My halfhearted attempt to avoid summer blockbusters has been thwarted by the simple desire to have companions at the movies. Terminator Salvation won out two to one over Anvil, and I only shrugged my shoulders in protest. Leaving the film with a pulsing machine drone in my head, it was clear I made the right decision: Terminator might just be the best comedy of the summer.
I'm sure that I have seen all three Terminators prior to this one, but I sincerely forgot where we left off or the nuances of the narrative threads. John Connor is still alive, but momma's boy is having trouble, namely with those darn machines again. As the heartbeat of the resistance, Connor faces a new nemesis who is poised to challenge his living messiah status: prototype Marcus Wright, part death row villain, part Skynet machine. Connor might have the corner on the inspiring speeches, but Marcus is way, way more cool. Connor wants to be his friend, but Marcus is a machine! What is he to do? That's when he pulls out the cassette tapes and his vintage player-recorder circa 1985 and listens to his Mom's audio diaries just one more time in search of a clue. Salvation! Find Dad and kill the machines!
Christian Bale, wow, does he have some funny soliloquies. But what I like best is his new Corleone manner of talking. I know he was working on this in Batman, but by gosh, I think he has it down in Terminator. When he first confronts Marcus on his very obvious machine-ness, it was just like seeing Dubya confront Saddam Hussein while channeling Don Vito Corleone. Oscar winning material, my friends.
Taking a bite out of Bale's comedy routine is the burning apocalyptic aesthetic, that at moments, had me hoping that The Road would look as convincing. Like Oshima back in the day, McG has eliminated green from his pallet in Salvation (except for Kate Connor's eyes, that is.) And then there are the machines: very unemotional and very loud and my favorite part of the film by a long shot. I can't help rooting for the machines, especially when they are as crazy cool as the big one that shows up at the gas station.
Having just read an article about Ray Kurzweil (that went much better than me trying to read his book), I wondered how the Terminators fit into his singularity. Is the the future he envisions? I don't think so. I think his future is a little more optimistic. Mine is a little more pessimistic. If the machines have their way, we won't have a chance, especially against those shooting motorcycle ones.
If you are having a hard time taking me seriously, this is exactly how I felt watching Terminator Salvation. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know: it's not supposed to be serious. Well, don't tell that to Christian Bale. He will get mad. The high production values, big explosions, even bigger sounds (I think it is one of the loudest movies I have ever been to) are all good summer fun, but I think it takes itself maybe a tad too seriously. Lighten up on the melodrama, please.
I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but the joining of forces between Marcus Wright and John Connor may be the beginning of something very beautiful. After getting all worked up by seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger naked ala T-800, Marcus and John find a male bonding that few men will ever be able to understand. I am just sure that there was a pre-op kiss that was cut from the film, because you can just feel the love. Like John Connor says, what makes us human is the strength of our beating hearts. If you are listening, you are the resistance.