Friday, January 1, 2010

Terminator Salvation: A Compelling Time Travel Story Nonetheless

I saw Terminator Salvation on DVD last night, and, contrary to the ton of criticism and weak box office it received last summer, I thought the movie was pretty good - powerful, intellectually provocative, with fine action scenes. It was not as good as the first two Terminator movies, to be sure, but it was better in some ways that the third Terminator, and makes an important contributor to the overall Terminator story and lore.

The action takes place at a time in the future when John Connor is high in the resistance command, but has not yet taken command, and has not yet sent Kyle Reese back to save Sarah Connor from the bad Arnold T-800 Terminator. But the most compelling character is someone/something new - Marcus Wright, first seen as a prisoner being executed in 2003 (before the rise of the machines), but who turns up in the future in the same time as John Connor. Turns out Marcus hasn't time traveled, though. He's been rebuilt into a half-human, half-machine - a cyborg - but by whom? And for what purpose? With the characteristics of both human and machine, Marcus makes for the perfect infiltrator - he can pass as human (until a machine-killing mine unveils him), and as a machine (able to pass Skynet scans). If the humans had created him, Marcus would be an ideal destroyer of Skynet, and vice versa. The denouement hinges of what Marcus really is, and is played out just right.

There's no time travel in this Terminator movie, which for me is unfortunate, but the John Connor we see has lived through the earlier Terminator movies - he knows he will later have to send Kyle back to save his mother, and become his father - and this makes Kyle, a teenager at this time, the person to most need protection and saving in this story. Early on, we and John Connor learn that John is the second most wanted human on Skynet's hit list, and Kyle is the first. Which makes sense, because if Skynet kills John Connor but leaves Kyle alive, he could conceivably still go back in time and father another John Connor with Sarah. Thus, even though there is no time travel per se in this story, it informs the story in a way that makes it a fine, harrowing, paradoxically pummeling time travel narrative anyway. (One of my commentators in this blog, "radabad," wonders why Skynet didn't just kill Kyle when it had him in custody, instead of using Kyle as lure to get John. See my response, in the 5th comment below.)

No mention is made of any of The Sarah Connor Chronicles in Terminator Salvation, but nothing in the movie contradicts what we saw on television for two years, and we do get to see a good minute of bad Arnold in the movie. All in all, if you're a Terminator and/or time travel buff, I highly recommend Terminator Salvation. Don't listen to the critics. They don't know it, but they were probably programmed to dislike it.






6-min podcast review of Terminator Salvation

See also reviews of The Sarah Connor Chronicles 2.1 Cameron's Back ... 2.2 Firing on All Cylinders ... 2.3 Who, Truly, Is Agent Ellison? ... 2.4: Meet Allison ... 2.5: Unpacking the Future ... 2.6: Terminator Mom, Human Daughter ... 2.7: The Saving Robbery and Cromartie ... 2.8 Perspectives and Death ... 2.9: An Idiot's Guide to Time Travel in The Sarah Connor Chronicles ... 2.10: Riley Lashes Out at Facebook ... 2.11: Cameron Meets A. E. Housman and Andre Bazin ... 2.12 Sarah Connor Chronicles in Triple Time ... 2.13: Space, Time, and Blogging in The Sarah Connor Chronicles ... 2.18: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the Life of Riley ... 2.20: Sarah Connor vs. Death in Two Forms ... 2.21: Profound Lessons from a Kidnapping in The Sarah Connor Chronicles
... The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2 Finale

And from Season 1: The Sarah Connor Chronicles 1 and 2 ... 3 ... 4. A Robot Primer ... 5 ... 6 ... 7 ... 8-9







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