Terminator 4: Salvation (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.
Length: 115 minutes
Grade: CCCD=C
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $407 million (125 U.S., 247 Intl., 35-est-DVD)

Written by: John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (Co-writers of Primeval, Catwoman, Terminator 3, The Game, and The Net).
Directed by: McG (We Are Marshall, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Charlie’s Angels)
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, and Michael Ironside.

John Connor is an officer in the resistance against the machines, who must try to find and save his father, Kyle Reese, and decide what to do with a cyborg who believes he’s actually human.

Entertainment Value: C
Begin by understanding just how much I love the Terminator universe. I’ve read the book. I’ve seen all the movies and the TV series. I even own most of the comic book adaptations of Terminator. So, needless to say, I was excited to see this movie. But all that expectant joy turned to despair as a virtually plot-free movie based on a silly hypothesis took the future world I love and reduced it to incoherent and mind-numbingly senseless big action sequences. John Connor survives two helicopter crashes, one (possibly two) nuclear blasts, and is in the fight of his life with a rifle currently in existence (the HK416) instead of a plasma rifle against machines more advanced than the CSM-101 just barely being developed at the end of the movie? Can I buy one ounce of consistency? I spent the whole movie trying to figure out the rules and the place of this movie in the Terminator universe. And I never got a good answer.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence C, Language C
This movie is full of violence and action. It’s rightly PG-13 for that alone. Language was a handful of medium profanities, and one barely-audible F-word, also just right with PG-13 these days. A CGI Arnold is shown partially naked at the end. Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird for a whole franchise to opt for going from R to PG-13 ratings?

Significant Content: C
Machines we create to serve us can become dangerous if we allow them to become self-aware. Whenever we are engaged in a fight to preserve either humanity or civilization, we must fight in such a way that we don’t lose either in the process of defending them. The only fate we have is what we make for ourselves. Real humanity is in how you behave, not in what you’re made of.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Here’s the basic problem. McG doesn’t understand the nature of science fiction. The idea and the story come first and are the basis of everything. Then, creating a coherent world around the novel premises of the story gives you a place to insert special effects, which are completely secondary to everything else. McG suffers from Michael Bay syndrome: “If you spend money, you’ll make a big, exciting movie.” No. You’ll make a mediocre action-fest that disappoints those who love the tradition which bore it. I sure hope when James Cameron returns for T5, all this is remedied. But all that being said, I suspect that if this had simply been a free-standing movie without being in the Terminator series, it might have been okay. It also shows the difference between someone making a sequel with his own signature because he loves the originals (like Star Trek) and someone remaking it in his own image while pandering to loyal fans with the insertion of a few hackneyed homages.

Discussion Questions:
~Sarah counsels her son to be careful in fighting Skynet because the machines will use his own humanity against him. Is being human a weakness? In this movie, what things differentiate the humans and the machines?
~John tells his followers that they must refuse to fight like machines because the way we fight makes all the difference to whether we should bother fighting in the first place. How are the rules of warfare important? Is this movie meant to be a commentary on the current conflict with terrorists?
~One of the themes in this movie is trust. How do you decide whom to trust?
~John Connor says there’s no fate but what we make. Do you agree?
~There is an old concept called a Turing Test, in which a person engages with a person and a machine in a conversation, and if he cannot tell which one is which, then the machine is intelligent. How does that idea play out in this movie? What aspects of Marcus’s behavior would you cite to show that he is a human? What aspects that he is not? Is the movie right that the capacity for self-sacrifice is the key identifier of humanity? What about free choice? Does Marcus have freedom, or is he just following his programming? What do you think of his notion of a “second chance?”
~One of the most recurrent themes in science fiction is the danger of beings we create taking over for us (The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, I Robot, Blade Runner, 2001 A Space Odyssey are modern examples, but the theme goes back to Frankenstein, Modern Times, and Metropolis). Why do we find this theme so appealing to explore? Do you think this could actually happen? Do we seem to be heeding the warnings?
Overall Grade: C
Even though it’s opening day for Avatar, I already don’t like it because that project kept James Cameron from making this movie, as he should have.

1 comment:

andrew said...

I went into this knowing that another T3 would end my 24 year love for film.

Ill be as honest as i can be- I loved it This isn't the bad movie that some morons on here are banging on about, neither is McG half the negative that have been written about him.

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