Monday, June 1, 2009

Review Film : Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation plot points (and abandoned plot points) have been more widely leaked than an MP’s expenses. If you’re trying to avoid finding about too much about the movie, interested in seeing the film and need to know if it’s any good before you spend your hard-earned money on it, here’s all you need to know: Terminator Salvation is a big, silly Summer action movie where lots of stuff happens. I loved it and I would pay to see it again. ..[...] Now for the detail view: Terminator: Salvation (from here on in just Terminator 4) is classic blockbuster entertainment. While its venerable 1984 forebear was in terms of plotting and sheer vision an A-grade feature constrained by a B-movie budget Terminator 4 is just the opposite. It’s a big daft B-movie rammed with incident and accident that, as long as you’re willing to leave all rational criticism at the popcorn concession, will make you grin for almost 130 minutes straight. We know that Terminator 4 is a big budget movie from the outset because Columbia have made a special ‘distressed’ version of their logo to introduce it. There then follows a strange, slightly uncomfortable mid credits sequence featuring Helena Bonham Carter and a mechanised crucifixion. A Terminator Salvation if you will. After that we’re slammed into a war-torn, bleak, bleached-out Mad Max future world. This may be a B-movie, but it’s an awesomely expensive one. The movie looks astounding. As well as the humanoid Terminators of the first trilogy there’s an entire eco-system of killer robots: Nasty cybernetic eels, giant Harvester robots and devastatingly fast, beautifully choreographed killer motorcycles. It later transpires that the killer motorcycles have fold-away handlebars so that people can ride them. Why? So that Christian Bale can look like a badass. It’s that kind of film. Because Terminator 4 is essentially a B-movie the characters behave like B-movie characters. Nobody does what a real person might do in the circumstances; they just do whatever will move the plot along. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: It’s a criticism that’s equally true of virtually every horror film, much grand opera and of course Eastenders. Speaking of Eastenders, do you wonder what happened to curiously androgynous police informer Billy Jackson? He’s back, as a young deaf girl with a preternatural ability to notice when there’s a massive Hunter Killer flying machine hovering nearby. The human arsenal isn’t remotely as advanced as one might expect from the gun-porn dialogue in the first Terminator flick. The resistance take on the sleek anti-gravity HK’s with clunky A-10 Warthogs and hose down bipedal Terminators with fairly standard-looking assault rifles. Nevertheless, plenty of things go bang, and there’s a climactic detonation of nuclear material that I really need to ask our science writers about. Because the Terminator universe is under constant revision from incautious time travellers we don’t need to worry ourselves about inconsistencies between the various iterations of the franchise. John Connor isn’t leader of the resistance anymore, but he is still married to Kate Connor (played a remarkably lovely Bryce Dallas Howard). He does seem to have a very elastic relationship with his boss, played by B-movie legend Michael Ironside. Thanks to a major sacrifice from one of the other characters John Connor will live to fight another day, and thanks to an unfathomable decision by Connor his pal Kyle Reese will live to travel back and kick start the whole serpentine timeline all over again. That e-cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger is longer and less gratuitous that expected: The Gorvernator always looks a bit like a special effect though, even in real life, which rather pulls you out of the mood for a moment. Does Terminator 4 have a logical narrative thread? No, no more than most Summer blockbusters do. Does it deliver thrills, spills, and eye-popping special effects? Yes it does. More than any other post-apocalyptic robot combat movie in recent memory. It’s big, it’s loud and it’s silly: Make sure you see it. (oz)

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