1.16.2011

Terminator 4: The Only Script Written In All Caps.

TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009)
Image from http://www.pinktentacle.com/
We all know the Terminator series. Even to all those who haven't seen it, they're aware that the only reason no one messes with California is because the Governator will seek it's enemy target and destroy without remorse. I personally did a marathon night of the first two, skipped the third one because I was told it was crap, then ran to the theaters to catch the fourth. By that point, I was married to the series. I was right there with them. But after seeing the latest addition to the Terminator franchise...I come away with mixed feelings. 

The thing is, it's problematic. It doesn't fit in neatly with the rest of the series, it feels disconnected, and it distorts some major facts we just spent three movies (or two, if you're me) laying out. The characters are off, the tone just doesn't jive...this isn't the future we've really been waiting for. It's so insane, I felt the need to give a play-by-play to sift through the nonsense. 

Terminator: Salvation (2009) follows two main strains: the John Connor (Christian Bale) story and the Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) story. The John Connor story, frankly, I don't really give two shits about. Which is a shame, because child John Connor was actually pretty badass for a kid actor, which is saying a lot (I'm looking at you, young Anakin. Where did they find that boy, a Cheerios commercial?). The point is, in this movie, John Connor is a dickwad. Remember when Christian Bale flipped his shit? Now imagine that for two hours. Yeah. All John Connor did was scream. At everyone. There was something about a device that could basically pause robots, something about a bully on a submarine, but I couldn't really hear the plot over Christian Bale frothing at the mouth.

The second (and handsomer) storyline revolves around Marcus Wright. The best part of the movie is really the first five minutes, in which they threw all their movie making brilliance and then farted around for the remainder of the movie. It's a concise yet poignant scene in which Marcus Wright, the human, is trapped in a holding cell, waiting out his last few minutes before he gets the chair. He's visited by Dr. Kogan, played by the ever amazing Helena Bonham Carter, who pleads him one last time to donate his body to the noble cause of Cyberdyne. Dun dun duuun. He finally accepts her offer on one condition--a kiss. I don't really think Dr. Kogan complained much. So Marcus Wright is donated to science and...wakes up some 15 years later. Unaware of just about everything. He spends the next 20 minutes of the movie doing a sexy walk. I wish I was kidding. Actually, I don't. His walk is quite sexy. He could have shoved a dead rodent in his mouth and spun in tight circles burping the alphabet for 20 minutes and I would've watched it. It probably would've been a more cohesive movie too.

I digress. Marcus Wright stumbles upon a very young and very Russian Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who doesn't really do older Kyle Reese any justice. Instead of being the badass we know, he's some loser who's holed up in this abandoned building uh...just because? No real reason why he's there. And he's got a sidekick black little girl mute, so they really jammed all their minority quotas into one character. I'll run with it. All goes well until Kyle and the sidekick get harvested by the robots. Yikes. So Marcus Wright is off to save the day. Or...you know. The loser and the sidekick black little girl mute.

Nothing sets the mood like a good near rape experience. 
Meanwhile, he runs into some resistance chick called Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood). She attempts to be a badass chick, but kind of fails. Miserably. Especially since--oh--wait--the only problem girls ever seem to have is that old men in the middle of bum fuck nowhere are trying to rape them. Riiiight. Between her and John's useless as shit wife who he probably beats on a regular basis (all apologies, Bryce Dallas Howard), this movie doesn't really do much for anyone even remotely feminist-minded. In any case. After almost getting raped, unsuccessfully trying to defend herself, and having to wait for Marcus to beat the shit out of some smelly old homeless men, Blair decides what she really needs is to try to get in Marcus' pants. Because that's what I would do after almost getting raped too.

The ridiculous does not stop there. She brings her new crony home with her--AKA, to the Resistance headquarters. Which, credit where credit is due, leads into one of the most well done scenes in the movie. The tension rises when the man who we know to be a robot but who doesn't know himself attempts to walk through a mine field specifically designed to go after robots. Whoops. 

Needless to say, it does not go well for him (though I kept thinking what a crap Resistance they would be if he actually made it across). He gets dragged into the hospital wing where they tear him open and find out...holy crap. Heeee's a fucking robot. Well, except for bits of his brain and his human heart--looks like someone's been watching a little too much Wizard of Oz. Which leads to a nicely acted little emotional breakdown from Marcus. So what does John Connor do? I'll give you three guesses. That's right, kids. He yells and barks and froths at the mouth. I'm telling you. Patrick Bateman had fewer anger management issues. Granted, you know, I get it. He has issues with the robots. But I'd be a heck of a lot more sympathetic if he hadn't spent the last hour snarling like it was a full moon. 
Terminator...Salvation? 
So they chain Marcus up, thinking he's some new species of undercover robot, even though he just told them he's on a personal mission to rescue Kyle Reese (John Connor thinks he's after John Connor. All machines must be out to kill John Connor. John Connor is not paranoid. Don't look at John Connor like that or John Connor will eat your face!). But Blair is still trying to get to Marcus' metal parts, so she frees him and helps him escape. John Connor of course chases after them. John and Marcus confront each other, and have a conversation in the middle of a dangerous robot-worm filled lake that they literally could have had ten minutes ago if John had just stopped barking for two seconds. Marcus basically informs him that he'll get into the land of robots, find Kyle Reese, and help John Connor bust him out. Despite the fact that they carry on a perfectly calm conversation, as soon as they agree to it and everyone's happy, John starts barking again with, "WHAT ARE YOU?" Really, John? Homeboy is putting his neck on the line for your future father and you're going to show your gratitude by snarling? Allllright then. 

