Sunday, August 2, 2009

Review: 'Terminator Salvation' (C)

By Chase Kahn

The sprawling, tiredhead Terminator mythos has now come full circle -- to the future -- the year 2018. Skynet becoming self-aware and launching its attack on the human race is old news, pockets of resistance fighters still remain as they wage on against the ever-expanding mass of machines in a predictably gutted and grey-tinted California. Director McG's newest expansion is hardly the nail-in-the-coffin or the disaster that some want to condemn it as, although I think it takes the cake as the worst Terminator feature to date.

It's one big dusty, desolate action scene after another surrounded by men with stubble shouting into radios. Some of it is fun to watch, although it if you keep shouting into a microphone, after a while you become lightheaded and weak.

A while back, the production crew made it clear that they were going for a mix of Transformers and Children of Men in regards to Terminator Salvation -- well I can definitely see the influences in the single-take handheld orchestrations and the gadgetry and innovation of the machines. The problem is that McG and his crew haven't so much captured those elements (which are polar opposites and tend not to mix well anyway) as they have copied them into something far less significant. A well executed one-shot action scene is significantly dulled when the images carry no dramatic significance and the effect feels unthreatening because the world of CGI has a way of getting our characters out of anything. An early helicopter crash is filmed with brutal ingenuity, but a later shot outside of a resistance stronghold featuring Sam Worthington and the oddly named Moon Bloodgood is bland and showy.

On the other side, the terminators here seem to have been programmed by a malignant Skynet that's been watching one to many Michael Bay movies -- or maybe that's just McG. Now these terminators far more resemble Optimus Prime than those that appeared in the prologue to James Cameron's T2.

And that's all before Christian Bale's John Connor seems to settle in as an absolute afterthought -- a growling, sleep-deprived, angry prophesized savior to the human race. His now infamous leaked three-minute undressing on the set of the shoot had more energy and impact than anything he does here, whether it's his fault or not.

One thing is for sure, though -- Sam Worthington, by the end of this year (he's also in a little movie called Avatar) will have major star potential. His screen presence is palpable and he's easily the most likeable character in the film -- a feat, considering he's the only one who isn't a human being. It may just be a matter of time before the Aussie will be carrying blockbusters on the strength of his name. It's a bright spot in what is ultimately a big-budget tentpole amalgamation of indifference.

Terminator Salvation is what it is -- a cash-grab, a product that's whoring out the names of a popular science-fiction property and Bruce Wayne himself. It seems interested in the physical mannerisms of the series -- the car chases, the gunfights, the music, flesh and exoskelton -- without a care in the world for anything else.

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