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Old Jun 3, 2009, 12:23 AM   #1
Sharky
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"The Devil's hands have been busy..." - Sharky reviews Salvation

First of all, hello to all my fellow SciFlickers. Haven't been on in a while but thought now is as good a time as any to make a return and offer up my initial thoughts on the fourth film in the Terminator saga, as well as musing on my own love of the series.

Now let's set the record straight. Rewind to six years ago, to the release of T3. It's no secret, that as one of the biggest Terminator fanboys around (I'm playing the T1 soundtrack as I write this), the 17-year-old version of me walked into the film already knowing I was going to like it. Consequently, I turned a blind eye to many of it's faults and flaws.

Fast-forward to today. I'm a little older, I'm a little wiser, I'm singing in my own rock band, I've just completed my second year of a Creative Writing and Film Studies degree and I'm currently working at one of the biggest cinemas in Britain (the Odeon in Liverpool ONE). Do I still love the Terminator? Of course, but more from a creative aspect nowadays. It's influence can be seen in much of my writing, both on my course and in some of my songs.

So where does T3 sit with me now? It will always have a place in the heart of the fanboy in me, but the student in me now views it as, at best, a curiosity and at worst, a weak link in the extended Terminator universe. The worst offenders? (in no particular order):
  • "That's my father's plane, I trained on it!"
  • 'Macho Man'
  • Only 10 seconds of Future War scenes (if that)
  • John's ability to operate a nuclear reactor
  • Sarah Connor? Lukemia? Oh for fu--
  • The lack of...Cameronism
Yet, when one looks at it with some miles under the clock, there are some nuggets of interest and enjoyment:
  • It was good to see Arnold in the role again
  • Kristanna Loken's performance holds up, if not quite on Robert Patrick levels
  • The Crane/Fire Truck chase (the flipping of the crane with the cable was emulated in The Dark Knight with The Joker's truck)
  • Skynet as a virus
  • The Ending. Judgment Day is inevitable. The film's strongest point.

So, however harsh your criticism of T3 was, it left any further sequel with no choice but to do a Future War movie. Which is pretty much what the fans have been wanting since the black highway ending of T2.

Which leads me to Salvation. I've tried to be objective in my views, but I'm sure that my fanboy views will rear their head at some points. Yes, it contains spoilers. Watch film, form own opinions, then read.

For the first few months of pre-production I kept an eye on plot leaks and theories, as well as cast and crew announcements. When Joseph McGinty Nichol was confirmed as director (I refuse to call him by his MTV moniker), let's just say I wasn't entirely optomistic. But then Bale, hot off Batman duties, was confirmed as John Connor and Cameron himself suggested his Avatar star Sam Worthington for the Marcus Wright - a character who's role we pretty much figured out since his announcement - which, coupled with the infamous 'Tower Records' concept art, lifted my spirits slightly. Then things got mucky. It was revealed that Bale had had to be convinced into the role and his very public outburst. A (thankfully false) rediculous ending was leaked involving Marcus' character. And a few other things, which in the end made me simply say "screw it!" I decided I would wait like a plain, unknowing filmgoer and enjoy (or hate) the film as it comes, without analysing it beforehand. Hence my decision to stay away from reviews, film websites and even these forums.

Of course, I couldn't detach totally. When the trailers were posted, I watched, and made my displeasure known about the decision to reveal the truth about Marcus' character in said trailers. I think I said something along the lines of "...akin to saying Vader is Luke's father in a TESB trailer". A new series of comics were released, which I bought and read half-heartedly (I'm going to go back to them now and give them their due).

So, having just attended a special Staff Preview at work, here are my thoughts.

This film has been written for those of us who grew up with this particular genre. Having finally looked into McGinty, I've discovered this quote,
Quote:
I regard the late 1970s and early 1980s as the golden age of science fiction filmmaking with movies like Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and The Terminator (1984) and I wanted to honour that golden age.
.
Anyone born after roughly 1992 will most likely not enjoy this film - film fans for whom the sci-fi-action blockbuster are films like Minority Report, Transformers or I, Robot. Which is the film's major downfall, as it has been marketed to precisely this age group.

This is a film heaped in nostalgia for those of us who grew up on old-school Cameron, Scott, Verhoevan, McTiernan et al. Depending on your views on post-modernistic cinema, you might say that there's nothing original about this film and you would possibly be right. If, however, you are willing to suspend your critical nature to a degree, there is a film here to be enjoyed.

McGinty clearly has been overdosing on Cameron specifically and the genre generally. The feel, if not the presence, of the saga's creator is littered throughout the film. The opening credits are straight out of T1. The bike/tow-truck chase could have come from Mad Max 2. The T800 factory is Blade Runner mixed with LV-426's terraforming colony. Cameron's 'crushing foot' motif returns.

