5 June 2009

TERMINATOR SALVATION (Dir. McG, 2009, US) - 'Come with me if you want to live...'

Christian Bale as the resistance leader, John Connor.

It's a real disappointment that the only kind of salvation on offer is for the fictional cardboard characters that occupy the terrifyingly awful two hour running time of this new $200 million Terminator film. A nightmarish invention of the intelligent imagination of director James Cameron, The Terminator franchise is a brand that in essence has always been marketed around the novel and appealing idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the cyborg creation. It was an inspired piece of casting on part of Cameron and Arnie continued to return the franchise so that he could maintain his bankability as an A list film star. Having signalled his departure from film and shift into mainstream politics, the third Terminator film, Rise of the Machines, was Arnie's final film and for his work he received a hefty pay cheque. The film performed exceedingly well internationally and offered producers the anxious creative predicament that the Terminator franchise would need to be reconstructed without perhaps its biggest and most important asset.

This latest entry in the Terminator films is so undeniably terrible, it strangely elevates the status of the third film to a level of competency. I'm not sure who will be held responsible for this debacle as the film has underperformed and the early commercial signs suggests that it will need to cross the $500 million mark if it wants to be seen as a success. Even if this film does eventually succeed at the box office, I think all those involved in the production may have to reconsider making another Terminator film. So what makes this such a terrible mainstream film? Well, to begin with, the script by Bracanto and Ferris (the guys responsible for cynically constructed chase narratives like 'The Net' starring Sandra Bullock) features cringe worthy and wooden dialogue that constantly assaults the audience with a crushing degree of cinematic contempt. This is unforgivable considering the film had such a hefty budget and that Hollywood has got wise to franchise reboots with Bond hiring Haggis and Nolan writing his own material. Perhaps the biggest mistake of all is the unwise choice of director. Like many of his contemporaries, McG underwent his formal training to become a film maker in the world of music videos and it is not surprising that Terminator Salvation is devoid of any kind of real suspense, dramatic interest or visceral pleasures.

The flaws with this film are not strictly limited to the poor direction and bad writing, one also has take into account the dire range of monotone performances from Bale & company, as well as a musical miscue from Burton's regular composer, Danny Elfman. Bale may consider himself hot property after the incredible success he has enjoyed with the newly revived Batman franchise but someone with a cruel sense of humour has told him that the manly gruff which he developed for the character of Batman so to conceal his identity is a trait that is somehow demonstrative of a new kind of method madness. Add to the mix, the rapper turned actor Common (token black guy with nothing to say except know how to hold a shotgun in a range of redundant artistic poses) and the atrocious Bryce Dallas Howard (nepotism gone mad) and you have the worst Hollywood film of the year so far. The studio seems to have got this one terribly wrong. The only memorable thing was the trailer for Michael Mann’s new film, Public Enemies, which played at the start. It makes one wonder why Hollywood studios continue to hire film makers who are not film makers. If the studio aims to rectify the mistakes of this new film then the only way of trying to make this work is by going to the origins of the source material and hiring James Cameron as a creative consultant. If this happened then they might have a shot at making a half decent Terminator film.

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