Terminator Salvation (2009): When Redemption Means Death

Terminator Salvation

    We continue the “Terminator Franchise” review with “Terminator Salvation.” “Terminator Salvation” was a decent film. It had a consistent character arc and kept the theme of redemption and change going on throughout it. I also enjoyed a lot of the casting choices they made, though it wasn’t perfect and I’d still rate “The Terminator” and “T2” above this film because they were much more focused so didn’t feel long at any point. This one does drag at times and doesn’t do as much as it could have with those reflective moments.

    The film was directed by Joseph McGinty “McG” Nichol, written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris and produced by Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek and Jeffrey Silver.

    The story begins in the past with Dr. Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) giving Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) another chance at life after death if he donates his body to their cause. He agrees and wakes up in the future where the Terminators are fighting to annihilate humanity. John Connor (Christian Bale) is seeking Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) to protect him and the Machines are too. When Reese runs into Marcus he becomes his protector and later when Reese is captured it is Marcus who is the best bet to infiltrate Skynet when they discover that he is a Cyborg.

The Pros: The Terminators – The Terminators are great in this! There a whole variety of them from HK’s that fly, T-600s, Tanks and even the T-800 makes an appearance and nearly kills John and Marcus. They feel like a threat and it takes human ingenuity to defeat them as they can take a lot of hits and fight until they are dead. The designs and their actions were some of the best part of this film.

The Resistance – The resistance is torn between those who believe in John as a Messiah and those who think he is a false prophet (mostly those in leadership) this could have been explored more but I’m going to give them a point for the idea as no group has full unity.

Kyle Reese – Anton Yelchin is great as the teenage Kyle Reese! We see him taking care of a mute girl and that he has traps set in the city that help him kill Terminators. He also gets Marcus to care about anyone outside of himself as Reese is always protecting the mute child Star. They are the heart of this as it is their resistance that keeps others going who are also trapped and they are why John Connor attacks Skynet so he can rescue them.

Blair Williams – Blair is a pilot who saves Marcus and is saved by Marcus and it is due to her rescuing him after the Resistance plans to kill Marcus that he becomes good. She is trusting and is one of the few good people in the world as we see her never seek to kill, only to protect herself and others. Moon Bloodgood does a great job.

John Connor – Christian Bale is fantastic as John! In him we see a man wrestling with his destiny while also trying to keep his humanity as people lose theirs all around him. He is desperate and paranoid but changes when Marcus shows him that not everything is as hopeless as it seems and people risk it all as in the end Marcus risks his life for John and John ends the film talking about the long fight ahead and how there is hope.

Marcus Wright – Marcus is a blank slate for a lot of the help as he just lashes out and is angry and full of guilt. That changes when Kyle Reese and Blair remind him that he has a second chance to be a better person and he takes it and becomes a protector, even protecting the Resistance who tried to kill him and torture him. In the end he finally gives his life to save John too as he found his purpose for having a second chance at life. Sam Worthington does a good job. In the end redemption means death for him. As it turns out the entire film he’d been seeking redemption for the crimes he’d been killed for.

The Cons: The Resistance Leaders – They mostly yell and tell John Connor “no.” They are just there to show that the leaders have lost their humanity so when the Terminators find them using their own weapon against them I didn’t mind. They were just there to be a threat to John Connor and not actual characters.

Meaningless Minor Characters – John Connor’s wife Kate and his second in command Barnes are just kind of there. They are there to hate on Marcus for being a cyborg and that is about it. They could have been replaced by anyone and it wouldn’t have mattered, which is a shame as they are connected to John and I wanted to learn why and what their relationships to him meant.

Skynet and Marcus’s Free Will – Skynet tries to get Marcus to kill John and tells him he was a plant, but he was a plant with free will so it just ends up being a stupid plan. We see Dr. Kogan who was one of the early creators of Skynet apparently but I never believed she had any hold over Marcus and him being a machine without free will was never established earlier. This was a weak thing that really brought down the film and kept it from being good.

Slow at Times – There are a few action scenes that drag, especially early on when Marcus is exploring the wasteland. The film could have been half and hour shorter and that would have made it a good film as the drag would not have happened.

Plot Armor – Kyle Reese is captured by Skynet at one point, I guess they didn’t kill him because they wanted John…but if they had just killed him John wouldn’t exist anymore. This was an issue I had as if Kyle was going to be captured it should have been at the end, the machines had him for days and did not kill him.

Gratuitous Nudity – At one point it is raining and Blair takes off her shirt. Marcus looks and that is the entire scene except him saving her from a rape later. Really? It is just poor storytelling and gratuitous sexualizing of a pretty cool character.

   This was an enjoyable film and for any fan of this franchise this has the heart an soul that “Terminator 3” never had. It still has issues such as Skynet and the Resistance leaders not being fully fleshed or feeling like real characters, and Blair’s gratuitous naked shot was annoying and is far too common in films…but the main characters work. I cared about what happened to Kyle Reese and John Connor and even managed to care about Marcus Wright so has sacrifice at the end to save John Connor actually meant something. When I return to this series it will be for “Genisys” and later a rating of the films from Worst to Best. So far it has been a good adventure.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

The Terminator (1984): A Good Thriller With a Decent Heroine Arc

The  Terminator Poster

    We begin the “Terminator Franchise Retrospect” with “The Terminator.” The last time I saw this film was back in High School and I really enjoyed it. On a second viewing it is still good, but I wouldn’t call it truly great. It has a few things working against it both in the looks of the future and in how some character exploration occurs…the main three characters are done really well though.