The most important aspect of this film, the one which was sorely missing from T3, is the question of humanity - what does it mean to be human? It was this lack of humanity that made Linda Hamilton turn down T3. Brancato and Ferris have wisely gone back to this core issue which defined T2 and based the character of Marcus around it. Of course, the question of cyborgs pondering their humanity is not a new thing. We've seen it before with characters such as Robocop and Data. But it hasn't been done this well since those characters first appeared. Indeed Marcus makes for such an interesting character that he overshadows Bale as John Connor.

Ah yes. Bale. The man splits people down the middle in disussions about whether he is a good actor or not. But is he a good John Connor? My answer - a hesitant 'yes'. Hesitant because, simply, the character is not really advanced in this film. Unlike Marcus, Connor is given no backstory in this film. Wave goodbye to any potential newcomers to the series. We simply just have to accept that he is who is he is and does what he does because he IS John Connor. He is primarily a reactionary character in this film rather than a driving force - reactionary to Marcus and the situation involving Reese. If Bale does return for the mooted trilogy, hopefully he will be given more of Connor's profile to sink his acting teeth into.

There are serious flaws with this movie. The editing during some of the climatic scenes is woeful. The female characters are pure afterthoughts; Helena Bonham Carter's Dr Kogan had some potential but ends up becoming a female version of The Matrix's Creator - only less engaging [sic]; Moon Bloodgood's Blair deserves a beefed up 'Vasquez' role in any sequel; Bryce Dallas Howard, as Kate Connor, wins the award for 'most useless character' in recent memory. The underwater Terminators are complete rip-offs of Dr Octopus' metal arms. Too many things are only detailed outside the film - the opening attack on the Skynet base and Moonblood's character are detailed in the prequel comics more than the film. And dammit, what's with the 12A/PG-13 rating? Some more adult themes needed.

Like Abrams' Star Trek, there's nostalgia but only for those that want it. Newcomers/casual fans will only be dimly aware of it and it's done (for the most part) so as not to detract from the plot too much. Chekov...sorry...Anton Yelchin's Kyle Reese using the phrase 'Come with me if you want to live', his sawn-off shotgun attached with string, his Nike hi-tops. Guns n Roses' You Could be Mine returning to the soundtrack. "I'll Be Back!" given a gloriously tongue-in-cheek musical build-up by composer Danny Elfman (an interesting musical choice). The John Connor/Endoskeleton battles reference all 3 previous films. The (what appears to be the exact) photograph from T1. Linda Hamilton's voice!!!

And of course, Roland Schwarzenegger Subtle CGI at its finest.


Naturally I'll have more thoughts once I see the film a few more times, but here's my conclusion for now;

McGinty has attempted to make a fans' film with mass market appeal. From a fans' perspective, he's done a good job of clearing the saga's slate that had been dirtied somewhat by T3. From a mass-market perspective, the film is haphazard and clumsy in many places, is marketed to the wrong people and is probably asking too much in terms of attracting younger newcomers to the series (who'll probably prefer Transformers). I've said before that a non-Arnold Future War Terminator film series would be asking too much of mainstream filmgoers and would work far better as a TV series and I stand by that statement. But for those of us who still like seeing Man vs Machine, rather than Machine vs Machine, on the big screen take heart - it could have been like AvP:Requiem......


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Sharky, June 03, 2009

Last edited by Sharky : Jun 3, 2009 at 12:30 AM.
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Old Jun 22, 2009, 04:07 PM   #2
Camfan
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Re: "The Devil's hands have been busy..." - Sharky reviews Salvation

Ok... so I finall saw it. On the whole, I'll say I liked it, actually, I really enjoyed it. I'm not going to go into too much detail because I think Sharky's pretty much covered it, and I agree with pretty much everything you say. I shall break it down like this. Acting- Good on the whole. Directing - Good. Effects - Very good. Nostalgia for fans - obvious but also subtle for true afficionados.

I could've really hated this movie, and I was prepared for it, however I was very surprised with what I thought was a very good movie. I kept my "it's not Jim Cameron ergo not Terminator" hat on throughout, but getting towards the end, it felt like a Terminator film to me, which is probably the highest praise I can give this film. Anyway, simply put, here are what I thought were the good points.

Christian Bale as John Connor was convincing (despite his action man gruff voice) I think he's a good actor personally, and I thought he was very good. However balanced with the Marcus Wright character very nicely so as not to be a 'John Connor' movie. Sam Worthington incidentally was superb, overshadows Bale it's true, but simply because he's a more interesting character in this story, so what are you gonna do?

Action - Top notch, seriously, felt like an 80's action movie (when action movies WERE action movies) but with a 21st century kick up the cgi. (Credit to the Stan Winston group most definitely)

Story - I think with all the recent reboots, re-envisionings and re-makes, the problem with most (I'm looking at you Star Trek) were the storylines. Lazy writers assuming that any hash of a script will do because the name will bring the fans in. However this (if a tad simple) was a pretty good one. The character of Wright carries us through, the protrayal of our protagonists felt true and three dimensional. Some weakspots but I'll come to those later.

