A series in terminal decline

2009-06-08 00:00

IT seems that while the cyborgs cannot be easily terminated, neither can the franchise. There’s nothing more irritating than a film that is just mechanical (all puns intended) and loud and ends off so obviously setting up yet another Terminator. Strike one.

And for those who recall, this was the film where Christian Bale’s on-set rant at cinematographer Shane Hurlbut was leaked on the Internet. Bale got miffed with Hulbut’s light fiddling, which distracted him during the filming of an intense scene in the movie. And Bale sure is intense. In fact, that’s all he is. Strike two.

The movie that catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to the top of the Hollywood action men in 1984, spawned the second (T2: Judgement Day) in 1991 and third (T3: Rise of the Machines) in 2003, but this year Arnie appears only in a brief CG cameo in the fourth film in the franchise, Terminator Salvation.

The whole thing is a bit muddled, even for the hardcore fans (or “Termites” as they call themselves online), who badger the web forums trying to figure out what on Earth (all that’s left of it in T4) is going on. The film begins with a dialogue between a doctor battling cancer (Helena Bonham Carter) and a murderer on death row called Marcus (Sam Worthington). He signs his life away to science, and wakes years later in the midst of a war between humans and machines, or terminators. In the process he gets flung from helicopters, jet planes, trucks and cars and suffers hardly a scratch. Turns out he’s a machine inside, except for his super-strong heart, which is human.

Leading the human resistance is John Connor (Bale), the son of Sarah, from the previous films. John’s mission is to find his father Kyle Reese, who here is the teenager who befriends Marcus. And here’s the confusing part that has no explanation: the character Kyle Reese was killed in the first ‘Terminator’ film in 1984, but here we are in 2018 and he’s alive...?

Oh well, whatever. It’s just a film and you can do whatever you want with it.

But the real problem with T4 is that there’s not much to like about Bale’s John Connor, or at least the actor doesn’t give the audience much to like.

Worthington’s Marcus, as the “nu skool” cyborg with a human heart, is a far more interesting character, but Bale is the bigger actor. Poor director, caught in a quandary. What does he do? He just blows stuff up and hopes you’ll ignore the issue as well. Strike three.

** Ryan Calder

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