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Tag: Terminator

Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Terminator: Salvation

October 16, 2020

The Terminator films have been living in their own shadow ever since Terminator 2. Sitting at an impressive 8.5 on IMDb, it built on the foundations of the original, introduced the iconic T-1000, and advanced special effects forever. Which to be fair, is quite hard to beat. It’s little wonder then that the following instalments have been considered disappointments. With three different attempts at launching a new trilogy, and desperately trying to live up to its own legacy, it’s future is uncertain

Back in 2009, after the disappointing third instalment, came Terminator: Salvation. Moving on from Judgement Day, the post-apocalyptic war with the machines is in full swing, and Batman is John Connor. While Bale’s infamous rant is more well-remembered than the film itself, several other sequels have come and gone. Salvation currently sits at a 6.5 on IMDb, the highest of any post T2. So is it really that bad?

“There is no fate but what we make”

Christian Bale as John Connor and Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese are highlights (Columbia Pictures, 2009)
Christian Bale as John Connor and Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese are highlights (Columbia Pictures, 2009)

Salvation is set in the distant future of 2018. Judgement Day has been and gone, Skynet is at war with humanity. John Connor is all grown up and fighting the machines. Which seems like the natural next step for the series and actually seeing the future is pretty cool. Some of the new terminator designs are also interesting, but nothing comes close to the T-800 or T-1000. Christian Bale makes Connor the figure he is described as in the original. Likewise, Yelchin’s Kyle Reese is an interesting younger version of the one we know. As a premise, that’s pretty solid and interesting.

The film focuses on Marcus, a criminal who sold his body to science and wakes up in this dark future. Upon his resurrection, he meets Kyle Reese, who is looking for the resistance. John Connor meanwhile has a plot to destroy Skynet and the film jumps between these two stories. All seems pretty promising so far. Unfortunately, Marcus isn’t much of a character. This is likely due to rewrites, where John Connor appeared briefly at the end before his role was expanded. But the most interesting thing about him is the obvious twist – he’s a terminator. It does actually seem like a logical jump, after all, the T-800 learnt to about being human. But the film never does much with it

“We’ve been at war since before either of us even existed”

Sam Worthington in Terminator: Salvation
A Terminator who think he’s human is an interesting idea (Columbia Pictures, 2009)

The reveal that Marcus is a terminator, while interesting, is blindingly obvious. It does lead to an interesting exchange with Connor when the two finally meet, but when the evil plan is revealed to Marcus, it’s too late to care. It also makes little sense, with Kyle Reese already being a prisoner, the machines can just kill him and win. No going back in time so no John Connor. Game over.

Despite the weak plot, the action itself is serviceable, except for the finale. The final battle opts for the usual terminator in a factory battle, like every other film in the series. Except for this time, Arnie is CG because he was busy. Like the rest of the film, it looks the part but isn’t particularly inventive. The final battle, despite supposedly the whole resistance launching an assault, only features John and Marcus. Even Kyle Reese, who most of the film has revolved around in some form, sits out the fight.

The ending is perhaps a microcosm of the film itself, a lot of potential and interesting ideas but not wanting to alienate fans. After being mortally wounded by the T-800, John Connor is dying. Earlier drafts of the script featured Marcus taking on his likeness to continue his legacy and inspire hope. An even darker ending would have “John Connor” proceed to kill everyone. While these would certainly be controversial twists, at least they would be memorable and make an impact. As is, Marcus sacrifices himself to save John Connor and…that’s it. The heroes fly away, and the credits roll

Was it really that bad?…. Yes

Despite having some adequate dumb action scenes, the characters are so uninteresting that there is no reason to care what happens to them. The events of the film don’t seem to make much of an impact on the character or the war. Nor does it add anything to the previous entries. It just feels rather mechanical. There is a great deal of potential here, it’s just a shame none of it is realised. Perhaps in an alternate timeline, this would be a much better film.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad?: Jennifer’s Body

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Editorials

The Film Fan’s Guide To Time Travel

September 27, 2020
Time Travel in Movies

Christoper Nolan’s latest film is the epic Tenet which plays a lot with the idea of time and moving through time. This has long been a feature of Nolan’s films – whether explicitly messing with time like in Interstellar or the non-linear storytelling of Memento. But Nolan is hardly the first filmmaker to explore time travel, with some saying the first time travel movie A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court from 1921. What lessons can a film fan learn should they ever find themselves travelling in time?

