Man versus machine versus man-machine

26May09

Terminator Salvation—directed by McG and written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris—throws us into the heat of the future war between the machines and the human survivors of Judgment Day. In 2018, the prophesied savior of humanity, John Connor (Christian Bale), must lead the Resistance into the heart of Skynet while protecting the real key to the war and the top man on Skynet’s termination list: Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), John Conner’s father. Unfortunately, Salvation‘s own heart just flat lined. Stop, the irony is killing me.

Terminators are everywhere in the year 2018, and theyre all frighteningly competent.

Terminators are everywhere in the year 2018, and they're all frighteningly competent.

From start to finish, the newest addition to the Terminator movies packs in the action. John Connor realizes that Skynet wants Kyle Reese dead first in order to drive a wedge in the coming threat of humanity—when an adult Reese travels back in time to stop the Terminator and save Sara Connor—by wiping the slate clean. Meanwhile, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) stumbles upon Reese and his companion, Star (Jadagrace). After failing to rescue them from a machine en route to Skynet—where countless humans are being captive—Marcus meets Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), a member of the Resistance, who brings him to John Connor. However, Marcus and the others soon learn that while Marcus appears to be human, he was actually crafted into a living machine on behalf of Skynet.

The film boasts many positive attributes. Not only do the action and special effects grab your attention throughout the long running length (130 minutes), but the story actually holds until the end. The two star actors, Bale and Worthington, gave wonderful performances, and I loved the ending scene with Connor and Wright.

The action sustains the movie, but emotion should be fueling the fire.

The action sustains the movie, but emotion should be fueling the fire.

If it weren’t for one central and incredibly essential problem, Terminator Salvation would have been a brilliant movie. Instead, despite all the fancy, inspirational speeches about humans versus machines and how our hearts make us special, blah, blah, when it came to scenes with interaction between characters (and not machines), the dramatic moments were dry, humorless, and robotic. The movie earns a right to take itself seriously, for it fills you with a desperate sense of what life has become for Resistance survivors. However, even when the dialogue aims to demonstrate the strengths and unifying connections of humanity, it falls flat emotionally … which kind of undermines the whole point—as even John Connor obliviously said so. When the end credits roll and you walk out of the theater, you’re impressed, but you can’t really think of one damn memorable thing. In other words, you’re not rushing to tell somebody about this one really exciting and oh-my-God enjoyable part, because the whole movie turns out emotionally stunted. Funny how it’s hard to actually care about the numerous characters in a film when the writers fail to remind you why you even should. Yeah, the fate of humanity and all that, but the characters end up more as pawns in an extremely important game rather than living flesh and blood with hearts and souls.

Wright carries the benefits of both humans and machines, but he does have a crucial weakness. Oh, just take a wild guess.

Marcus wields the benefits of both humans and machines, but he does have one crucial weakness. Oh, just take a wild guess.

Also, was it just me, or was Kate Connor (Bryce Dallas Howard) pregnant and they just forgot to mention that? Who would even think to have a kid in such a world, anyway? Not to mention Star was a completely useless character without a purpose other than to stand paralyzed with fear again and again. Oh, and hand the heroes guns. Guess somebody has to do that.

Terminator Salvation delivers a solid plotline with a well-orchestrated combination of stunning visuals and intense action, but the movie falters terribly when it comes to character development and emotion (other than raging anger born out of survivalism). Otherwise, the movie probably would have been one of the most highly-praised hits of the summer. Plus, it all ends with an apology: “Oh, by the way, we only kind of took out one speck of the global Skynet and Terminator community. Crap, anyone have any ideas about how we’re going to save humanity for realz?” Yeah, not quite salvation. Nice try, though.

You wanna talk about it? Are you kidding? That would mean mushy character depth and growth. No thanks.

"You wanna talk about it?" "Are you kidding? That would mean mushy character depth and growth. No thanks."

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10 Responses to “Man versus machine versus man-machine”

  1. 1 xdoolittlex

    Great title.

    I’m glad you didn’t like this either. Mark and Nick both did, but I don’t understand why. Lack of emotion aside, I came out of it with so many questions.

    How does SkyNet know Kyle Reese is important? Does it know he will be sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor? If so, how?

    Why doesn’t SkyNet make more than one “man-machine?”

    How does Marcus get transformed from a huge jerk (“Now I know what death tastes like”) when he’s on Death Row into this valiant hero when he wakes up? Does SkyNet change his personality? If so, how does SkyNet understand something like personality?

    Who thought it was a good idea to have the humans fight mainly ships and motorcycles instead of cyborgs? Has McG ever seen a Terminator film?

    If John Connor thought he was dying at the end, why wouldn’t he be more concerned with telling Kyle he needed to go back in time and save Sarah Connor than with giving Kyle a red armband?

    I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

  2. 2 WITA

    I liked the action, special effects, general storyline, and the ideas it was going for, but yeah. It could have been fantastic, but it wasn’t. Plus, Star really annoyed me.

    Lmao all good points. I especially agree with the ones about the man-machines (hee hee) and the red armband brain-fart moment. πŸ˜›

  3. 3 Jaym

    I loved it! It’s a traditional summer movie- you’re not meant to be thinking while watching this stuff… it’s not Lost!

    Sure, you can nitpick stuff to death but you can do that with every movie, and end up hating everything that comes out. Oh! Wait, that’s what so many people do now. I forget that. =P

    It was dark and foreboding, and you felt how the struggle had just started- the resistance still had enough materials to fight back a bit- (fighter jets, etc.) but the machines were able to create BETTER machines.

