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Terminator Salvation

So, I went and saw the movie on Saturday with [info]raxhel. I'm still not sure what I think of it though.

Movie-wise it was full of lots of action although in the beginning it kind of felt like there wasn't any plot. When the plot did come though it was at least interesting. I think what's bothering me more is that I'm not sure how much this fits in with the rest of the 'verse we've been given. It's certainly not what I was picturing in my head.

Let's start with the level of technology and the organization of the resistance. I was so not expecting them to have those resources. Jets and helicopters, that just was never in my mind. I'm sure a lot of that is because the most we've seen in this franchise set in the future is SCC and the show certainly doesn't have that kind of budget. But also, we know that Skynet has a lot of flying metal that I would imagine could blow them out of the sky and quickly deplete their resources.

I kind of get the impression that this movie takes place pretty darn close to Judgment Day (did they say what day is Judgment Day here? Is it following from the third movie? Is this supposed to be 15 years after JD?). The fact that they haven't burned through all of those resources, that there's still gas available, also the fact that there seems to be a formalized military left still rather than the resistance under John.

I wasn't expecting that. From what I can remember of the ending of the third movie, they kind of made it sound like John ended up in charge just because was the most prepared for this and was able to take control in the panicked aftermath. I kind of wish that they had shown that. That the movie started in the days right after Judgment Day. Because it feels like there's more of a story going on with the tensions between John and those "in charge" of the resistance.

Which leads me to the next cause of my dissonance: John.

As I was saying to [info]paradise_city I don't think I quite have a handle on John as a leader. In the first movie, he's not even there and is only spoken about with a kind of reverence by Kyle. We know that he has to be a formidable leader by the fact that the metal thinks that without him, they will win the war. Still, for all that we know people's reaction to John, we don't know anything about how he does his stuff.

In the second movie John is just a kid. A spunky one, but still a kid. You can't quite see a leader in a 12 year old (or however old he was supposed to be. Man I really need to rewatch the movies).

In the third movie, we see John as a recluse, as someone who doesn't know what to do with his life, living day by day, waiting for something he doesn't think is coming but is afraid to let his guard down just in case. He spends most of the movie being dragged around and doing as the Terminator says. We see him reacting to the situation instead of taking control of it. The only time we see him stand up for himself is when he refuses to run to Mexico and instead wants to try and stop Judgment Day. And then we see him realizing that now's his time. He needs to step up to the plate as people cry out for leadership in a world that's suddenly gone insane. We see John make that step, but we don't see the steps beyond the first. We don't see how he actually takes control, just his decision to take control.

In SCC I have a lot of trouble seeing John as a leader. Sarah has such a strong personality and always has to be in charge that she throws any glimmer of leadership potential within John into shadows. She's trained him so much to follow her orders. To run when she says because he has to live. It's hard to see a leader in that.

The only times in the show John really stands up to Sarah are when it comes to typical teenage things. How he's going to hang out with Riley no matter what she says. When he sneaks out at night to be with her. We very rarely see John trying to reason with Sarah, he either defies her or goes along with what she has to say. And the few times he does try to argue with her, she often railroads over him.

I think at the end of this season we had our first glances of leadership from John. When he confronted Jesse with she had done he was just radiating power. We've also gotten a sense of his morals throughout the show, especially when he argues with Cameron.

John from this movie though...
I never got the impression that John actually *wanted* to be the leader of the resistance in the other movies. Certainly in SCC he seems to resent the idea, but even just sticking to the movies, the third movie he acted more like he was shouldering the burden of leadership because he was one of the few who could, rather than because he wanted it.

I think in this movie they were trying to go for a feeling of John fighting "the man" and wanting to step in and do things the *right* way. The thing is though, John arguing with the guys at HQ felt more like a fight for power. Like he felt *he* should be there instead of them, like it was his right and why are they even standing in his way. I have never gotten that kind of entitlement off of John before, and it really messed with my idea of the character.

I did like the idea of John doing his little broadcasts. That's more how I pictured the resistance; "if you can hear this, you're part of the resistance." Groups of people huddled together with a kind of underground network way of communicating.

