18 June 2009


I finally made it to see Terminator: Salvation. It was very nearly perfect. One thing that was done very very well was to pay attention to details and back-story from the previous movies, without being heavyhanded about it. Now, anyone who saw the previews (and paid any attention to the first five minutes of the movie) knew already that Marcus wasn't exactly human. The first time this becomes obvious on-screen is when a human punches him. You see the exact same head-deflection used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in T2. Another nod to T2 is that John Connor hacks into multiple "security" panels in a way very reminiscent of young John Connor hacking into ATMs in T2. Plus we finally get to see some of the massively huge Skynet machines in real action sequences, rather than just in short flashforwards.

The reason it was only nearly perfect relates to the very last scene. I think the sentiment could have been made to work, but as is, it came across as a bit, well, corny. It didn't help that the foreshadowing for it was a bit heavy-handed, to the point that I was going "Why do they keep bringing that up?" To be fair, there were at least two reasons to keep bringing it up, both of which show up near the end of the movie. The one that bugged me, though, was from the very last scene. Trying to describe this without actually spoiling it is a bit tricky. Okay, they kept bringing up X throughout the film. Suddenly X becomes important in the last scene, and it becomes obvious why they kept bringing it up. Then they produce a corny moral out of X.

They did something similar at the end of T2, with Sarah Connor's speech: "If a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of a human life, maybe we can too," (from memory, so it may not be exact). This could have been corny, but they actually made it work. I didn't think the attempt worked in T4. I didn't actually see T3, as the previews put me off, so I don't know if something similar was tried there. I think if it hadn't been so heavyhanded, it might have worked. It just didn't work as written.

FYI: Kyle Reese, aka John Connor's future, er, past, er... John Connor's eventual father is played by Anton Yelchin, who was also Chekov in the recent Star Trek film. He had more of a chance to shine here. Also, there is a T5 listed as "in development", with the same director at the helm.

And in the bizarre trivia department... Danny Elfman composed the score for T4. He also composed the score for Tim Burton's Batman movies (the two with Michael Keaton). When Hans Zimmer was asked to do the music for Batman Begins, he didn't want to compete with Elfman's haunting score, so he did a percussion heavy, "black on black" score. So now in T4, I hear Elfman doing a very similar "black on black" score, at least in some places. Not sure what to make of that. There's also a riff of melody that I finally figured out reminds me of the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack.

One (ranting) spoiler below the fold.

Above, X = Marcus' human heart. Several times in the film, someone comments on how "good and strong" it is. The first time, I was slightly weirded out by it. The second time, I was just confused. Then in the last scene, when someone else's heart was giving out, I just wanted to kick whoever had written those plants into the earlier part of the script. I mean, you don't need to bludgeon us with the foreshadowing, okay? And could we at least have had one of the foreshadowing references refer to his heart metaphorically, rather than solely to the literal, physical organ? That might have made the derived moral work a bit better. Maybe. When it comes out on DVD, I may try my hand at rephrasing the moral so that it doesn't come across as just weird. For now, I don't remember it well enough to make a useful attempt.


John said...

I enjoyed T4, too.

What does it say about me, that I immediately recognized the exact scene from the first movies they used to splice in Arnie?

Qalmlea said...

LOL. I was wondering if that had been computer generated, as Ahnold is a mite older and grayer than in the early movies (plus he's busy gubernating now). Splicing it in makes perfect sense. It was also a nice continuity nod.

John said...

I also think they spliced him in at a slightly different aspect ratio (? scale, maybe?) to make him bigger.