Nostalgia - Yes I am putting this in good points. After all, how pissed off would we be if there wasn't a little tip and a wink to the previous movies? As for the I'll be back, well it had to be in there didn't it? Having Connor say it? Nothing wrong with that in my mind. However none of it was played for laughs (one of my biggest problems with T3). I enjoyed the fact that there were far more subtle pieces of nostalgia in there. As Sharky's mentioned, Reese's vandals, the shotgun on a sling, the beating with the metal bar, the similar crush scene in the fight near the end, etc etc. All made me smile. It made me enjoy the movie and feel a little bit better that the movie-makers knew they were potentially messing around with a franchise very dear to a lot fans hearts, and they did it in the right way. Again, completely unlike T3.

The bad points...... and let me first qualify this by saying none of these points made me angry (particularly) nor did they ruin my enjoyment of the movie in any way. At the end of the day it felt like a Terminator movie.

Pointless characters - As Sharky said, Kate Connor...... why, what was the point, she was there purely for him to have someone to talk to. Could've been achieved with any of the other characters available, the fact that she was pregnant equally so. Could've simpy been mentioned.

Helena Bonham Carter - Really? Did we need her? I suppose this should come in the point above but she was just so typically Helena Bonham Carter that I felt she should have her own little segment. I find her very hit and miss. Her acting was ok, but that was it, just ok. I know she was playing a machine by the end, but she went a little overboard with the weirdness, and I didn't think it was necessary.

The absence of night - Yes there were indeed some night shots. But it just felt a little too mad maxish rather than Terminatorish. Granted, a lot of California is desert, I would expect particularly after a Nuclear holocaust, and we weren't in the cities as much, but still, just irked me a little. And by the by, why did Reese at the beginning say "we'll move in the morning, they use infra-red, they hunt better at night" or words to that effect. When in T1 he said "You stay down by day, but at nights you can move around". Uhm, ok, maybe he's simply referring to when in a built up area? I dunno, I guess they had to mention the I.R. at some point for anyone who's never seen the previous movies.

The 12-a cerificate - I'm with you Sharky. I got into the screen early and I started to watch it fill up with families, which did make me question what the certificate was. I was a little surprised when I saw 12-a flash up. However I didn't feel it impacted on the movie too much. I suppose you could've had a little more gore, a little more bad language, but if the story stayed the same, I don't see too much wrong with what was on screen. (Plus I think it's a hell of a lot harder nowadays to be violent or nasty enough to get the higher certificates) I remember T1 was an 18 for years and they downgraded it to a 15 a while ago.

One rather large plot hole - Why does Skynet know who Kyle Reese is? Or rather, how? We're told that Connor is no. 2 on the hit list from skynet and that Kyle Reese is numero uno. I'm assuming because Reese is obviously Connor's father. But how does Skynet know this. There's no record of who he is back in 1984. I may have missed something incredibly obvious but still.... what the f.uck? Skynet should only know who his mother was. Kyle didn't know so we can also assume that Connor keeps it a secret from his own troops so it's not like it forced it out of anyone. Ah well never mind, perhaps someone else can enlighten me on this.

So... all in all, a very good action film, a good Terminator film, and a damn huge improvement on T3. Plus, if it is part of a trilogy, which I can't remember if I'm just making that up or not, then a very good first installment.

N.B. Was that really Linda Hamilton's voice? That I did not know, did sound like her though. I did like the inclusion of 'The Book' despite the fact it missed out some lines about her feelings for Kyle, though granted they weren't narrative important.

Can't wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray!
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Old Aug 30, 2009, 05:10 AM   #3
Demosthemighty
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Re: "The Devil's hands have been busy..." - Sharky reviews Salvation

Quote:
One rather large plot hole - Why does Skynet know who Kyle Reese is? Or rather, how? We're told that Connor is no. 2 on the hit list from skynet and that Kyle Reese is numero uno. I'm assuming because Reese is obviously Connor's father. But how does Skynet know this. There's no record of who he is back in 1984. I may have missed something incredibly obvious but still.... what the f.uck? Skynet should only know who his mother was. Kyle didn't know so we can also assume that Connor keeps it a secret from his own troops so it's not like it forced it out of anyone. Ah well never mind, perhaps someone else can enlighten me on this.

I think thats just one of them things we ain't supposed to notice
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Old Sep 1, 2009, 01:24 PM   #4
Camfan
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Re: "The Devil's hands have been busy..." - Sharky reviews Salvation

Yeah I figured as much, shame though.
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Old Jan 24, 2010, 04:18 PM   #5
Sharky
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Re: "The Devil's hands have been busy..." - Sharky reviews Salvation

Pescadero hospital reports. Sarah Connor relays her story to Silberman (as evidenced by his relaying it to the young interns in T2). Not a great leap to conclude that there were probably digital copies of these reports made, especially after the events of T2 when all agencies would have had to familiarise themselves with Sarah's history.

Digital evidence of Kyle Reese
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