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Been to the movies: Terminator Salvation - The Lyorn's Den

Sun Jun. 28th, 2009

05:57 pm - Been to the movies: Terminator Salvation

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Who the heck is writing the scripts these days? Are the writers still on strike and they got a beta version AI to do their job?

Yeah, explosions. Pretty explosions. Pretty nasty battle robots I expect to turn up in SF role-playing games soon (but I fervently hope that they will not moan like deranged zombies but make sounds more appropriate to a machine with an ounce of self-respect!). The plot? Well, meh. Standard. AI took it from a database. Dialogue? OMFG. Completely cringeworthy. AI fail.

I stared with horrified fascination at John Connor's totally superfluous pregnant girlfriend. This is post-nuclear holocaust. I bet the kid will have two heads. And tentacles. Other than for speculation about tentacles and shoving the movie through the Bechdel test like an especially determined camel through the eye of a needle, WTH was that character for?

Sweet flying girl, the other half of "have-to-pass-Bechdel" was an utter incompetent, playing the standard feminine role of messing things up, being unable to defend herself and fall in love with second-lead-guy. I guess she was in the resistance because she had a secret source for hair care product.

John Connor was more interesting and fun in his ten-year-old incarnation in T2, and I say that as someone who hates kids in movies. I would never have thought that I'd long for some chosen-one angst, but it would have given Bale something to work with, at least.

Every drama, every hard decision the character faced was drowned in bad dialogue and worse metaphor on the level of a high schooler's literary ambitions. Regarding the dialogue one might argue that real people do speak in bad dialogue (German police series come to mind, where, instead of digging into the case, they are digging in their relationship issues, and the woman says in a monotonous voice, "du, da müssen wir aber mal druüber reden"), but those are not real people. Give them some verbal competence.

Oh, and it had a magical-negro-in-training girl. And a motherly old hippie woman. I want Sarah Connor back. Young Kyle Reese was OK, though.

The desperate 80s style Mujahideen-fighting-Soviets resistance from the first movie had become conventional warfare with all kinds of big machinery and desert bases so secret that you could fire heavy artillery there all night without the enemy, with their headquarters 200 miles or so away taking notice. Not to mention trekking through the desert and lighting fires large enough to roast an ox, all the while going on about how the machines have spies in the sky and infrared vision. The badge of the resistance "is for blood and you have to earn it!". WTF squared. That might have worked to highlight how hopelessly messed up people are and that it's unclear if humanity is even worth saving. Instead it was handled like Ms. Mary Sue's mood ring eyes. Isn't it special.

On the plus side, the set design for the LA scenes and for the outside of SkyNet headquarters in SF was fine. The non-humanoid machines were cool. (The humanoid, well, can't really blame Romero for them, but I want to.) Playing Guns'n'Roses on the highway. Machines doing motorcycle stunts. I liked young Kyle Reese. Imagine how much drama could have been got out of a scene where John has to get Kyle into the time machine. Or out of discovering a time machine. Out of trying to understand where they are on their twisted timelines and what to do about it. We get a new character, a half-human terminator, and the actor gets a little more opportunity than Bale to portray a human character, but it ends on a retch worthy self-sacrificing uber-metaphor.

IMDb says they are planning a fifth movie. I'm not optimistic.

It was still more fun than T3.

ETA: Kit Whitfield has something more in-depth to say about bad action movies.

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