Skip-jump past a relatively badass John Connor scene in which he hijacks a robot motorcyle, and Marcus slips undetected into Skynet. Meanwhile, John is making his own break in to Skynet. Whoa...wait. Okay. Two seconds ago, Marcus agreed that he would help you get inside. And now...you're doing it yourself? Alright. Well. That's a giant fucking plot hole. Anyway, Marcus gets inside and has a Bladerunner moment where he confronts the hologram of our friend Helena Bonham Carter who in short, tells him he's completed his mission in drawing John Connor into Skynet, well done, Robotman. Fux. Marcus rails against his maker, rips out a chip in his head, and scrambles to keep a handle on his humanity, running to make sure he hasn't singlehandedly fucked over the human race. Go Marcus!

Which is just about when the movie makes a very sudden turn from mediocre crap to Holy fucking awesome. The machines blink and bleep...the red smoke fumes...a thick metal door explodes in John Connor's face, knocking him flat on his back. The epic music starts up, and...
Calves of steel...

...Chest of doom...

...

ofux.

That's right. The Terminator is BACK, bitches. And he's come to reign some asskicking hell on John Connor. I cannot tell you how fucking happy I was to see the Governator's bulldog mug. This is what the Terminator series is suppose to be about. Arnold Schwarzenegger making the human race (and occasionally the Skynet minions) eat dirt. And he owns the screen. So sure, it's a cameo that doesn't even last that long since his skin gets torn off more or less instantly, but the machine powers on like the beast it is. 

John Connor, in his infinite wisdom, grabs Kyle Reese and makes him tag along, even though he's...you know. Being chased by the fucking Terminator. But hey. Adult son/teenage father bonding moments really don't get any better than near death experiences. And despite the fact that John puts up a damn good fight...the Terminator fucks him in the ass. And who comes to save the day but...a man who needs to die for a noble cause. Or a machine. Marcus and the Terminator have an epic machine vs. mostly-machine battle, because there's nothing better than two super strong badasses going at it. But...alas, Marcus has a weakness. The Terminator uses the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique or something of the sort and Marcus falls to the ground. Terminated. Tear. 

And now John Connor's back in shit. But thanks to a bit of unfortunate construction design, some tool (get it? Tool?) decided to put the molten lava vat right next to the pipe of freezing ice air. And after being melted and frozen, the Terminator finally comes to a halt, but not after clawing a deep scar into John's face. Yes! Something canon! We have a origin for the scar! This movie just got knocked up a couple cool points. With that, John Connor scrambles back and tries to revive the hotness, because he realizes that Marcus Wright is really the only reason this movie works. So he hits him in the chest a couple times and...lo and behold! Marcus is revived! Just in time to watch the Terminator come back to life and stab John right through the chest. Bummer. Marcus finishes off the Terminator and carries John Connor to safety. 

And now our insane and nonsensical journey comes to an end. John Connor is on a poor excuse for a hospital table, his heart failing. Everyone's crowding around the soon-to-die John, weeping, looking pitiful, and it's like The Room 2. There are hugs all around, sentimental moments between John and Reese, a little "don't forget how awesome I was" to his wife, Kate. And then...finally Marcus steps forward. And the scene runs something like this:

"Kate..."


"You can have it."

"Your bod?"

"My heart."

"......yay."

We don't blame you, Kate. We really don't. So Marcus, the badass fucking machine, decides to give away his heart to save John. Hold on. They have a machine man on their side. Isn't he really fucking valuable in fighting the Resistance? Isn't there some old lady or any other partially dead injured Resistance fighters who would be more than willing to give their heart for the great John Connor? What the fuck? I get that it's exciting that we get to mirror the beginning, sacrifice and all that, but really. What the fuck?

And then, how could we forget John Connor's heartfelt thank you. Oh, wait, you don't remember it? Maybe that's because it didn't exist. That's right, Marcus just gave up his life so you could have your stupid heart and survive, but hey. I'm pretty sure a manly stare-off from your pedestal on the hospital bed will suffice.

Finally, the grand finale of failure. It ends with one of those: I know you thought this movie was pretty epic, but it was actually a minor battle in the war against Skynet. Wait...what? You're kidding, right? Way to end on a bum note and make the character's sacrifices and the entire battle the movie set up seem like grains of sand. Well. I'm glad I spent 11 bucks to see a small event in the war against Skynet. Give me a little more bang for my buck.

In the end, this movie is ridiculous, nonsensical, out of the loop with the rest of the franchise, but when you get passed all that crap...it's just a fun fucking movie. I wouldn't have done a play-by-play for it if it wasn't so much fucking fun. It's a perfect movie to watch in the wee hours of the morning when you're winding down with a couple friends.  The action is good, and the...uh...the Terminator's small cameo is good...and...um. The action is good. Next question. 

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