|INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)||
|Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for a limited audience.|
American Idol Season 4:
Behind-the-Scenes Fan Book
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
Things did not go well for humans at the conclusion of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and McG, the director of "Salvation," has done all he can with 4 to pull off a salvation after three years to think about it. If there's no future to the series after this, it'll be on his plate. And, if there is such a demise, it'll allow us to remember the first three--classics of the genre--with great fondness.
Of course, the opposite goes if loud, pounding, grinding, colliding and exploding metal is what you seek for your batteries to recharge; if you can keep track of why human survivors never managed to gain control over the cyborgs despite Arnold Schwarzenegger's best efforts; and if the people of 2018 are little more than stubbornly breathing targets who can run and hide and call themselves the resistance. But for the greater number of us, characters who are given so little beyond the story outline are a problem.
Skynet, in part, has now become a factory to produce endless numbers of mindless, morality-free slaves of circuit boards and a hidden frequency to receive their orders and anti-enemy intel. These are some very well-endowed monstrosities.
Having become aware 14 years earlier that one John Connor (here Christian Bale, "Batman Begins") would be the human who would destroy them, Skynet attempted to head off that destiny by sending Terminator T-800 (Schwarzenegger, "Terminator") to end Sarah Connor's life before she conceives her son. But, as we know, T-800 retained enough morality from his natural side that it was possible to reprogram him to guard her instead ("Terminator 2"). T-800 then came up up against increasingly superior machines (like the T-1000 melting man and the alluring T-X by Kristanna Loken) and, by now, it's been consigned to the scrap heap, completely outmoded. It makes a cameo appearance for old times' sake.
After a number of scenes showing the combat advantages the metallic monsters have over the few remaining humans who call themselves the "resistance," the impossibility of gaining a foothold--let alone a chance to annihilate them--seems remote. Connor looks for a best approach by replaying his mother's tapes of guidance which she made before she died.
Marcus is strong and handsome, and can fix just about anything mechanical. The last thing in the world you want to do is go up against him. But for Connor, the stranger is a matter for deep concern. He can trust this guy only when his back is to the wall and even when his associates, including his wife Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard) offer their advice against granting it. Only the take-no-prisoners Blair Williams (sensual Moon Bloodgood) sees him as good and worthy of trust but, then, she's seen his human side and has become involved with the guy.
Finally, manning his own resistance cell, there's gutsy and resourceful Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, "Star Trek") who must be saved at all costs because he's destined to be sent back in time to help save Sarah Connor. Kyle is accompanied by Star (Jadagrace Berry), a nine-year old girl with the ability to sense the presence of a Terminator before it appears. Nice.
No easy screenplay to write, and that duty fell to John Brancato and Michael Ferris ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines") for McG to direct. But somewhere between 3 and 4 the human factor was diminished for the sake of the chase action, the bullets, and the machinery, which are conveyed without a doubt as to what can be unleashed. We're very impressed with the threats, the sounds and the dangers. In fact, we're at a loss to explain how these humans stand a chance, how they can get through such unceasing walls of ballistics and demonic speed of their intended slayers.
The only "small" episode that takes the time to portray some emotion other than fear, anger and loss is the attraction that develops between Blair and Marcus. But even that hint of potential intimacy and romance becomes another device to create more havoc.
What's missing in the chemistry of this movie are the qualities of vulnerability and imperfection so ably rendered by Schwarzenegger as he proves more human than mechanical. The dilemma that helped make the series so intriguing and singular is gone. There's no one in sight who is allowed to engage us so completely on this journey with humanoid proclivities. Skynet learned its lesson and the writers of this continuation didn't remember or value high enough what a vital element the dual nature of a cyborg implies.
Gone, too, is the anticipation of a catastophic world future--we're already there--and the reasonable possibility that one human being has the power to reverse the horrors to come. What's left for humanity seems to be the single-minded effort to thwart the machines' hunt to kill them. So, it's almost full time defense and strategy with little to no time for unguarded intimacy.
Bale adopts the passioneless tenor of the robots and inspires little of the sympathy so vital for his central role. He conveys more toughness than his predecessor in the role at the cost of a portrayal that is distant and aloof. He barely relates to wife Kate and clearly doesn't see the need to address audience sympathy for his character. When you consider the cold manner of this action player you may well ask, "where is Nick Stahl when you need him?"
A blasting soundtrack by Danny Elfman quickens the pulse and all visual artistry is top notch. But they've lost track of why the original Terminators were cyborgs and not robots, as they are here. Which wipes out our admiration and fear over their ever increasing threat level against those we care for. In other words, they used to engage us viscerally, and here they don't. The odds have shifted, and this doesn't serve the drama well. Let's face it, our humans get through hails of ordnance only because the writers will it so.
On the human side, what's needed are a few more bullet-free moments when people show us something inside that involve us where we live. (There is a cyborg in the mix but it's not a Terminator and doesn't act like one).
But, despite all that, revenues will no doubt amass as payoff for the more dimensional earlier installments, and will prevent the termination of the Terminators.
~~ Jules Brenner