Sunday, 21 June 2009

Robot future-world declared "not so bad"

Terminator Salvation is fine. I know, I know—I’m surprised myself. Thanks to the uniformly savage reviews, I was looking forward to an absolute cinematic debacle; it was going to be one of those films that mixes up a heady brew of OTT violence, eyeball-perforating visuals and terrifying apocalyptic themes, only to arrive at a compound whose overall effect is simply to instil a feeling of near-catatonic boredom in whoever consumes it (a.k.a Christopher Nolan Syndrome). That I was prepared for…what I actually got was a passable sci-fi action movie. In short, I was fooled by the hype.

Crucially, the story holds together fairly well. No doubt legions of fan boys (of the type you’ll find on IMDB forums complaining that the T700 at the beginning of the film has been mislabelled in the Official Companion as a T600) have already picked apart its numerous subtle inconsistencies, but I didn’t find anything particularly jarring. It’s true that some of the protagonists behave strangely in order to get the film from points A to B, but then you can’t act out-of-character when there isn’t a character to begin with. That’s just good old-fashioned economical film making.

It also helps that Marcus, the machine-man hybrid guy, is pretty likeable. Much more likeable than he has any right to be, in fact—the actor Sam Worthington manages a good mix of ruggedness and vulnerability that’s almost enough to make his under-developed back-story (“My brother and two cops are dead because of me,” The End) seem like an actual narrative device rather than simple laziness. And speaking of machine-man hybridity, why was this potentially great twist given away in the trailer? Nothing in the film explicitly points to his being a cyborg until the precise moment of revelation; it’s like somebody stepped in at the last minute and said “man-robots are totally in this year—you have to have one in the ad campaign.”

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