Thursday, September 20, 2012

Film Cemetery

Case Study #22

Where we explore the more 

obscure movies that bombed

A decent idea ruined by feuding 

producers and a clueless director

First things first. Unlike the critics, I liked Terminator Salvation very much...but it does have its problems.

Terminator 3 was originally envisioned as two films in 2001, and Nick Stahl as well as Claire Danes were both signed on for a two picture deal. 

Things didn't go quite as planned.

The disappointment of the 2003 installment - and that Arnold Schwarzenegger had become governor of California - shelved plans for a Terminator 4Other factors were at work here as well. C2 Pictures purchased the Terminator rights in 1999. 

The producers of Terminator 3 - Andrew Vajnar and Mario Kassar - began to feud after the film tanked. Add in that MGM wanted a Terminator 4 flick to put them on the map, plus a slew of lawsuits between MGM and the Halcyon Company made a follow-up film impossible. 

Enter a hedge fund out of Santa Monica that jump-started a 200 million dollar 2009 Terminator reboot with McG as the director. 

Yeah, you can see where this is going. 

For me, Terminator 2 was such a utterly perfect movie because it had tons of heart. 

A fatherless boy that bonds with a machine sent to protect him. The boy in question, John Connor puts his trust in a cyborg that slowly warms up to the kid....and this concept worked big-time.

How awesome is that? 

On a somber note, Edward Furlong - who played John Connor - fell into a very serious drug addiction after T2's release. He was 14 at the time of filming. Guess he could have really used a Terminator to watch out for him.

Moving on...

Unfortunately, Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation have no heart or warmth at all...and the story-lines sucked, as well.

The director of Salvation, McG, is best known as a music video director and responsible for the thoroughly enjoyable Charlie's Angels and thoroughly disappointing Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle

He can make an exciting movie...but Salvation needed much more than just excitement if it was going to work.

And honestly, McG is the very last person I would have given a gritty post-apocalyptic movie to, but that's just me.

Indeed, Terminator Salvation is competently filmed, and has great action sequences - but suffers from a bunch of well-intended ideas that should have been better thought out. 

The worst of these ideas hurts the end of the film very much...such as the iconic fight between John Conner and a 1984 version of Schwarzenegger. Sigh.

I mean...seriously. It's just plain stupid.

But there are some good, fresh ideas in Terminator Salvation - along with some spectacular sets that tend to cancel out the bad. 

Sort of.

John Connor is played by Christian Bale, which was a brilliant casting choice. 

The awesomely awesome Moon Bloodgood is Blair Williams - an A-10 pilot with some questionable makeup issues. 

Bryce Dallas Howard is Kate Connor, John's long-suffering pregnant wife. Anton Yelchin is the young version of Kyle Reese. 

And finally, Sam Worthington plays Marcus, a death-row inmate that has been turned into an experimental Terminator...except Marcus thinks he's human.

Throw in the Resistance Movement, Moto-Terminators, fantastic explosions, an exciting tow-truck chase and other cool ideas and you can see how Terminator Salvation looked great on paper.

But it didn't work out that way on the screen.

On to the film...

Terminator Salvation opens with an idiotic scene between convicted murderer Marcus Wright and Dr. Serena Kogan, a Cyberdyne scientist deeply involved with Skynet. 

Kogan is portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter. Sadly, her part was cut short when Bonham Carter lost several family members in a bus accident.

Fast forward to the future.

Then we meet John Connor and the Resistance as they helicopter in to a secret Skynet base that has been experimenting on humans. 

We learn that Skynet is seeking to build a human-like cyborg called the T-800. Fans know that this is Schwarzenegger's character in the first three films. 

So, basically, Terminator Salvation is a prequel that is set ten years in the future. 

With me so far?

We also meet Marcus, who begins traveling the wasteland until he winds up in LA - or what is left of it - and meets a teenage Kyle Reese. Chases ensue and shit blows up.

Meanwhile, John Connor and the Resistance leaders have a scheme to turn off Skynet with a 1950s-style radio signal. 

Yeah, I didn't buy that one either.

I also didn't buy that John Connor could dive out of a V-22 Osprey, into the vast ocean during a storm, and be picked up by a submarine. Even the most highly trained SEAL would simply die.

Things really start to go downhill for Terminator Salvation, however, as John Connor closes in on Skynet Central. 

I am going to stop here and tell you to just watch the movie.

McG tried to give this movie some warmth and heart - literally - toward the end, but it doesn't matter. 

A little girl holding hands with a selfless cyborg isn't enough to make up for an otherwise cold and passionless movie.

Salvation is worth watching for the stunts, action and decent CGI. The dialogue and pacing are pretty good, too.

I think, perhaps, that Terminator Salvation faced an uphill battle with fans and critics. 

Terminator 3 was a serious letdown without James Cameron at the helm, and a lot was expected from Salvation. I know I certainly did. 

When you look at the casting choices and the budget of Terminator Salvation, though, you can plainly see they certainly tried. Perhaps if we had gotten to know the characters as people things would have been different.

Not a bad film by any means, Terminator Salvation lacks an important element that made T2 such a monster hit.


No comments: