I really wanted to like “Terminator Salvation”. Really. I was sitting in the theatre with two fellow Sci-Fi buffs and I had fond memories of the first two flicks. I had even voluntarily taken a memory wipe to remove all traces of the horribly incompetent third film from my brain (I would tell you where to go to get this valuable operation done, but that seems to be one of the memories they removed during the memory wipe).
For the first half hour of the movie I held on, trying to enjoy it, telling myself that Christian Bale’s monotonic schizoid portrayal had some purpose. I found myself inventing back stories for characters, filling in explanatory scenes in my head to explain motivation and relationships. I kept trying to see the much better movie that it could have been, if only director McG had shown the slightest interest in something other than very fast moving things blowing up.
And then at some point something in my mind snapped, and I realized that I was just waiting it out, that the only saving grace of the experience was the certain knowledge that in less than an hour the movie would be over.
Looking back on it now, I’m still trying to figure out why anybody would put so much money and effort into making a movie that had no real sympathetic characters. The one half-hearted attempt at romance was telegraphed so clunkily that the audience was denied any pleasure of discovery. Bale’s character is so obnoxiously self-important and humorless that you just want to slap him. Perhaps to save my sanity, I kept picturing him giving this performance while wearing a clown nose. I swear it all would have been much better.
And then there’s the whole thriller movie aspect. Theres a syndrome I call the “Iron Man effect” – in honor of that early desert scene in “Iron Man” where Robert Downey Jr. is thrown several hundred feet through the air in a giant bucket of metal armor parts, and lands again with such force that giant metal parts fly off in a million directions. Mr. Downey emerges unscathed, and even manages to toss of a witty remark.
In real life, of course, his soft human body would have been converted by this experience to roughly the consistency of mashed potatoes.
“Terminator Salvation” makes “Iron Man” look like realist drama. In scene after scene we see giant ten ton fast moving behemoths built of cold hard steel facing off one-on-one with mere humans, creatures of mere flesh and bone. And each time, the humans emerge miraculously unscathed. These machines are deadly unstoppable killers, relentless, resourceful, and vastly more powerful than humans. One swipe from their giant hard metal paws would clearly pound a hole through your ribcage wide enough to drive a truck.
And yet nobody in the film ever gets seriously hurt after being hit by one of these things. This is clearly not true to life. It it were, Bale’s character would have been killed off in the first five minutes.
Hey wait a minute. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea…