Just got back from watching Terminator: Salvation with the hubs in an actual movie theatre on an actual date eating actual popcorn. Date was cut short by a sick baby that hubs is currently putting to bed, so I thought I'd share my thoughts whilst waiting for him to continue our anniversary celebration. *wink wink, nudge nudge*
Oh, and before I forget -- do yourselves a favor. Go now and check out the trailer for Sherlock Holmes. The movie doesn't come out until Christmas, but I'm already making plans. Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams. Key-razy cool.
Ahem: here there be spoilers. If you do not want spoilers, then yes, it was good. Watch it. :)
Those were the first words that Kyle Reese says to Sarah Conner back in 1984. It caught me then, and it catches me today. Young Kyle Reese, played by an impressively diverse talent in Anton Yelchin (who also played Chekov in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek earlier this summer), delivers that line with equal passion and intensity to a very confused Marcus Wright just after he saves the befuddled man from being shredded by a T-600 in a deserted and devastated corner of L.A.
That phrase is one of the many that McG wisely decides to keep and repurpose in this 4th installment of the Terminator 'verse. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for this storyline. I'm not sure if it's the fated love, the apocalyptic overtones, the time-travel paradox, or the idea that there is a savior in all of us. But I was thoroughly entertained by all three of the previous movies, and this was no exception.
The foundation of this story is built on faith, if you think about it. You have to believe that the following is true in order to buy any of the story you see unfolding: Sarah Conner grew up, met Kyle Reese who claimed to have traveled back in time for her, ran away from crazy machines trying to kill her, made love to the broken hero, watched him die, found out that she was pregnant, realized that the baby was the savior of humankind, gave birth to said baby and named him John... and here is where it gets a bit tangled.
She names the baby John because her lover told her that he was sent back in time to protector her by John Conner--her son. Kyle had a picture taken of her in 1984 that she gave to John to give to Kyle so that he could see it and fall in love with it enough to travel back through time for Sarah. So, Sarah raises John as a soldier for the sake of humanities future based on the word of his late father that he is the one to pull them all through the coming war. John lives an unreal life, survives the death of his mother, the attack of not one but TWO Terminators after he was born, meets his wife, lives through Judgment Day, inspires the Resistance, saves teenaged Kyle Reese knowing that the kid is his father...
This means that John knowingly sends his father back in time to die at the hands of the Terminators he's spent his life surviving. It's head-spinningly tragic and has an almost Shakespearean beauty to it.
In this latest installment, it's 2018, post Judgment Day and the survivors of Skynet's nuclear attack have begun to fight back--with an impressive array of high-tech machinery for a group of rebels, I might add. I mean, even those fighting against the Empire in Star Wars didn't have that kind of high-tech equipment. Oh, and that brings up another random thought... if the machines were the enemy, how did the Resistance ensure that the machines THEY used didn't turn on them? Hmmm.
Anyway, McG elects for a faded, sun-drench look to the film. Everything is covered in sand and dust as the desert reclaims the territory. Clothing is reminiscent of The Postman with the strips of cloth in lieu of gloves and the layers of coats for protection as well as warmth. In the opening scene, we see Connor--played by a gaunt Christian Bale who never quite shakes off his Batman-esque growl--lose his entire squad on a mission to gather a 'critical' piece of intel.
He fights off a T-600 and is airlifted to safety, just before a mud-covered naked man emerges from the destruction to scream in pained confusion at the raining sky. Almost as impressive an entrance as Michael Biehn's naked plummet from who-knows-where. Almost.
The movie then splits. In one part we follow John Connor the soldier as he follows orders with barely-concealed contempt for his superior officers and secures a signal that can stop any Terminator--big or small--in its tracks long enough to kill it. What no one realizes until the climactic end, however, is that this signal was purposefully leaked to the Resistance and that it piggybacked a tracking devise that would ultimately lead Skynet to the Resistance’s HQ--an underwater submarine.
In the other part, we follow Marcus Wright, a murderer who was put to death in 2003 for causing the deaths of his brother and two policemen (unfortunately, we never find out the whole story there...) and signed over his body to 'science.' Because of the liberties that the trailers took, you go into the movie knowing that Marcus is somehow a human-Terminator hybrid. However, following Marcus as he is first saved by and then befriends and subsequently saves Kyle Reese and his mute traveling companion, a young girl named Star, you find yourself drawn to his tough, scared, confused, driven persona.