    As to fighting motocycles vs. cyborgs- there were both in the movie! Big ass cyborgs, little ones- even a “recognizable” one. The motorcycles and ships just added to the Terminator universe we know but have never seen. It’s not just about endless rows of T-600’s. It’s about human-capturing hovercraft, sleek self-driving motorcycles that can pull off kick-ass avoidance routines (thought that was one of the coolest memorable scenes.)

    And I know the one scene I’d be running to tell people they have to go see if it wasn’t such a spoiler (towards the end)- made me smile when it happened.

    The only odd thing was that frankly, Christian Bale wasn’t the star- Tom Worthington (or whatever his name is) was… he was far more the central role. Which was a touch odd. Howard was pregnant (in the movie, in real life she had just given birth but they asked her to keep her baby weight on)… I felt that character was important- it showed that even in that dark environment people were still living. As Kyle said- “The most important thing is to STAY ALIVE.” If humans stopped trying to have kids, they’d lose through attrition, and would cease being human anyways!

    Sure, there’s a million ways you can rewrite fighting scenes until you’re blue in the face, but I thought that for the first movie in a trilogy (and trilogies almost always get better) it was a good beginning!

    I’d say ranking it though, it was fourth after Star Trek, Wolverine, and Angels & Demons.

  4. 4 WITA

    I definitely don’t disagree with you about the cyborgs/better machines thing, Jaym. It makes sense that in the future, the machines are more intimidating/organized.

    I liked the movie, and it’s not necessarily that I wanted it to be a philosophical movie … that wasn’t it at all. And I don’t mean to sound like I’m nitpicking (unless you were referring to Jason/xdoolittlex, and in that case, open fire—lmao just kidding, Jason). It’s just that, when it was all said and done, the lack of emotion/development really took the experience down a huge notch. I know the characters tried, but something about it just didn’t work. Too much emphasis on machines and a balance between characters/machines, maybe—although Marcus did a decent job, he did it solo … and that’s kind of the problem, or at least part of it.

    Yeah, that thing at the end you’re talking about was cool … but it was expected, so it wasn’t anything surprising. My Dad (free ticket was part of his upcoming b-day present) did jump at one part in the movie, which was both hilarious and ridiculous since it wasn’t scary or meant to be—but that doesn’t count, since the movie didn’t intend for that to happen.

  5. 5 Jaym

    Hehe my mom jumps at EVERYTHING… like, you KNOW the T-600 he just shot is OBVIOUSLY going to pop up behind him and attack, and she’ll jump 20 feet everytime.

    Quite the riot.

    I agree with you, and yeah, all I was saying about nitpicking is when you start to wonder about tiny plotholes or goofs- like, at the end, it’s sentimental for him to give his dad his “right of passage” into the resistance. It’d make more sense to be worried about telling him what’s up, but then again, he’s “dying”, and probably no longer cares- he’s just thinking, that’s my dad (who he never gets to know), so it makes better sense from a movie standpoint to have him worry about the armband. In real life? Not so much. Movies? Yes.

    That’s all I’m tryin’ to say.

    Oh, I didn’t notice flatness in the characters TOO much, though to be fair I was highly distracted by both Howard (who’s SO hot when not fake-pregnant) and Moon Bloodgood. Mmmmm. Mooooooon. Bloooood. Gooooooood.
    Coolest actress name ever. Very hot. Very distracting. =P

  6. 6 WITA

    Hmm, good counter-point about Reese/Connor. Jason, you gonna take that?

    LOL it is a pretty nifty name, innit? πŸ˜›

  7. 7 xdoolittlex

    I’ll admit, some of those questions I asked were nitpicks, like, “Why didn’t SkyNet make more man-machines?” πŸ˜€

    I don’t think the personality change is a nitpick, though. The arc of Marcus’ character is that he’s redeemed for whatever crimes he committed before becoming a cyborg. He’s essentially a different character after he’s revived in the future, though. He’s on Death Row for murder, but from the get-go, he’s a hero in the future. He’s a completely different character, so there’s really no need for the redemption at the end. You never really learn all that much about him, so his sacrifice is empty.

    I don’t think the Reese/Connor thing is a nitpick either. John Connor has been trained by his mother to focus on SkyNet and Kyle Reese his entire life. Where does sentimentality come into play for a person like that? If his having lived to that point was essential in the ultimate defeat of SkyNet, as we’ve been told throughout all the films, how could he suddenly “not care” about sending Reese back in time now that he was dying? It would be a case of, “I’m dying, so screw the rest of humanity.” Not saying that Christian Bale isn’t capable of that level of dickery, since we’ve all heard him in action. πŸ˜‰

    Here’s a nitpick: I almost barfed when Rudy Huxtable held Marcus’ robot hand at the end.

  8. 8 xdoolittlex

    Re: Motorcycles and ships vs. cyborgs

    My favorite part of the first two films is how unrelenting the Terminators are, like in the original film when the cyborg torso is crawling after Sarah at the very end before she crushes it. I missed that in this film, especially with the motorcycles. When John trips that one with a rope, and then walks over and starts taking parts from it while it wiggles on its side, it was laughable. It’s like a Terminator Turtle. You just flip it over and you win because it can’t get back up.

  9. 9 WITA

    *cracks up as she envisions John Connor flipping a mechanical, Koopa Troopa Terminator … turtle*

    I think the machines were unrelenting in the movie, actually. You pretty much felt the frustration. “Die, you sonnuva bitch!” I mean, they were everywhere. Like roaches. Or spiders (die, spiders, die!).

  10. 10 xdoolittlex

    They were unrelenting as a group, yes. I didn’t get the feeling, like in the first two films, that they were that hard to kill. Other than the ships and the one that had a gun for a head. Those ones, on sheer size alone, were hard to kill.

    Next time I see a spider, I’m going to kill it by tripping it with some rope. πŸ˜›


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