Arnold: Brought to You by CGI!
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington
By Tom Bevis
Here’s the deal: I’m becoming increasingly angry on early reviews for Terminator Salvation that call for a return to the franchise’s earlier hallmarks. A few reviews have even gone far enough to say that the earlier films actually made sense, especially when compared to the franchise’s newest offering. Well, here are a few basic notes. First of all, when you undertake the task of making an addition to an well-known and beloved franchise, you face the unique responsibility of making it your own while keeping the original feel of the proceeding pictures. Audience members would be bored out of their seats if Salvation turned out to just be Terminator 2: Judgment Day in thin disguise. Case closed on that one.
Secondly, will somebody tell me when any Terminator movie made sense? In the first Terminator picture, John Connor, future resistance leader against the mechanical hordes, sends one of his trusted lieutenants back in time to protect his mother. The lieutenant, in turn, falls in love with his mother, ergo becoming the father of John Connor. This, my friends, is called an ontological paradox. And those never make sense. So now that we’ve gotten the silly biased of any earlier reviews you may have read out of the way, let me tell you what a relatively great film this was.
Terminator Salvation is a sequel to the existing franchise. Or, maybe it’s a prequel. It’s definitely not a reboot. Or is it? It’s hard to tell. Why? Well, because of that ontological paradox I mentioned above. Said paradox is time travel, so in this film, we are seeing events that will inspire events in the previous films as they themselves have been inspired by the very same events in the films proceeding. Confused? Good. Now you can enjoy the movie.
The story is about John Connor (Bale), prophetic son of Sarah Connor and fabled leader that will lead humanity in the final assault against the machines (spawn of a corporation called Skynet). We know this guy, we’ve seen him in three other films, some of you have seen him in a particularly silly television program, so we won’t talk too much about him. On his journey, he meets a cyborg (Worthington), and the man he will later send to the future to conceive him, Kyle Reese (Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin).
I was skeptical when the film was first coming around the corner. The charm of the first two Terminator films was the alien element of the extreme future – the Terminator – in a backdrop and setting that was entirely modern. Here, we’re able to see the terror and marvel of the machine in contrast to the real world in an effect that was nearly stunning. And the main flaws with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (along with bad acting and a ridiculous script) was that these robots were running all over the place. Therefore, our petty and out-dated Arnold-bot was no longer special.
Well, I think the director here found a nice balance. He crafted a film that wasn’t about a singular Terminator, but rather the Terminators as a collective and the struggling human race that combats them. This is something that the franchise, by and large, hasn’t done before. We find the tables turned on humanity, and suddenly they are the minority and they are the ones struggling for survival.
And where do I begin? From the very opening of the picture, the audience is blasted with a constant flow of action. The director (who insisted on calling himself “McG” – I will refer to him as no such thing) tosses in short breathing breaks to prevent cardiac arrest, but not many and never for very long. Unlike other action films I’ve seen, this film’s pacing and suspense is skillfully crafted, intricately weaving a story that isn’t terribly complex but is, however, wholly entertaining.
Perhaps the biggest engine for this high-speed film is a sophisticated grasp of computer-generated graphics. You all know my views on the CGI movement, so it’s no surprise that I think it counts for the movie, but the CG in Salvation is handled so well and with such skill, that I’m sure it will budge even the most stubborn of CGI-resistors. The film truly does demonstrate an advance in the market, it screams to the cheap seats that CGI is the future of cinema and shows us what it can lend to a film when it is used properly and tastefully.
Said tasteful use lapses when we get an eyeful of the computer-generated Arnold Schwarzenegger. Computer Arnold usurps the role that Organic Arnold made famous, that of the T-800 (the revolutionary new machine that disguised itself using organic human tissue). Aided by one Roland Kickinger (who played Arnold in made-for-television film See Arnold Run), however, the use of Computer Arnold adds a spot of authenticity and nostalgia to the film in a scene that is one of the best fight sequences I’ve seen in my life.
Basically, if you try to settle all the flying strings and hooks that come with any plot that involves time-travel, you’re going to get yourself lost, develop a massive migraine, and you won’t be able to enjoy the movie. So, just sit back and relax. Don’t think too hard about it. Although it’s the antonym of anything I’ve ever said before, Salvation is really one of those movies that loses its particular charm the more you have to think about it and analyze it. So just take it for it is: a really good science fiction movie.