      The film was directed by James Cameron who also wrote the screenplay along with Gale Anne Hurd, who also produced it.

     The story involves a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) being sent to the past to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to John Connor, the revolutionary who is turning the tide in the war against the machines in 2029. John Connor sends by Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect his mother as Sarah Connor tries to make sense of it and survive against the powerful threat.

The Pros: The Premise – A.I. taking over the future and turning on humanity isn’t a new idea but it is presented really cool in this. We see advanced tech. that the Terminators possess versus the rebels who are just holding onto their lives. In this way the time travel plot to prevent or save this future is given power since we know the stakes from the idea.

The Opening – The premise of A.I. (Skynet) taking over in the future and the rebels fighting back and being enough of a threat for Time Travel to be a weapon to end the movement before it starts was really cool. I was drawn in immediately.

The T-800 – The Terminator is a great  threat and Arnold Schwarzenegger does a good job of making him feel like a threat. You see it try to blend in but also it’s complete disregard for life and single driven purpose to destroy Sarah Connor. Even after it’s organics are destroyed the robot fights on and is only stopped after it is torn in half and Sarah Connor crushes it.

Kyle Reese – Michael Biehn does a great job as Reese. His Kyle Reese is a man who grew up during the apocalypse and was given hope by John Connor as he grew up in a labor camp before he was finally saved. From here he became friends with Connor and we learn later becomes John’s father when he and Sarah Connor fall in love as they face off against the threat that is so much more powerful than either of them.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor’s arc is the arc that drives the series. She is the one in denial over what is going on and over the future but after she is saved by Kyle and saves him on multiple occasions she comes around and after the T-800 kills Reese she vows to live and prepare her son for the coming apocalypse. She goes from someone who was passive and a pushover to someone ready to fight and risk everything for a future where humanity has a fighting chance. It’s a pretty solid arc. Linda Hamilton does a great job.

Okay/Pro: The Action – The action is kind of hit and miss, there are times it is really good like when the T-800 raids the police station and slaughters everyone, and other times where it drags like when they think they’ve defeated it and the robot skeleton is revealed. This part was so chaotic it was hard to know what was going on until the very end when Sarah finally ends it.

Okay: The Script – It is an 80’s action film so there are a lot of catch phrases and one liners so that got a bit annoying after a while, Arnold’s delivery helped but by the end I was laughing over some of the one liners because it took away from the action and made the film feel stilted.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack was either really good rock n’roll or synthetic sci. fi. sounding music that didn’t always work. For this reason I cannot put the soundtrack as a pro but I won’t put it as a con either.

The Cons: The Police Department – The Police Chief is useless and the police are too as they target Reese and are unprepared for the Terminator at all. They put up a fight at least but they felt expendable, so a waste of characters.

Certain Future Scenes – There were some scenes where the rebels were fighting the Terminators where I didn’t know fully what was going on. I think that they made it too dark and didn’t really keep it focused all the time, which was a detriment as when things were clear it was really cool, especially Skynet’s Tanks and Planes.

   This film is a classic and it is well worth checking out if you have never watched it before. Arnold is great as the threatening T-800 and Linda Hamilton is wonderful as Sarah Connor. A lot of the issues can be tied to this being one of James Cameron’s earlier works so him being raw as a director and that it was just him and Gale Anne Hurd working on it, which means there weren’t eyes to flesh out the ideas and writing fully, given that it was just them. I still really like the premise though and can understand why this world turned into a Franchise.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator Franchise Retrospect Reviews

Terminator-Genisys-poster-final

    This is the summer of franchises and this being a movie blog is giving me a chance to explore some of the biggest science fiction franchises, as science fiction is one of my passions. I’m not going to lie that the whole idea of franchises is a bit troublesome. If a story never dies it will eventually run it’s course and run out of ideas. This is one of that the MCU has to worry about especially now too, as it doesn’t matter how many new characters you introduce if the same plots keep getting recycled. But I am not here to rail on franchises as I am at least interested enough to explore “The Terminator Franchise” and later on the “Jurassic Park Franchise” before I see “Terminator Genisys” and “Jurassic World.”

    This Post-Apocalyptic world is a fascinating one, even if the A.I.’s destroying humanity is a tad of an overused trope. In regards to popular culture this franchise started the trope in the public mind and film, which other films would use later. It is also noteworthy for having one of the greatest female action heroes in Sarah Connor.

       This week is going to be focused on the “Terminator Franchise” that James Cameron spawned in the 1980s. In the past I have seen “The Terminator” and a while back “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” was a  favorite film, I am curious if it will still hold up. I have not seen “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” or “Terminator Salvation” yet, but because I am doing this blog will give them a fair hearing to see if they are as terrible as the critics were saying or simply enjoyable as some of my friends said when the films first came out.

       This will be a chance to explore some of the tropes of the series and the characters of Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, especially since “Genisys” is giving us a whole new approach. I will not be reviewing “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” as I just want to stick to the films for this week. I do plan on coming back to the show at some point and giving it episodic review or a review of the series as a whole, or both…depending on how it catches my interest and what people want to see.

     Until that time, I’ll be back with reviews of the films in “The Terminator Franchise” before I end on “Genisys” and rate them from worst to best.