

The new "Terminator Salvation" was probably the most well-conceived Terminator plot yet. The early Terminator films can be called Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks, with some mind-bending time travel thrown in. As the series went on the films began to take on something that could be called quality. The combination of a Schwarzenegger action style and an ever-more-complicated plot pulled in viewers who couldn't believe the writers could still experiment creatively with essentially the same storyline.

"Terminator Salvation" is a whole new animal compared to its predecessors. It features two male leads, neither of which is Schwarzenegger, and offers a story that's full of great action, that preserves the time-line of the earlier films, and that asks if being human is only a physical quality, or entails something even transcendent of flesh and blood. There are enough machines in the film to ensure that the actual "body count" isn't too high and you won't be traumatized by gushing blood. On the other hand "Salvation" doesn't try to sugar coat the future it portrays. The humans who are alive are dirty, starving, selfish, and embody the spectrum of human nature, often displaying more bad qualities than good. The film takes the classic tale of "Good versus Evil" and turns it around on the audience asking, "What is good?" and "What is bad?"

But don't hold your breath, it really isn't as cerebral as I'm making it sound. John Connor is wonderfully portrayed by one of the most talented actors in Hollywood today, Christian Bale. As much as I love Bale's work, and "Salvation" is no exception, his John Connor spends a lot of time unnecessarily yelling the majority of his lines. Further character annoyances can be found in Moon Bloodgood's character Blair, who is a far cry from the strong, but female, Sarah Connor from the previous films.

The best character in the film is done by newcomer Sam Worthington. His Marcus Wright is the raw and wriggling example of a human being on the hook. He is not an angelic, noble man necessarily. Neither is he all evil villain. He lands somewhere in the middle, as all of us do, struggling between right and wrong, good and evil. On some level don't we all? I can't put my finger on the exact quality that makes his performance so noteworthy. All I know is that Worthington took a Christian Bale movie about John Conner and turned it into a Sam Worthington movie about Marcus Wright. Any actor who can overshadow Bale is one talented SOB in my book.

One of "Salvation's" strongest aspects is the way the writers have worked the story into the original storyline. Skynet's latest scheme in killing John Connor is to murder his father Kyle Reese before he's sent back in time. Die-hard Terminator fans will be tickled to see Anton Yelchin ("Star Trek's Chekov) as a young Kyle Reese, and various other references to the previous films. A version of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator even makes an appearance.

Conclusion: Any fan of the original series, of action flicks, will by default love this film. It's a quality action flick and one of my new favorite films. That means don't waste your time watching anything til you've seen this new installment of the Terminator series.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.; Rated R for some violence and brief nudity. (director's cut)

See the Trailer here

  • All four 'Terminator' films have had their climactic battle scenes take place in industrial settings.

  • The third Terminator film to have the line, "Come with me if you want to live." In The Terminator (1984), Kyle Reese says it to Sarah Connor at the Tech-Noir club

  • In several scenes, Kyle can be seen wearing Nike shoes. They are strikingly similar to the Nike Vandals he wore in The Terminator (1984).

  • In the original The Terminator (1984) Kyle Reese asks the police "What day is it? What year?" And the first thing Marcus Wright says to Kyle Reese is "What day is it? What year?".


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