Friday, December 25, 2009

Review :: Terminator: Salvation

Movies usually have goals, directions--things they want to accomplish. For example, District 9 wants to tell you a story about racial segregation in Johannesburg through a guy who turns into an alien. Up wants to tell you a story about love, loss, and dreams through a journey to South Africa. Terminator: Salvation, on the other hand, is just confused. It doesn't know what it wants to be, what it's doing, or what it's trying to say. All it really knows is it wants to have a lot of action scenes.

First of all, the movie is confused about who the main character is. The movie tries to swap between three characters, and in so doing, lacks any clear protagonist at all. We don't know whose story this is. First, we have Sam Worthington's character (A terminator?) in the introduction, who also appears to be the antagonist, flashing forward into the future, rising out of the flames like every confused Terminator before him. We also have Christian Bale, who mainly sits around yammering for people to obey his orders, probably due to his control-freak disorder brought upon by his prophetic status, making him one of the most unlikeable characters in the film. And lastly we have a young Kyle Reese, who mainly exists just to exist, otherwise John Connor couldn't have existed.

The film starts off with Sam Worthington, then goes to John Connor, and then back to Sam and Kyle Reese. Just when the film seems to be about John Connor, it goes back to Sam, and then to John, and vice-versa. The film is split between two protagonists, and eventually it seems that Connor is more of an antagonist, being the unlikeable chap that he is, and Worthington the protagonist (although this is reversed again in the end), due to him being the only real character with a direction. It's fine to swap between different characters and storylines, but we need to know who is the instigator of the action, who the hero is. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo is the bearer of the ring, the ultimate goal, and this allows us to understand the swap between the secondary characters. In Star Wars, Luke is the one who must master the force and destroy the death star, not Han Solo or Leia. We don't know who the main character is in Terminator: Salvation, and that just makes it all the more confusing and apathetically charged .

Additionally, the film is confused about what each character's goals are, a.k.a. desires. Movies are usually about characters trying to get something: Indy tries to get the Ark, Neo tries to save Morpheus, Batman tries to save Gotham. But in Terminator: Salvation, there is lack of this--a lack of want. Sam Worthington wakes up in the future, and we are just as confused as he is about what he is doing there. Is he a terminator? (Obviously, or how else would he get into the future?) But then what is he doing in the future and how did he come from the past (and what was he doing in the past)? He eventually runs into Kyle Reese, and it becomes his goal to save him, for some humanized reason. At least Kyle has some kind of goal--to find John Connor--but that is quickly interrupted by his capture. Lastly, the character of John Connor does have a goal: it is to successfully test the doomsday weapon of a radio signal. He does it. And succeeds; and then moves on.

The movie does look nice, and atmospheric, and most of the scenes are well-done (However, with the added niceness of each shot, it seems to become an annoying recurrence to have the camera pan over a character aimlessly staring, reflecting his lack of humanity, and then stepping down into the next scene). What the movie lacks is any sort of coherence, any unifying thread, any reason to keep watching it as a movie, not a connection of well-paced action sequences. Terminator: Salvation tries to grasp at what it thinks an entertaining film should be about, but in the end is just a poorly concocted sequences of events that suffices for a 'story.'

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At 12/29/2009 6:19 PM, Blogger CMSpice said...

This is Peter from the game lab if you remember me. I can't figure out where your email is so I'll just put this here. I noticed Michael Rose posted about your game on congrats. I have yet to play it but I will soon. I suddenly feel privileged to be able to play the game sooner hehe.

At 12/29/2009 7:36 PM, Blogger TheJBurger said...

Hey Hey! Awesome to hear from you again. Thanks for the heads up! I'm guessing he got a copy of the IGF version, since he has some very, very nice things to say about it.

My e-mail is We should meet up again when the next quarter starts! Keep in touch!

At 1/13/2010 3:22 AM, Blogger Jhony said...

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