Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Terminator Salvation


Oh, McG! You horrible piece of crap, McG! What have you done? What have you done to my beloved Terminator series? First you shortened your name from Joseph McGinty Nichol to that ridiculous moniker you’re using now, which might almost be forgivable, considering the one you were born with. Then you directed Charlie’s Angels, and compounded the felony by making Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle … which was not forgivable. Now you’ve done gone and messed with something that shouldn’t have been messed with—certainly not by you—which is one of the few action movie franchises that actually had a bit of a brain, and a droll sense of fun.
And what’s so wrong with the new one, you ask? After all, isn’t it currently enjoying an 8.3 user rating at the IMDb? (Yes, apparently because a large part of the audience these days likes absolutely anything so long as it’s loud. This movie is loud. QED) So what’s wrong with it?
Well, about five trillion rounds of high-caliber ammunition are expended, and only one of them (which would have blown her leg clean off) hits anyone … but we’re used to that. Human beings are hurled around and smashed into things dozens of times, any one of which impacts would break every bone in their bodies and rupture all their internal organs, and the sum total of injuries are one oowie on John Connor’s knuckle, and possibly a severe hangnail on another character (not shown; too graphic, I guess) … but we’re used to that. The serious injury, when it does come, involves a thick, sharp object shoved right through John Connor, in the vicinity of the heart, and he survives … but we’re used to that. A ten-story killer robot sneaks up on a bunch of humans in broad daylight with absolutely no cover for miles and miles—apparently it walked on tippy-tippy-toes—just so we could get a startling but oh-so-phony shot of its massive claw crashing through the roof and grabbing Jane Alexander. (Jane Alexander? What’s she doing in this crapfest? Cashing a paycheck, it would seem. I hope it was a big one, Jane.) … but we’re used to that. We are now used to a whole list of idiocies in movies like this—yes, even in the Terminator films I liked—so there’s no point in going over it all yet again. If you like this sort of stuff, you’ll just think I’m crazy for objecting to it.
McG and his inept screenwriters seem to think a Terminator movie is about nothing more than gunfire, explosions, and catch phrases. “I’ll be back.” “Hasta la vista, baby.” Wrong! Those are just the embellishments.
No, there is one thing glaringly missing from this Terminator movie, the absolute core, essential to any Terminator movie, that I would think anyone could instantly see is missing. I can sum it up in eight words:
They forgot to put a Terminator in it!
Don’t try to tell me the dozens of knock-down Tinkertoys we see here are Terminators. Don’t try to tell me the cyborg/android/ whatever made from the body of an executed man, the one who thinks he’s human, is a Terminator. If he thinks he’s human, if he’s really nothing but the Tin Man looking for his heart … he’s not a Terminator! (By the way, if you were building an invulnerable killing machine within a human skin, don’t you think one of the things you would replace, along with the skeleton and muscles, would be that vulnerable heart made of meat? Not here.)
Here is the plot of all the Terminator movies:
1) An inexorable killing machine arrives from the future, assigned to kill someone.
2) That someone, with one or two others, flees from the killing machine.
3) They kill it.
No matter how much other stuff you dress it up with, no matter how many plot complications, that is the movie. You can change Arnold into a nice guy, a namby-pamby reformed Great White Shark like in Finding Nemo, and it changes nothing. He simply becomes the toughest of the people fleeing from the killing machine.
Remember the first movie? Arnold arrives, naked. We know nothing about him. He walks up to a punk. “Give me your clothes.” Punk laughs. Arnold reaches into his chest and pulls out his heart. He gets the clothes. We soon learn he is tasked to finding and killing Sarah Connor. How does he do this? The simplest, most direct way possible. He finds a phone book, sees there are three Sarah Connors, rips out the page (at which point we know he is dead serious: vandalism!), and sets out to kill all three. Wow! You blow him away with a shotgun; he gets up and keeps coming. You hit him with a truck; he gets up and keeps coming. His quarry is in a police station? He smashes a car into it and kills everyone in his way. Blow him up in a burning tanker; his steel skeleton gets up and keeps coming. Cut the skeleton in half; the top half keeps coming. If a building is between him and his quarry, he blows through the building. If 100 cops or 1000 women and children or 10,000 cute little puppies and kittens are between him and his quarry, he blasts through them. Direct and inexorable.
I was worried when I heard about the plot of T2. A nicer, gentler, shoot-to-disable Terminator didn’t sound very interesting. Not to worry. The T1000 was every bit as inexorable as the Terminator I had grown to know and love in the first movie … and a lot more flexible! Same in the third movie. All sorts of stuff is going on, but at the center of it, the relentless machine that drives the plot, is the new Terminator, as monomaniacal and emotionless as ever.
There is no such character in this silly mess of a movie. In their incredible stupidity, they have made a Terminator movie with no Terminator in it. And in the end, that’s really all you have to say.