Protect The Timeline

Back to the Future 2
Back To The Future Part II (youtube.com) the altered timeline where Biff is rich and powerful

We would all do well to remember Abe Simpson’s advice to his son Homer on his wedding day “If you ever travel back in time, don’t step on anything because even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can’t imagine.” A dire warning issued to virtually every time traveller is to protect the timeline – do not do anything that will change the present or future. This is explored wonderfully in Back To The Future Part II, Marty buys a sports almanac in the future with the idea of using it to place winning bets in his present. Unfortunately, the almanac winds up in the hands of villain Biff who gives it to his younger self. When Marty returns to his present he finds a very different Hill Valley, beset with crime and corruption in which multi-millionaire Biff essentially runs the town, his mother is married to Biff and his father is dead – later revealed to have been murdered by Biff. The rest of the film is Marty and Doc trying to restore the original timeline by getting the almanac back.

Beware of Paradoxes

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (cinemablend.com)

There are a number of paradoxes that can beset the unwary time traveller – the most famous being The Grandfather Paradox and the Bootstrap Paradox. The Terminator franchise is a classic example of the Bootstrap Paradox, taking it’s name from the literal impossibility of a person “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps”. Essentially this is when by going back in time you invent or create something that already existed in your time – meaning it’s actual moment of creation is lost in a paradox. In The Terminator franchise a war is raging between humans and machines in the distant future (the year 1997), the computers send a killer robot, a terminator, back in time to kill the mother of the human leader. This terminator is defeated and destroyed…or nearly destroyed, parts of it are salvaged by a company who then go on to create the very computer system fighting humankind. The groundbreaking technology that enabled the creation of artificial intelligence is only possible because that artificial intelligence sent an example of it back in time. Given that there are now six Terminator films as well as a television series the complicated overlapping timelines and paradoxes are essentially nonsensical and any attempt to tell a story has been abandoned.

The setup for The Grandfather Paradox is suitably demonstrated in the Back to the Future trilogy, this time with the first instalment. Marty travels back in time and interrupts the meeting of his parents, thus erasing himself from the timeline. In the film, Marty begins to fade from reality. The paradoxical nature of what he has done is never explored but essentially if Marty erases himself from history then his parents will successfully meet, then he will exist, so he will go back in time, interrupt the meeting and will no longer exist and so on forever. Of course, Back to the Future adds the weird and creepy element of your own mother developing a crush on you, taken to the logical conclusion in Futurama with The Grandmother Paradox – where Fry travels back in time, kills his grandfather and then sleeps with his grandmother, becoming his own grandfather.

The Future Isn’t Necessarily Going To Be Better

The Time Machine
The Time Machine (youtube.com) Behold – the future of the human race

In our modern times looking back at the past it can sometimes seem like we’ve be on an almost inevitably upward trajectory of progress – both scientific and social. This is wrong. There is no reason to suppose the future would be better than the present. Few time travel films portray this better than the 1960 classic The Time Machine, based on H.G. Wells’ novel. Setting off from Victorian England the protagonist travels forward in time and while at first he sees the march of science and progress things turn bad, at some point in the 1960s there is a terrible, world-wide calamity, seemingly brought on by humankind itself in which the world is covered in lava. Finally stopping in the far distant future when the lava is gone he finds the eloi, a group of beautiful people but who seem to understand little of the world and laze around waiting for food to be delivered. The protagonist learns that the eloi are little more than cattle for the subterranean morlocks, ugly monstrous creatures but have vastly more intellect. In fact both the eloi and the morlocks are the descendants of the human race, each taking a diverging path. Our future could contain killer robots, a world-ending plague or maybe nothing at all.

Getting Things Right

Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day (inquirer.com) Phil and Phil on the run

Time travel offers unique opportunities to get things right the second time around. Action sci-fi blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow (also known as Live. Die. Repeat) starred Tom Cruise as a soldier, Cage, infected by alien blood who travels back in time each time he dies, reliving the same day. This is the alien’s ultimate weapon that allows them to avoid defeat by learning and changing their tactics appropriately. Cage is transformed from manipulative PR coward into a battle-hardened hero by repeatedly dying, slowly getting better. Groundhog Day is one of the best films ever made and while it doesn’t even attempt to look at the science or magic or whatever of time travel, it investigates what it might do to a person. Arrogant and selfish weatherman Phil Connors is trapped in a seemingly endless loop, repeating the same day over and over again. Connors goes through a variety of stages from enjoying the absence of consequences, to using his future knowledge to get money and sex, to becoming suicidal from the never-ending sameness of it all to eventually becoming a better man. What both films show, amongst other things, is that an ability to know the future, even just a few hours, can give you immense powers. To others Cage seems damn near indestructible, knowing where wreckage will fall from the sky or where aliens are hiding to Connors performing perfectly timed bank heists where no one even knows a robbery has been committed or simply getting every answer on Jeopardy. In Edge of Tomorrow Cage dies on screen 24 times, but it is suggested the total is a lot higher. Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis has put out that he thinks Connors was stuck in the same day for somewhere between thirty and forty years.

