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Terminator Salvation(2009)

Spoiler Grumbles
WARNING: Please do not continue reading unless you have either seen the movie or do not mind having it spoiled.

Though the action is phenomenal and just gets bigger and bigger to the end, the movie fails to satisfy with a proper climax. After starting the action with a Bale robot fight and steadily intensifying to an all out, explosive man hunt for an escaped prisoner, the action takes one giant step back in the form of the Arnold cameo. Skynet had been waiting many years for the opportunity to get John Connor into their clutches, and when they finally succeed, their best weapon of destruction is an unarmed, naked, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Really? You mean to tell me that Skynet didn't have any sort of automated guns that could have done the job? At least another robot? Skynet could certainly spare two robots to assassinate the man prophesized to bring about its doom.

Not only is Arnold a little disappointing for the job (though I can't deny that the digital cameo was quite entertaining), he is the only robot in Skynet that believes throwing your enemy repeatedly into walls is the most efficient way to kill him. Again, really? Arnold lumbers over a fallen John Connor, and just when you think the Terminator is actually going to terminate something, the robot picks John up and throws him into a wall 20 feet away. This goes on for about 10 minutes until Marcus, the good robot, joins the fight. Then we get to see a nice inconsistency with the brutality of the T-800 model. When fighting Marcus, Arnold changes his strategy from throwing the enemy into walls to crushing his heart with a metal fist. In fact, as John Connor sets up some explosives, we can see Arnold bludgeoning the good robot with a concrete block repeatedly in the background. Needless to say, Marcus doesn't survive this encounter. However, we watch this efficient kill strategy seamlessly dissolve as Arnold's attention is turned back to Connor, where he resorts back to the knock-around method. Though this scene was not completely unentertaining, it was a poor climax choice for the film. Fortunately the movie closes with a large scale explosion for good measure. (Are we sure Michael Bay didn't direct this :-D)

Another major gripe with this film is that it is going to be a trilogy. Will I enjoy the trilogy? Of course! But I know that extending an inadequate storyline out over three movies always results in disaster (Did someone say ‘The Matrix’?). Especially a story line as simple as “find the robot head quarters and destroy it”. In fact, I would even argue that this simple plot line could have made one great movie if enough creative effort was put into it. But Hollywood is too cocky for that. They are so sure that we are going to like what they feed us, that they are going to give us seconds and thirds. But deep down inside, we all know that the story is a little shallow. Hence, Marcus Wright. Like us, Warner Bros wondered how they could drag this simple plot out for three blockbusters; and out of the creative fires, Marcus was born. What better way to fill an hour of script than with a half-man, half-robot that wanders the desert, fights stuff, and has long moments of self reflection. Again, I didn’t mind too much, but in all honesty, what a waste. If the studio wanted 'Salvation' to be a cinematic success as T:2 was, they needed to structure more substantial plot. My suggestion for how T:4 could have been one solid movie:

• Start at a later time or have Kyle Reese be older (the reasons to be revealed later)
• Though I loved the opening sequence of 'Salvation', the new movie I’m proposing would need to be faster paced, so it would need to start with the rescue of Kyle from Skynet (if the rescue is still in the script). Now we start with a sweet action sequence and a big explosion of San Fran Skynet.
• By this time we will have had the Arnold Cameo and enough background info to suck viewers into the plot.
• I’m tallying 20-25 mins so far.
• Take a break from the action and do some character development especially the relationship between John Connor and his wife, Kate. It is during this time that we would also get a better understanding of how the resistance functions.
• Kyle is another character that would need some developing during this time.
• I’m clocking 45-50 minutes now. If we throw in a random action sequence, let’s put it at an hour.
• It is now time for the dramatic entrance of the T-1000 (I guess another digital cameo of Robert Patrick).
• Hopefully this new robot would be involved in a series of really cool action sequences as John’s resistance is in-route to the Global Headquarters of Skynet.
• At some point during this whole ordeal, the discovery of time travel will be made, the resistance will learn to reprogram robots and acquire Arnold, and a T-1000 will be sent back in time to kill John, and the resistance will send Arnold to protect him.
• Shortly thereafter, the "Advanced Robot Production Facility" will be destroyed and Skynet will only have older robot models available for combat.
• We are probably at about 2 hours by this point.
• The movie will climax with the resistance destroying the robot headquarters, but not before Skynet makes one last ditch effort to kill John by sending the T-800 back in time to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor, before his birth.
• The movie will close with a sentimental moment as Kyle volunteers to go back in time to protect Sarah and save John with the full knowledge that he can’t return to the present. Made all the sadder by the fact that the war is won and Kyle can’t partake in the freedom.
• The total time of the movie running about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Boom! This is the formula for a movie that wastes no time, and gets the job done. I know pushing 3 hours is no good and that the plot seems pretty dense, but can anyone think of another movie that was long with a dense plot? Ahem…the ‘Dark Knight'. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that the movie was a huge success.
But then again, I’m just a dude, what do I know.

(Notice, I do not mention Terminator 3 anywhere in this review. We all know why.)

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