In fact, though he's always been in my top 8, I preferred watching Sam Worthington's performance of Marcus Wright over Christian Bale's version of John Connor. *ducks bolt of lightning*
The Connor story shows us that the man has earned the respect of his unit/squad, that his now-pregnant wife, Kate, is completely in love with him while also working as a doctor for the resistance, and that Connor still listens to his mother's advice and wisdom via the series of tapes she made for him before he was born. By way of a renegade radio signal, he reaches out to the pockets of humanity across the country (world?) offering them hope, letting them know that if they were hearing his voice, they were the Resistance, sharing tactics for taking down the T-600's.
In one such broadcast, Kyle Reese and Marcus Wright hear his voice and decide that they have to find him. Either Marcus' programming (which you don't know he has yet) or his past has given him a way with machinery and he's able to not only fix a short-wave radio that Kyle's father wasn't able to fix, but also start up a car that had been dead since Judgment Day. The moment he does, music spills from the speakers--presumably from a tape or CD as I highly doubt there were any radio stations broadcasting--and the moment is filled with Alice in Chains' "Rooster."
You got to know I grinned when Layne Staley's mournful growl uttered, "Ain't found a way to kill me yet..."
The music attracts the HK's (Hunter-Killers, which we learn in 1984 trapped, burned and scarred Kyle's back... or they will sometime after 2018... you know what I mean), and it's suddenly a run for their lives with some duck-worthy shots and explosions. To keep the guerrilla warfare-like feel of the film, McG alternated between a steady-cam, a mounted-on-the-chest-of-the-actor cam where you are looking up into their face, and a from-the-actors-viewpoint cam that made me have to grip my theatre seats from the motion.
Marcus, Kyle, and Star run across a small band of humans who have been hiding from the Terminators, unfortunately bringing the Terminators with them. Kyle has been marked for death--number one on the T-600's list. John being number two, of course. So, where he goes, they go, until they catch him (and Star) with a Transformer-like machine thingy that tosses the human prisoners into a big cage-like box to take them to Skynet.
Marcus is separated from Kyle and comes across a downed Resistance fighter pilot named Blair Williams. She convinces him to come with her to base and in the ensuing three(ish) day hike, Marcus saves her virtue and her life from three vagrants and the two cement an attraction. However, this connection is severed when they reach a Resistance minefield. The mines are magnetic, so Blair, thinking Marcus is human, takes them across and Marcus, also thinking he's human, follows. You can guess what happened.
A baffled, in-pain, blown up Marcus is hauled into the med center and I tell you, Sam Worthington's blue eyes caught me. I've never seen this dude before, but he captured my attention with an almost Jensen-esque way of spilling emotion just from his eyes. Almost. *wink*
Kate quickly discovers Marcus' secret and in a chilling shift moves from hubris to analysis--referring to Marcus as 'it' and not 'him' when explaining the intricate ways the human organs (heart, lungs, circulatory system) are interwoven with the skeletal structure and computer enhancements of the Terminators. They have strapped Marcus in a cross-position, chaining his head, and dangle him over a deep cistern.
John is talking to him in a hushed, horrified tone and when Marcus asserts that he is human, John frees Marcus' head allowing him the freedom to look down and see the horror that is his body. Marcus' scream of pained denial got to me. There is a scene where John and Marcus are face to face and we are viewing their profiles. Sam Worthington is Australian and Christian Bale is British and in this moment both actors are so intense that the pretense of American accents is all-but dropped and we hear the bite and slash of their true voices snap through.
A soldier on guard takes a shot at Marcus in revenge for his own brother's death and Marcus cries out in true agony. I am telling you, it really got to me. And, apparently, to Blair, because while John is back in his bunk area with Kate pondering the meaning of the thing that is Marcus, Blair is breaking him free.
A balls-to-the-walls dash and fight to kill Marcus ensues. Lots of gunfire and flashes. Action for the sake of action, really, but it was exciting. It culminates in John fighting off Hydro-Terminators in a river and Marcus--half his face burned away by what looked like a napalm strike--saves him. There is a tense confrontation where Marcus says that all he wants to do is get Kyle Reese out of Skynet--which is exactly what John wants, too. Something about Marcus' unwavering belief that he. is. human. gets John to trust him and they strike up a deal. Kate knows what John is going to do and asks him as he packs up his gear, "What do I tell your men when they realize you've gone?"
John pauses, turns, and with perfect delivery says, "I'll be back."
Marcus returns to Skynet--and his look of utter disappointment when the Terminators do not challenge him is heartbreaking. He synchs up with the mainframe computer, locates Kyle and sends the info back to John. While John is playing MI-6 and sneaking into the building, Marcus is learning what the hell happened to him, and catching up on the last 15 years of war and death. Skynet takes him and heals his human tissue, returning his face to normal, and he's confronted by the computer with the knowledge that he did exactly as he was programmed to do: seek out a target (Kyle, John) and bring them back to Skynet.