It is perhaps unlikely any of us will be called upon our knowledge of time travel learned from movies but hopefully, if you are, this will have been a helpful guide.

Also Read: Flashpoint: The Defining Film of the DCEU

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Editorials

Androids And The Actors That Play Them

August 23, 2019
Love-Death-Robots

A staple of the science fiction genre, robots and androids can sometimes be interchangeable, (although there is a difference). They are often some of the most iconic characters in a science fiction story, whether that be because of their unique design or their personality, there are many memorable machines in films brought to life by talented actors, this list takes a look at a wide variety of the spectrum, including robots, androids, cyborgs and everything in between.

“C-3P0” played by Anthony Daniels (Star Wars)

Daniels has portrayed Threepio in several projects outside of the live-action films

C-3P0, along with his companion R2-D2 are the first characters we are introduced to in “Star Wars”, and have appeared in every chapter of the saga since, including a cameo in spin-off “Rogue One”. Daniels has played the droid in over 20 different projects since the original film. He is also the only actor to appear in all nine films in the main Star Wars saga, all the more impressive when the first film was released in 1977, and that he wasn’t a science fiction fan. Despite their numerous adventures together in space, Daniels reportedly did not always get along with his costar.

“Ava” played by Alica Vikander (Ex Machina)

Promo image for Ex Machina, featuring Ava (Universal Pictures, 2014)

Ava is an android designed with artificial intelligence, so advanced that she is capable of independent thought and consciousness. The android challenges the traditional “Turing Test”, a common method used to determine if a machine has consciousness used in tons of science fiction by her body clearly being mechanical. Vikander was nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for her role as Ava. She later went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in “The Danish Girl” the following year. While she had some success in her native Sweden, “Ex Machina” was a role that made her a name in other countries.

“Alita” played by Roza Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel)

Rosa Salazar as Alita (20th Century Fox 2019)

Alita is based on the Japanese manga of the similar name. Originally James Cameron’s passion project Robert Rodriguez eventually took over. Alita is based in a near-future where most people have cybernetic enhancements. Alita herself is a highly advanced combat unit, rescued and rebuilt who slowly gains her memories over the course of the film. Salazar plays the character via a mix of motion capture and CGI, with the cyborgs look inspired by the original manga and anime, with the medium’s traditionally large eyes transferring into live-action as a tribute, as well as reinforcing the idea the Alita isn’t human.

“T-800” played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator)

The Terminator is a metal endoskeleton, that disguises itself as a human in order to carry out its mission (Tristar pictures, 1991)

Arguably the most iconic character on this list, the T-800 is a killing machine from the year 2025 (or whatever year the updated timeline moved things to), it disguises itself as a human and is incredibly durable. Although it is his most famous role, Schwarzenegger was originally approached for the role Kyle Reese, despite the fact that the Terminator is designed as an infiltration unit and Arnie sticks out in a crowd.

“Chappie” played by Sharlto Copley (Chappie)

Chappie is a police robot given intelligence and taken in by gangsters

Chappie was created as part of the new police department, but when his creator imbues him with artificial intelligence, Chappie is forced into hiding and is taken in by gangsters, as his consciousness is new, he is childlike, with the gang members taking advantage of his naivety. Unusually for a film like it, the title character was actually not created with motion capture, but Copley performed as the robot on set which was used for reference, before being created both digitally and physically for some shots.

Honourable Mention- Rick Deckard? – Harrison Ford (Blade Runner)

Deckard spends his life hunting replicants, but is he one of them?

In a list about androids, it wouldn’t seem fair to not include a character from “Blade Runner”. While Pris and Batty or even characters from the sequel are all memorable, the debate about whether Deckard himself is a replicant is one of the reasons the film is so iconic. Even the sequel deliberately avoided answering the question definitively, offering clues to sway audiences on both sides of the debate. Ford himself thinks that the character is human, while director Ridley Scott, thinks he’s a replicant, leaving it up to viewers to decide who to believe.

Also Read: 5 Horror Films And The Real Events Behind Them