Summer Film Series – Vol. 7, No. 1: TERMINATOR SALVATION
June 22, 2009 at Movies 14 in McKinney, Texas
You might think I’ve always been a fan of the Terminator films, given my love of sci-fi and action movies, but the truth is that I didn’t actually realize that love until the last decade or so. Before that I enjoyed science fiction like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind but felt these were more mainstream and did not hold the stigma of “science fiction”. As such, I never really cared at all for movies like Terminator, and didn’t see the first film until college, around the time the second film was being marketed. My roommate had seen The Terminator and kept insisting I would love it, but her interest had always been fully focused on Michael Biehn, whom she adored, and I really couldn’t trust her judgement anyway. This is the same friend who loved Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris films, and with whom I would spend practically every weekend at the video store walking around for hours because we couldn’t agree on which films to rent. [Thus, our prepetual renting of most all of the Michael Madsen B-movies.] Eventually, though, I did watch The Terminator and was interested enough to see Judgment Day soon after. And that sealed the deal. Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong provided the story that interested me — mother and son united to save the future — and Robert Patrick’s liquid terminator put the excitement and fear into my viewing experience that had been missing in the first film. At that point I embraced all things Terminator. I saw the third film, ridiculous as it was, and I anticipated each weekly installment of this past season’s tv series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, hoping to gain more insight into the mysterious future of John Connor and his Resistance fighters who battle the machines. So naturally, when this most recent film was announced with Christian Bale in the role of John, I knew it was a must-see for me.
I know the critics have not embraced Terminator Salvation, and the audience has not flocked to the cinema, but I found the film to be everything I wanted and so much more. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s filled with all the right elements: action, war, meaningful relationships, sympathy for the underdogs, and straight-up heroes and villains. Though there is a complex mythology to the Terminator series, this film does a very good job at laying out the major points for the uninitiated. And for those of us who have followed the stories through all the incarnations, this newest chapter is mostly satisfying and fills in some of the gaps we’ve been hoping to understand. The ending is a little hokey, a little too convenient for the furtherance of the series and mythology, but up until that point I found very little to criticize. And I can forgive that moment if it means there can be another film set post-Judgment Day. The setting of a post-apocalyptic earth is much more engaging to me than having terminators continually return to the past on assassination missions. I much prefer to see the adult John Connor fighting on their turf. And Christian Bale is a perfect, perfect actor to portray the legend. Every command he gives, every look of grief and remorse, and every gentle touch given to his wife (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) bring to mind all the John Connors we’ve seen in the past and wrap him up in a neat little package. He’s everything I expected the character to become, and he’s so much more than I realized he would be. All credit to Bale, of course, who has become one of the actors I look forward to seeing the most these days. I would say that this Terminator film belongs to him, but if you’ve read anything at all about the story you’ll know that it really doesn’t. And that this is due to Christian Bale, as well.
The media has been focusing on Sam Worthington as a mysterious character named Marcus Wright who survives a nuclear explosion and meets up with a teenaged Kyle Reese and the Resistance. The story of Terminator Salvation really finds its focus in Marcus. And Worthington is phenomenal, playing up the mystery of the man but retaining sincerity and compassion despite a backstory that would lead us to believe otherwise. And while he is enough to provide all the best character moments, there is also Moon Bloodgood to add to his emotional journey. She is impressive, as well, and I look forward to seeing her gain some notoriety and substantial roles in the future. She is the perfect accompaniment to Worthington, steely and strong and confident and wise. It is their two characters that move Terminator Salvation beyond a war movie and into a true relationship drama. And that gives the film its heart.
I don’t know if plans are being made for another film in this series, but I hope it happens. The story is not yet complete for me, and this film proves that it can be fresh again. I was impressed by camera angles and characterizations and performances and, yes, the machines. But this film has proven that the focus need not be on the machines, as in previous installments; it has much more depth when following the human characters in their struggle to save the world. I hope there are screenwriters who can tap into that and give us one more satisfying film to conclude the entire series.
Posted on 23 June 2009, in What I Watch and tagged Christian Bale, fangirl, Moon Bloodgood, movies, Sam Worthington, sci-fi, Summer Film Series, summer movies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.