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Is it possible to review a movie based on four minutes of footage? Sure… why not?

May 8th, 2009

four

Last night, while surfing the net instead of doing the serious-people work that’s been piling up on my desk, I was pleasantly surprised to find a special new Terminator preview that’s a whopping four minutes long. I love a good trailer, so I double love a trailer that’s twice as big. (To see what I’m talking about, head over to www.apple.com/trailers)

Some immediate observations that I feel I need to share:

  • John Connor owns a custom tank-motorcycle? Awesome.
  • Dogfights between HKs and fighter jets? Even more awesome.
  • Christian Bale really does look quite crazy… like, terrifyingly crazy… like, crazier than he does in American Psycho
  • I’ll give Anton Yelchin points for his perfect delivery of the “come with me if you want to live” line
  • And speaking of custom tank-motorcycles, did anyone catch that wicked Great Escape homage?
  • Exploding gas stations are always a good sign

But there were two big things from this trailer that really got me pumped

One: Something has shaken John Connor’s faith. As a kid, he was told that he will lead the humans to victory, but now he’s not so sure. In the trailer, it looks like Connor has reason to believe that he’s somehow altered the future, no longer guaranteeing certain victory, and heading into uncharted waters. Not only does this make for far better storytelling (what with Connor’s identity being called into question) but it also raises all kinds of amazing science fiction questions about alternate history. Good call, McG. Good call.

Two: For the first time I get the feeling of a family dynamic in Connor’s army. This is a must. Terminator 1, 2, 3, and the TV series all have one thing in common: the unbreakable relationships that join the humans in defiance against Skynet. Each film has featured a close team in one way or another, and I’m glad to see that they’re following up on this in Salvation, only this time with John as the father figure.

Oh! Also… three days ago I totally nailed it when I predicted that Michael Ironside’s presence would mean some old-school military shouting matches between John and his boss. I know D-list character actors better than anyone.

And I’ll end on that high note as we head into the weekend. As always, check back tomorrow and Sunday for links and other cool Terminator info.

jakeb get psyched, stuff that goes boom, the story

CGI Mayhem

May 4th, 2009

intro_pic

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Stan Winston and the history of animatronics and puppet work in Terminator. My point was this: analogue special effects are awesome, and it truly is a lost art.

But it would be unjust to ignore the significance of computer generated imagery in the Terminator series. Specifically, T2 is often cited as one of the landmark moments in CGI history. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, I’m sure you’ve seen the clips I’m talking about: the liquid metal guy (the T-1000) morphs and shifts and transforms in incredibly cool and altogether creepy ways.

Truth be told, some of the T-1000 effects are still impressive by today’s standards. I saw T2 after I had seen The Matrix, after I had seen Titanic, after Jurassic Park, and still I was blown away by a couple of key scenes (the one that always sticks out in my mind is the scene where the T-1000 gets shot in the face and his head splits right down the middle – in retrospect, there are so many good reasons why my parents didn’t let me see this movie…)

T2 was one of those perfect cases where the technology had caught up with what the filmmakers wanted to do, and the result was one of the coolest uses of CGI ever. Most importantly, they didn’t try to exceed what the technology was capable of (à la Matrix Reloaded), leading to a pretty seamless flick.

So, that being the case, Terminator Salvation has some pretty big shoes to fill in the special effects department. And those shoes have been made all the bigger by McG’s talk of special effects that have “never been seen in a movie before.” Such boastful words have me a little worried…

I, like many contemporary filmgoers, have become pretty jaded about the use of CGI in blockbusters. Back in the 90s, when the technology was still fresh and exciting, there was nothing I loved more than some animated monsters. But now that CGI is everywhere, it can be a little boring. When done right, it looks awesome, but if done wrong it’s disheartening. With desktop animation programs, any kid in his parents’ basement can do some pretty astounding CGI work, so if I’m shelling out twelve bucks for a movie, I want to see something that will really blow my mind. Instances of such movies in the past few years are few and far between.

So my hope for Terminator Salvation is that they haven’t gone crazy with the computers. I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff in the trailers (Marcus Wright with half a face, the Harvesters), but it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. And that’s okay. I’d rather have some limited CGI that looks good than boatloads that disappoint.

jakeb stuff that goes boom

Terminator needs more nudity… according to irate posters on imdb.com

April 14th, 2009

explosion1While doing research in preparation for this blog I decided to take a spin around the imdb message boards to see what people were saying about Terminator Salvation.

Naturally, I couldn’t help myself from investigating a post entitled (and I’m not making this up…) “How will the lack of boobs affect the movie?”

According to the intrepid reporter behind this post, the powers that be in Hollywood have started cutting out content from Terminator Salvation (most disconcertingly for the poster, the aforementioned nudity) in order to get a PG-13 rating.

Well just to put the record straight, Terminator Salvation has yet to be rated, and I’m not sure where this guy is getting his sources, nor am I convinced there was ever such explicit content to begin with (frankly I’m just the littlest bit scared of googling “Terminator nudity”).

But our friend does raise an interesting point: does the success of Terminator depend on an R rating?

In the weeks to come I’ll be discussing some of the finer points behind the franchise (the gender politics, the conflicted relationship with technology, issues of maternal and paternal identity, etc.), but it’s worth noting that one of the major selling points behind Terminator is the often shockingly graphic action sequences (the kind that usually get a movie stuck with an R rating).

Terminator 1, 2 and 3 were all rated R, and frankly it’s hard to argue that they didn’t deserve it. All entries feature fairly impressive body counts and several instances of pretty severe gore (though does it count as gore if it’s being inflicted on a robot that just looks human?)

Now, I’m not gonna lie… even though it may make me immature, unrefined, and just the littlest bit unbalanced, I can’t deny that the graphic nature of Terminator entertains the pants off of me. Stuff blows up, cars go fast, guns go blazing, and inevitably Schwarzenegger mutilates himself in good old fashioned “so gross I can’t look away” style. It’s a winning formula that teenage boys (and guys in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s who still feel like teenage boys) can’t resist. I think I lack the self-awareness to properly explain this phenomenon, all I know is that I’m inexplicably drawn to movies with exploding helicopters. I could invoke Marxist film theory and suggest that I’ve been conditioned to consume products that brainwash me to the machinations of a destructive capitalist agenda, but I think I’ll stick with the much simpler explanation that car chases and robots are just plain cool.

So, if Terminator Salvation ends up being PG-13 (and I can’t say I’d blame them for trying; a PG-13 movie has a better chance of making more money), does that mean the end of Terminator goodness?

I’m gonna go ahead and say no. The trailers have already shown us that the movie is packed with several action sequences, as well as some classic mutilated Terminators in the form of Sam Worthington, so if they tone down the gore a little and maybe have a few more people live to see the credits, I think I’ll be okay.

But tell me your thoughts! Is Terminator dependent on stuff going boom and people losing limbs, or is it possible to turn out a family-friendly (okay, family-friendlier) movie that’s still entertaining?

jakeb stuff that goes boom