I really wish that they had focused more on this idea, that they had shown more of his little broadcasts. Because I can't imagine that he'd have the kind of support that is shown later based on the one pep talk we saw. Sure John was giving them hints on how to fight metal, but it seemed like a very basic idea (go for the neck). I wish it could have been longer with multiple parts. John explaining how to gather food, find others because there's some safety in numbers, strategic planning. It would have been awesome to hear some strategy from him, have him explain how to build traps like Kyle did, the best way to ambush metal, how to plan rescue missions. Even if they didn't have time for that kind of broadcast, it would have been nice to see some of John's followers make mention of how lessons from John had helped them survive. Hell, Kyle could have said that, except he only found the broadcasts later with Marcus.

[info]paradise_city said that it seems like there was more showing than telling with this movie, and I have to agree. We've been told plenty of times that John's a leader, I'd like to actually *see* it please.

Another thing that bothered me about John in this movie is how reluctant he was to believe that Marcus could be good. Twice now (in the movie 'verse, 3 times including SCC) he has had Terminators save his life. In the second movie, he came to consider the Terminator as a sort of friend. He helped give him some personality. In the third movie he saw a Terminator go against it's programming in an attempt to let him get away because he didn't *want* to kill John. In SCC I think John has to regularly remind himself that Cameron is a machine because he finds it so easy to forget sometimes (he certainly makes a point of mentioning it to her). I can easily see John being careful in trusting metal, especially after being told that a Terminator with Arnold's face killed him; playing off a weakness of association. But to outright not believe that Marcus could possibly be who he said he was? That strikes me as out of character.

True John seemed a little torn over the idea, but from what he was saying it seemed like he was more upset because he had never heard of this kind of metal before. Because it wasn't in his notes, and it gave the impression that he believed his only asset as the leader of the resistance was in his knowledge of the enemy gained from the future. Like he had nothing else to offer. Which clashed with his earlier actions of acting like he had a right to lead.

This John also managed to come off to me as being rather self-centered. For some of the reasons I mentioned above, the entitlement he displayed over not being the head honcho, of making Marcus' existence all about him, but also for how he treated Kyle. He was very concerned over Kyle's welfare, and while I would like to believe that it's because Kyle was his father and John feels love for him despite never meeting him, John kept talking about Kyle like an essential tool to ensuring an end to the war. When people would try and say "he's just some civilian, what do we care if he dies" John never seemed to be making the argument, "he's a person! We should try to save all the people we can!" No, he seemed to be saying "If he dies, we'll lose the war, because I am the only one who could possibly end it!" And I can understand why he wouldn't want to make an argument to HQ that someone he cares for might die, the character of John's wife seemed to be there solely for an emotional outlet for John, so he could have said something like that to her.

I know that Sarah has been telling him his whole life that John is the key to ending the war, and the very fact that the machines keep trying to kill him before he has any influence indicate that he'll do a lot toward the war effort. Still I can't help thinking that's wrong. If John hadn't stepped up to the plate, others would have. Maybe they wouldn't have been as good. Maybe the humans will lose without John, but it seems really self-centered to be so stuck in that idea. To think he and only he can end this war. And even if that is true, that no one else could possibly do what John will do, I never saw John as someone who really believe that. Sure he was told it a lot, and he knows that he has a large burden on his shoulders, but from what I've seen elsewhere in this 'verse (like the third movie where he was just reluctantly stepping up to the plate at the end), I can't believe that John believes, deep down inside that he's the only one who could possibly do this. Especially if, as we saw in this movie, he thinks his only value is in his knowledge from the future.

That was one thing that had me excited about the third season of SCC (before it was canceled *iz bitter*). The cliff hanger finale showed John in a future where he wasn't the leader of the resistance. We could see what would happen if John wasn't there taking control in the days after Judgment Day. From the glimpse we saw, people are still alive, and the resistance was still resisting, so is John really the only one able to do this job?

One more minor gripe about this movie. It seems like the makers of this movie, and the makers of SCC don't even know that each other exist let alone talk to one another. With the way the Terminator 'verse is set up, it is so easy to ignore each other's canon's if they don't want to follow it (there's time travel involved! That right there seems to support a multi 'verse idea, you could just argue that they are alternative time lines) but they didn't even *try* here. It's not like I was expecting Derek to be in this movie, but it would have been so easy to change Kyle's mention of his dad to a mention of his brother so there was at least a *little* continuity. :(

And making another complete right turn, I'd like to finish off by talking about the Marcus/Skynet storyline.
I got into the Terminator 'verse just over a year ago because [info]paradise_city was watching it, and I enjoy the conversations we have about canon. The movies were fun, but certainly weren't something I'd get fannish over, but in SCC, Cameron's character really intrigued me. Especially in S2 when we saw Cameron choose to follow John and override her Terminator commands. I'll admit, I'm a John/Cameron shipper (my first het OTP since I discovered fandom!). I like the idea of the machines being more than robots, as having some kind of feelings.