Marcus is devastated to learn that he betrayed John without even knowing it -- and that more than likely, he is going to be responsible for Kyle's death. He reaches back and literally rips open the back of his head, pulling out and crushing the computer chip that has been tracking him and transmitting all of his experiences.
Meanwhile, back at the Batcave... oh, sorry, wrong movie... John is freeing the human prisoners. Prior to going after Kyle with Marcus, he sent out a transmission to all of the Resistance fighters to NOT listen to command and attack Skynet, rather to wait and give him a chance to save their future--namely, get Kyle Reese the hell out of there. Much to the doomed command's chagrin, the people follow John's orders. So, heh.
The human prisoners flow around John like water, seeking escape. John is moving through the melee, screaming Kyle's name. As he fights off random Terminators, he falls, turning and we track up the often imitated, but never duplicated, Ahnold model Terminator. I kid you not. It's CG, but dude, it looks EXACTLY like Mr. Universe himself back in '84. Complete with the bad hairdo.
I thought this an interesting choice on the part of McG. Sure, it was cool seeing the original Terminator go after John like it had gone after Sarah in the first movie... but in the subsequent two movies, this model was actually friend and savior of John. In fact, in T2, little Edward Furlong, may he rest in peace, squeaked out a broken-voiced plea for him to stay and be a father-figure. So with that in mind, it would have been interesting to be inside the wounded John's head a bit when he first caught glimpse of the THING moving with Mike Meyers-like relentlessness to kill him.
In the confusion and struggle, John runs directly into an escaping Kyle Reese. John asks the kid his name, and when he hears it, relief swims like ripples through John's eyes. It's a moment when Christian Bale reminds us that he is an Actor, ladies and gentlemen. Nicely done.
More fighting, more pain, more struggling and John shoves Kyle and Star (who had snaked a detonator from a pile of nuclear power cells earlier) into an elevator. Kyle shrieks, "No, I won't leave you!" John replies, "You didn't!" That's probably the best subtle, thanks for traveling back in time to father me, save my mom, and die, Dad, that I've ever heard.
John is swiftly losing his fight against Ahnold when Marcus, now dressed in a Resistance uniform, saves his handsome ass. Now stripped of his fake skin, the ruthless Terminator bashes Marcus up a bit before honing in on his strong, swiftly beating human heart. One powerful punch to the chest and Marcus is classified as terminated. John fights the T-600 more, trying to melt him in liquid metal, freeze him with what looks like dry ice, and is too wounded to outright kill him. Or maybe I should be saying It. He crawls to Marcus' still body, trying to beat him to life.
Pulling some cables from a machine, John basically jump-starts Marcus' heart once more, bringing him back to life seconds before what looks like rebar is shoved through John's chest from the back. I actually clapped my hand over my mouth at that. I did NOT see that coming. Marcus gets up and basically rips the Terminator's head from its body, then picks up the dying Connor and gets them out to the waiting helicopter. Oh, I forgot, earlier, during all the fighting, struggling, John had called for air support.
Kyle, Star, Kate and Blair are there and they lift away after John and Marcus climb on board. Star slips the detonator into John's limp hand and KA-BOOM. The nuclear power cells blow the San Francisco-based Skynet Terminator factory to bits, and all human prisoners that could get out did get out. However, all is not the happy ending.
The wound in John's chest is mortal--his heart can't take the abuse. Kate is choked and tearful as she tells Connor's men and Kyle. A weak Connor brings Kyle close and gives him an official Resistance coat, telling him he's earned it. Marcus, watching from the sidelines, walks up to Kate and offers his heart. Blair doesn't like this idea so much, but Marcus wants a second chance. Star slips her little hand into Marcus' mechanical one and Kyle simply looks at him with red-rimmed, tear-filled eyes. *Gaelic swallows hard*
In an outside, M.A.S.H.-like hospital, Kate the former Veterinarian performs a heart transplant from a human-Terminator hybrid and saves her husband's life. If you completely suspend all reality, the moment is meaningful. What, ultimately, makes us human? Our 'hearts.' Not the organ, but the willingness to sacrifice, to love, to show mercy...
The movie wraps with the famous, "There is no fate but what we make," line that Sarah ingrained into John's psyche. It's rather obvious there will be more with Christian Bale in the title role, but I'm a bit sad that Sam Worthington's Marcus will not be back. I really liked him.
Then again, what am I saying? Ahnold's Terminator was destroyed in all three movies, and yet, as he promised, he came back. Guess you never know.