No Salvation for Terminatorby Nathan Zeno / 04.06.2009
Unfortunately, this is the third film in a row director MCG has blown, so we have to ask ourselves, why is this joker tolerated? Who does he have the dirt on? Terminator Salvation is, um, not a salvation, as you may have heard by now. But how bad is it, really? When Arnold appears for his fifteen seconds, he doesn’t even have a clumsy one-liner. He is mute and, I suspect, mostly a computer graphic. MCG is all about the visual and not the content. Much has been made of the fact that elements of this film render the first two null and void, but that’s not really true. His attempt is totally past proofed, as well as future proofed. It’s a film so designed, so lacking in self–awareness, that the fact that it’s about self-awareness seems the only stab at comedy throughout. Chris Bale has made a successful career out of playing taciturn assholes and showing their human side. In Salvation he is just a taciturn asshole. When he asks the question, “If we behave like machines what is the point of winning?” I can only think that if the choice is between being savagely brutalised by a machine or behaving like this dick, I’ll take the machine any day.
Salvation begins its “in the future” main body with a scene in which Bale steps on a terminator and then shoots it in the head. His bullets make no mark on its titanium skull. He doesn’t notice and tramps off, grimly. Questions immediately arise: if the terminator was terminated why does Bale feel the need to shoot at it? If the terminator was un-terminated why didn’t it reach up and grab his thespian leg and rip it off? If Bale knew the terminator was not terminated, why did he not shoot it from the helicopter? Oh, I forgot, his bullets don’t work. If shooting it had some purpose surely he would have checked to see if he had done any damage? MCG is so concerned with the look of a thing (and by ‘look’ I mean perception of the moment) that he doesn’t feel any need for things like character continuity or even continuity from scene to scene. The same bullets later rip a T-800 apart.
It’s not just the little inconsistencies. It’s the lazy plotting (murderer gets second chance by donating his organs to Cyberdyne), the obvious set-ups – “It’s too quiet, do you think they’re waiting for us”, the corny sentiment – “What makes us human?” and the total lack of the humour that was evident in the first two T’s. It’s also the horrible, washed-out, apocalyptic colour of the film. Even the bursts of fire gas balls, stolen from Mad Max Thunderdome, come off lame. It’s like a cocaine and MTV mash-up of every B-grade science fiction film of the last ten years that has referenced T1 & T2.
MCG must have thought he was so clever inserting the little bit at the end that sets us up for a sequel, but did he ever stop to think about the practicalities of practising heart transplants in the field? – especially seeing as there were no attempts to see if the donor was a match. And Helena Bonham Carter is probably wearing a skull wig, if any of the actors’ commitments to their parts is anything to go by. This film also features no naked time travel, something it attempt to compensate for by having Arnold swan around with his genitals covered only by convenient bursts of steam. And what is it that terminators, industrial settings and molten metals remind me of? A better film?
Notice how I have not referred once to T3. For me, that film does not exist and neither does this one.
Starring: Christian Bale and Sam Worthington