Poorly-written Terminator Salvation review: I saw it last night because I (well, my husband, actually :) is awesome

I was lucky enough to attend an early screening of “Terminator Salvation” last night, courtesy of the Chicago Nerd Social Club and my husband‘s ridiculous body of movie trivia knowledge (especially when it comes to Terminator), which was the means by which we wound up winning six passes.

Due to a parking mishap (trying to park in downtown Chicago is generally a mishap to begin with), we wound up near the end of the line and nearly didn’t make it into the theatre. Somebody announced to the line that the screening was at capacity, and that no one else would be let in (the tickets stated that they overbook these events to ensure a full theatre, just like those bastard airlines do). People at the front of the line, however, were not budging, for whatever reason, so we stuck around (while many others left, unfortunately including, I believe, a couple others from the CNSC who would ultimately have been let in) figuring there must be some conflicting information passing around. Turns out that despite all the nasty fine print on our tickets, we had seats reserved for us, and were ushered past all the other poor saps who had obviously also spent too much time looking for parking. Damn fine seats they were, too. Richard Roeper wound up sitting directly behind us, because although we had those two empty seats left in our row, he didn’t want to bother us to move over.

(There were, by the way, a bunch of empty seats left in the theatre during the movie. In the very front, but hey. I know they would have been gladly occupied. Very organized system you’ve got going there, AMC!)

So anyway. Zee movie. I must point out that although I very much liked and have seen the first three movies at least a zillion times, and every episode of the television series, I am not a qualified fanatic. My husband can claim that status, and as far as I know, he is still processing what he’s seen, and hasn’t come to a final determination as to his opinion. He’ll be seeing the movie at least two more times, he expects. To me, this indicates that he didn’t think the movie was bad (he stated that it didn’t “burn his retinas like ‘Alien vs. Predator'”, or something along those lines), but that he was expecting more out of it (perhaps unrealistically, with a little bit of wishful thinking, too much build-up during the wait for the release, and a veil of nostalgia which no doubt makes the first two films seem better today than if he hadn’t seen them as a child — what can ever hope compare to fond memories from our childhood?)

So this is coming from someone who basically watched “Terminator Salvation” as just another action movie, albeit one with a series of predecessors that do rank high on my list (minus some lines that they definitely could have left out of T3).

First of all, even I found myself losing my suspension of disbelief a number of times about nitpicky details and plot points, so I’m sure hardcore fans will have a lot more of that sort of thing to complain about. But I’m perhaps more prone to that sort of thing than the average person to begin with, since I’m logically-minded and have grown up consuming a lot of hard (read: sciencey) sci-fi. Everyone in my family was a Star Trek fan, and some of that nitpickiness certainly wore off on me, too. Considering these facts, most of those sorts of issues that I have can probably be written off…

I had two more reasonable problems with the movie, and they’re 1000% related. The writing and direction assume, as do most media these days, that the audience has no attention span whatsoever. The intervals between the countless firey, orange explosions were very short indeed. The constant action came at the expense of adequate plot and character development. I wouldn’t have expected the plot to be terribly complex given the nature of the movie, but I thought that characterization was brushed over detrimentally.

I realize that many of the characters were already known to us from the earlier films, so they should be somewhat familiar to us. However, we’re winessing them in a different time period, in situations that couldn’t possibly be more far removed from those we saw them in pre-Judgement Day, and they’re at different stages of their life (i.e. Kyle Reese is still a teenager in the movie, which is set in 2018). The characters and situation the movie throws at us deserved more back-story. I felt like I wanted more explanation as to what happened after Judgement Day, and how the characters wound up where they were, than the few brief lines of text that scrolled by forming the transition from 2003 to 2018.

There were also, of course, many smaller parts in the film to provide characters as obstacles or Terminator-bait. Some of these characters appeared prominently enough that I wanted to know more about them, but none of their stories were fleshed out, and their scenes seemed incomplete or uneccessary. Either don’t focus on them at all, or do something interesting with them!

But besides alllllll of that whining, I came out of the movie feeling good about it, so I don’t mean any of the above terribly harshly. Their attempt to hold the viewers’ suffering attention spans was successful, and I didn’t notice myself becoming bored at any point. The movie felt shorter than it actually was, which generally means I at least had fun watching it. The acting was satisfactory enough, during the moments the focus moved away from simply blowing shit up (I mean, I don’t think anyone really had to challenge themselves much in that respect). Christian Bale is still freakin’ hot, so win. And we all got a kick out of digital Arnold’s cameo, and his marvelous 1984-hairdo…