Monday, June 08, 2009

Terminator Salvation: Unacceptable

Slant's Terminator Salvation review neatly and concisely articulates the central plot hole that devastates the entirety of Terminator Salvation, the same one I would have written about had I blogged about it in a more timely fashion.

How is it that Skynet is actively targeting Connor in Salvation, fully aware of both his future centrality to events and his childhood escape from their robot assassins? The established timeline does not support this. Armed with this knowledge, why would Skynet even commence with their eventual plans to attack the Connors in a different time, knowing as they must that such plans will fail? Another question: Why am I putting more thought into this than the screenwriters did?

To add on to that point -- since the machines shouldn't even know that Connor is important, it is even more outrageous that they know that Reese is important. If Skynet knows Reese, Skynet knows everything, and the entire franchise is stupid and pointless. To accept Terminator Salvation on any level is to create a black hole of stupidity that disintegrates and swallows up the franchise in toto, and that simply cannot be tolerated.

Just as the T-800 in T2 tells John, "I know now why you cry," I can say that I know now why Steve continually denies the existence of T3. Personally I thought T3 had enough good moments to outweigh the bad -- sure, there's some timeline discrepancies with John's age and some dopey failed jokes, and the general feeling of a franchise being stretched too thin... but there is also the pleasure of revisiting something familiar, a few memorable action scenes, an interesting arc for John, an effective, if depressing, ending, and some successful comic moments as well. Overall, there is enough to recommend it as a watchable, if inferior and not-wholly-canonical entry in the series.

Terminator Salvation, however, should not be allowed in the door at all. There's just nothing that good in there; the action is flashy but utterly unmemorable and uninvolving, Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin do their best to connect, but at no point does the story reward them or us or give anyone a reason to invest in the characters, and the ending is just plain retarded, as was the equally retarded ending it replaced. Certainly nothing here good enough to justify overlooking the staggering crimes of logic and story.


boffo said...

I think the movie works a lot better if you don't think of it as a Terminator movie. If you think of it as "Bale vs. the Machines," and assume the names and designs are an homage to Terminator, it's a relatively decent post-apocalyptic action movie. Not great, but more enjoyable than anti-enjoyable.

The thing about time travel stories is that they inherently don't make sense. So they only work to the extent that they distract you from thinking about time travel. Usually this is accomplished by making the rules of time travel very limiting (Terminator, T2, Twelve Monkeys), making the time machine broken or missing through most of the story (BTTF 1 and 3), or being so silly that the audience isn't concerned with logic (Bill and Ted, BTTF 2 and 3).

While Terminator and T2 both involve time travel, at their heart they're about someone trying to escape from an unstoppable killing machine. They work, even though the time travel aspects don't make sense. In the same way, if you ignore the time travel aspects of Terminator Salvation and think of it as the story of a guy trying to rescue some people who are in possession of a MacGuffin, it's a lot more enjoyable.

Also it's nowhere near as dumb as Star Trek. (Though I also enjoyed Star Trek as a dumb, fun action movie.)

Kenny said...

I don't think time travel is the problem with TS, though. The biggest problem is that Skynet knows what it shouldn't (it seemingly knows facts about Connor and Reese just because the audience knows them) and that has dire, unresolvable implications for the continuity of the series. This flaw is related to time travel, since the series hinges on it, but it is not directly caused by it. Basically the problem is that Skynet knows the future for no reason and that is a really bad idea.

Also, there is a pointless and credibility straining surgery that forces your suspension of disbelief to work overtime, but that's a separate, lesser reason why the movie leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.