Written by: Sal Crivelli, Special to CC2K
Every nerd, geek, or fanboy has a group he (or she) can retreat to when he wants to hear unanimous agreement on any given subject.
"Who hates the new Star Wars Trilogy?"
"Who thought Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was Stupid/Awesome?"
"Everyone agrees Aliens is the best film in the franchise!"
“Wow, did One More Day ruin/save Spider-Man, or what?”
But when it comes to another popular sci-fi franchise, I feel like I'm screaming into the wind on a mountaintop. There's one hallowed series that I find myself routinely defending on my own. That franchise is The Terminator.
It is my contention that Terminator ceased to be good after T2: Judgment Day. I submit there has never been an equal or better compliment to the series, and offer the same challenge the upcoming Salvation trilogy planned and helmed by McG.
Terminator 3 was a complete and utter joke. They ignored themes and ideas, mood, music, and even dangling plot threads, in order to tell an insipid story that no one but Arnold wanted to see.
Don't get me wrong– I love Arnold. He's what got me into the Terminator franchise to begin with. But he does not know why Terminator is good. He doesn't understand why there was a certain amount of integrity involved with The Terminator, elevated by a sequel hailed by nearly all critics to be better than its predecessor (a positively Coppolalian feat). I think that's because T2 somehow manages to be a serious drama with killer cyborgs in it.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was, at best, unnecessary, and at worst, destructive to the franchise. The whole point of T2 was to make light about defeating expectation and dismissing destiny. In spite of all that Sarah Connor knows, she risks her own life, and the future of humanity, to try one more time to circumvent that which seems all-together inevitable. In the end, we are left to only wonder whether they made a difference. At the very least, we know they opened a window of hope that was otherwise closed to them. This is all expertly summed up by John's own message from the future: "There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."
If T3 had its own message, it would be "Never Mind." It undoes 2's message about hope and destiny, instead favoring a "super-cool" future war that would undoubtedly be far less cool than most people expect. This May, we're about to see that war firsthand, carried out by entirely unfamiliar faces (to the franchise, I mean– I don't think anyone could miss Batman showing up in a Terminator movie).
Speculation places Sam Worthington as new character Marcus Wright, a Riddick-esque terminator sent to this pivotal point in John Connor's future-history for a dark purpose. Rumors already flew over a year ago that Wright would replace John Connor after his unexpected, untimely demise, and act as a symbol of hope for his human resistance. McG denied the rumor, but there will be two more films needed to "surprise" audience members after this. After all, Kyle comes from 2029, when the humans win the war. This movie takes place in 2018, when the war is still going strong. And Re: Marcus Wright: Who cares? There are some interesting ideas being put forth in this upcoming story, but we'll have to see if it contributes to the mythology of the franchise that's worth a damn.
My major problems, not including rumors, about Terminator Salvation? First off, the title. "Terminator Salvation"? Whose salvation? Humanity's? No, couldn't be. Maybe the terminator's salvation is coming? It's inane.
Next you have new terminator-related machines, predecessors to the T-800 model. Unlike T3's early-model Terminators, on some level, these new guys got it right. Rubbery, fake-looking skin over metal endoskeleton. Maybe these people understand.
Then you see The Harvester. Or as I like to call it, 2007's Megatron. Wasn't it scary enough that they had unmanned laser-firing jets (Hunter-Killers)? Remember: terminators were essentially new by 2029. Skynet built terminators because the big shit wasn't working. I fail to see how ground troop Terminators can be more effective than a fucking transformer (transforminator?).
I also hear the TV show is "way better than T3" and even pays homage to T2. I find Lena Headey to be a strong, imposing female actress – but I don't see Sarah Connor when I see her. And being a Firefly fan, everyone expects me to love Summer Glau's character. I don't. Thomas Dekker is a decent enough John Connor (and about a thousand times better than Nick Stahl), but it's not enough for me. I don't see anything contributory about this series. I don't see a real answer to why this needs to be made, other than money. It does offer some nice fanboy moments (John seeing Kyle as a little boy was done with class), but it doesn't warrant an ongoing series. Mini-series? Maybe. A series that can end the moment an executive says so, regardless of where the story is? Pass.
I want to like Terminator and its many forms. Comic books, a TV series, and additional movies all promise the action and awesome that Terminator implies. But when you look closer at what's offered, you see the bullshit. When you know that Cameron shot both Terminators at night to make a tonal and stylistic point, regardless of the additional cost that rises from shooting at night, you see all the bright and shiny Terminator incarnations as cheap, showy, and paint-by-numbers. Even the comic books have failed me, to some degree (Terminator: Revolution shows us a poorly drawn opening sequence featuring John's new wife, "Tara Connor"). In the end, I find myself wanting James Cameron to blow the whistle on all this crap and make one more movie, just to shut everyone up.
At this point, with all this over-saturation, I think I'd take it. Even if the new Terminator threat would be in the form of an immense 1912 ocean liner.