If you think about it, they must have some kind of feelings, that's what makes them dangerous, that's what gave them their self awareness. If they don't feel anything, than why are they trying to protect themselves from humans? Why are they trying to destroy all of humanity? There's gotta be *something* going on in their collective otherwise what could possibly be their motivation?

The idea of Marcus really intrigued me. I really wish that they had actually followed through with the hints they gave about his past. We know he was a criminal and that he got the death penalty, we know he feels guilt over it, I wish we knew what had actually happened to help explain his guilt.

You know that he must have realized something was up with him. If he doesn't remember actually dying, than you know he at least remembers going to his death and the conversation about being given a second chance. He also seemed rather reluctant to walk on the mine field after being told it was magnetic.

So I was surprised at how surprised he was to discover that he was metal. I think he must have known something was up, but not realized just how far they had gone when bringing him back to life.

I found it really interesting how Skynet assumed that once Marcus realized that his body was mostly a machine that he would find a kinship with Skynet and be happy to join their side. Again, I find that this hints at the idea that metal have some kind of feelings, even if those feelings are very different from humans. I kind of have this idea of Skynet having Vulcan like qualities ("But Marcus, we are going to win this war, you are one of us, it is only logical you be on our side.") and also having a hive-type mentality, like from Ender's Game (I suppose a Borg analogy might be appropriate, but I know next to nothing about the Borg, so). Skynet had no qualms about sacrificing individual machines for their little psych out with the off frequency. I'm now picturing individual machines as being networked into a single identity so losing the physical metal of a single machine is like cutting your hair or fingernails. They don't feel it's loss, because no identity has been lost, just physical materials.

The interesting parts come when the individual machines are cut off from that hive mind, like Marcus was, or the Terminator's that are reprogrammed by the resistance (it might also explain why in SCC some of them "go bad" after being cut off from the hive mind; they now have a chance to form their own decisions and may choose to agree with the hive mind mentality they previously knew, or see themselves as having their essence being taken away from them by the humans. They may turn back to Skynet and reject the humans. It also explains why Cameron is able to overcome her programming to kill John).

Getting back to Marcus though, I was really sad that they killed him in the end. I think it says something about the mentality of the writers, although I'm not sure what at the moment. I don't get why they had to go there. We know that John has worked with Terminator's in the past and will in the future. He probably could have felt more at ease with this one since it was being ruled by a human brain instead of programming. Having a Terminator on their side would be really helpful to the resistance, so it's not like they couldn't have kept him in the story line. Instead they felt the need to have him sacrifice himself. I don't know why they had to go there! Offering up your heart isn't exactly a human-like quality so it couldn't have been a parallel to his humanity....

In conclusion, I think my main issues with the movie is that I'm coming at it from a sci fi lover/member of fandom perspective. I keep wanting deeper meanings, and they never more than hint at those. This movie franchise was obviously made as an excuse to blow things up in a spectacular way, which they do excel at. Overall it is a good way to spend 2 hours. Still it makes me sad that SCC has been canceled and we're not going to get that deeper insight into how this universe actually works.

Also, I need a Terminator icon :(

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jun. 8th, 2009 11:34 am (UTC)
Hi, I saw the new Terminator movie last week and was searching from some info on web about it, because I thought that it was a great action movie but they didn`t really make an effort to have some real depth. Of course that this would be achieved by having some kind of arch on the John Connor character but the most interesting one is actually Marcus.

I absolutely loved your movie review, it really points out in a simple way the flaws of the film and what the writers should have done to improve the script (ex. the broadcast idea was great, they really should have explored it further and make that kind of things the general tone for the picture). Your post reflects great sense and sensibility not only about moviemaking but also an interesting phsycological aprouch. Nicely done.

Have a great day!
NR
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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