The Boyf and I went to see Terminator: Salvation this weekend with Katastrophes, Mr. Pink Eyes, Mr. Saturday and Pants Wilder. I have always been a fan of that setting for its uniqueness within sci-fi: while man vs. machine may be well-trod territory, the Terminator movies never actually fix the future. Each one simply delays the war. No movie claims to prevent it. I find that fascinating, that it’s a story about different forces struggling over the timing of an otherwise inevitable tragedy. That puts an interesting spin on the usual fight-the-big-bad-to-save-the-world finale of people vs. robots.

Prior to the jump, which will be used to prevent accidental spoilers, I will simply say that there were a lot of things I liked about it and the things I didn’t like could have been a lot worse.

Below the jump are spoilers galore. Be warned!

In the “pro” column, I’ve got the following:

  • Yay! Hot guy! The Terminator series (note: I never actually saw T3) has in a lot of ways resisted using women as sex objects and has never been bashful about showing off hot guys. I find that an interesting reversal, a part of the psychology that led to allowing Linda Hamilton’s character to be such a complete ass-kicker in T2, the thing I most love about that movie.
  • Yay! They think of things that most big action movies don’t! They find themselves explicitly incapable of blowing up fuel tanks by shooting them. When they dumped a bunch of fuel at the feet of the big robot I thought, “That’s stupid, why would a little fire slow that thing down?” Sure enough, it didn’t. The movie wasn’t afraid to be smart about things… sometimes.
  • Yay! Chekov!
  • Yay! It made me reminisce about Fallout 3 and that’s always a good thing.
  • Yay! Exciting action! Biff, zoom, pow, kablooey!
  • Yay! The image is not being crowded out by an onslaught of product placement in every scene!
  • Yay! Fun shout-outs to previous entries in the series!
  • In all seriousness, yay! This isn’t about the new guy’s back-story from when he was a criminal before the war, it’s about how the things he does in the here and now (there and then? whevs) are more important than his past. Is the movie itself a subtle prosecution of the death penalty? That is, after all, exactly the kind of question for which science fiction is made.

In the “con” column I’ve got these items:

  • Cyclebots have USB ports? Why don’t the machines just engineer a new standard the humans won’t be able to exploit? That’s sloppy design there, fictional robot engineers of the future.
  • VAIO? Really? Oh, honey.
  • OK! Enough with the shout-outs to previous entries in the series already!
  • I like how they put in a cute kid for the sole purpose of providing us with a character whose fate has not already been conclusively decided by the previous three movies. I especially like how they made her mute so she didn’t even have to speak to fulfill her purpose.
  • How much of an idiot do you have to be not to realize you’re a robot when you (a) wake up in the future, (b) after being put to death, (c) suddenly have sophisticated knowledge of hand-to-hand combat, (d) and are invulnerable to damage from things like falling hundreds of feet into a shallow river and washing up on a rock bed? Did they sentence him to death for being criminally dim?
  • The cross in the execution chamber about made me gag.
  • The ending about made me gag twice.
  • Of all the cars to be running in the future, one of them is a Saab?
  • Speaking of automotive product placements and/or unsubtle and perhaps unintended opinions, I borrow from The Boyf’s take on all the Jeeps that kept popping up and then getting blown up or taken away: “Did Jeep’s check bounce?” I kept wondering, myself, whether that would wind up being the most ironic product placement of all time: all means of effective escape turned out to be Jeeps or tow trucks. Our Heroes can get out of town in an old Jeep and that’s a good thing… but that Jeep is going to be simple enough to steal that a guy still steaming a little from the deep freeze can get the engine to turn over and you’re going to need to stop for gas really soon.
  • I would have really appreciated a scene in which the future image of Helena Bonham Robot Carter had been shown addressing her metal minions and asking, “OK, seriously, who gave New Guy the root password? Come on, facsimiles-of-people!”