Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Terminator Salvation: if you haven't seen it yet

The answer is no.

But before I start talking about Terminator Salvation (no colon), let's review John Rogers' three principles of writing a good scene:

1.) Who wants what?
2.) Why can't they have it?
3.) Why do I give a shit?

OK, no spoilers.

This isn't John Connor's movie. Connor is a sidekick in this film. That's right: a sidekick. Actually, he's less than that. The film not only doesn't establish why John Connor is special, it doesn't even provide a compelling reason to keep him alive. This is a Terminator film in which John Connor lacks a destiny. ... And actually, it's even less than that: Connor is a LIABILITY to the Resistance - he gives away their position and their plans, and doesn't seem to have learned anything about Terminators, ever (*).

(*) There may be a little bit of hyperbole in that last sub-clause.

OK, Connor is a sidekick. Fine. Now I've got that out of my system, I think my rage is spent. This was going to be a long rant but I think I can summarise it now.

The movie's not all bad. While the first act rushes through a whole bunch of stuff and doesn't give us any reason to care about anyone, it does do a great job of establishing that terminators are badasses. Well done.

There's some nice future robot shooting action, and a 30 or 40 minute sequence in the middle (from the gas station through to the swimming lesson) where the film has: (a) momentum, (b) characters with understandable motivations, and (c) an interesting central dilemma. Well done.

From that point on, I was sniggering at the film until it ended. That's about 30 minutes of mocking something I once loved.

Not. Cool.

And the film has two other big problems:

First, John Connor wasn't even supposed to be in this movie! This link has much spoilerage in it, but is pretty essential to figuring out why the Connor scenes don't work, don't advance the plot, and don't make you care about anyone.

Second, the whole way the Resistance works is completely implausible (and I say this acknowledging that they are fighting a war against AIs and cyborgs). They have jets, and airbases, and helicopters, and a base that's two days walk from Skynet that's surrounded by ... well, you'll find out if you see the movie, but the fact that these characters survived more than two or three minutes ASTOUNDS me.

Here are two other spoiler-filled reviews to read before I ask the question: Poland. Quint.

So the question you need to ask yourself after reading all this is, "Should I see Terminator Salvation"?

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