Directed By: Jonathan Mostow
Written By: James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd (characters written by), John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Tedi Sarafian
This is where our journey in this franchise ends, because there is nothing worthy of the collection that follows. After 12 years of waiting for a potential sequel to Judgement Day we finally got something that sported some good things and some bad things. I think the story for this film was really the strength and it was a fantastic idea that made sense in the end. However, they simply couldn’t have done a worse job in the casting of an adult John Connor.
I think that a new terminator coming back in time to take out not John Connor himself but his top lieutenants was a great idea. I think the action that follows is both exciting and up to par with the franchise. The car chase scene in the beginning was especially well made and if I’m not mistaken Schwarzenegger funded part of it out of pocket to get it that awesome (though he made so much money to come back this was an easy decision for him). I thought it finally made sense in the end how this weak and pathetic John Connor ended up as the leader of the human resistance. It was that interesting twist at the end that impressed me.
The problem with this movie is so big that it threatens the film as a whole. Despite all the great action, despite Schwarzenegger bringing his A game to hold on to any credibility he had left in a changing industry, and despite the well conceived story there was just nothing that could quite overcome the casting of Nick Stahl as John Connor. I get it if they didn’t want Edward Furlong back, or if they couldn’t get him. I don’t see how the kid from T2 grows up to be the guy we see in this movie. Furlong played a tough and street smart kid who looked totally believable to rise in the future. He was reloading weapons and hacking into bank accounts in Judgement Day like a 10 year old badass. The man we see in this movie is a pussy plain and simple. He spends most of the movie bitching about everything and he comes off as overwhelmingly pathetic. He is unsure of himself and wears that on his sleeve but most importantly he is just lame, even threatening to kill himself at one point.
In fact, Claire Danes was much more badass in the role of Katherine Brewster, who would grow up to be John’s second in command and wife. I really liked that since John was off the grid that a terminator had been sent back to kill the young versions of his future lieutenants. It’s a cool concept that makes sense but John coincidentally crossing paths with this new terminator is a bit lame. Had to bring the story together somehow right? I don’t know that it was really necessary to make the new villain a “T-X” instead of a Terminator we had already seen. I mean how do they keep making upgrades in this future that keeps getting stopped or delayed? They had to up the ante somehow, but I think it is a typical mistake to do so.
I mentioned that Schwarzenegger brought his A game to this movie and he did. The physical condition he was able to get into alone at his age (56) was impressive but not as impressive as his contract. His contract was an unprecedented amount of money, something like $29 million as well as a part of the proceeds and plenty of perks. Making things even more interesting was the fact that this movie came out the exact same year Schwarzenegger took office for the first of his two terms as the California Governor. In this movie I think he again leaned too much on an effort to be funny but it didn’t bother me as much as it did in T2. I actually thought he had a bit more edge to him in this movie when he was clear about not being the same terminator and having no obligation to John beyond his mission.
After taking eight years off of acting to focus on his side venture political career Schwarzenegger got right back into the mix of things when his term ended. Not only going back to his bread and butter, action films, but even becoming the terminator for a fourth time in the God awful Terminator: Genisys. He continues to work toward yet another sequel, albeit this time with James Cameron’s involvement (allegedly), but nobody wants him to at this point. Schwarzenegger is a man of great ability to succeed and I have no doubt that he will eventually find a new niche in the world to make himself even more famous and wealthy. Hell, with the way things are going in this ass backwards country there may finally be that new Amendment passed that will allow him to run for President.
This movie isn’t bad, but it simply isn’t James Cameron and that makes such a difference. James Cameron, as my brother pointed out in his T2 rebuttal is the Jesus Christ/savior of the movie industry. I’ll never forget sitting in the theater watching Avatar years ago and realizing what James Cameron had accomplished. In this current climate of declining theater attendance there is less and less reason to go to the theaters these days. Yet when I watched Avatar I saw the future. I saw that James Cameron had created not just a visual spectical, but a reason to leave the comforts of home and go to the theater. Avatar was a movie that could only be properly seen in the theater. Take away Cameron’s 3D effects and you had nothing more than a Pocahontas story with blue people, but in the theater with those glasses on was an effect that couldn’t be recreated at home. Of course that has been an impossibly long six years ago with little change to the industry. However, with three sequels coming out in tandem in the eventual future there is still hope to see how Cameron changes the industry permanently.
Cameron’s absence in this franchise started a downward spiral of quality to the Terminator brand. There was a TV show, The Sarah Conner Chronicles, and it wasn’t bad but the fourth film was. I remember being really excited to see Christian Bale as John Connor in Terminator Salvation and being so disappointed in the movie I literally got up and left the theater. I was interested in Genysis when it came out but not enough to venture out to the theater. I was really intrigued by the Schwarzenegger vs. Schwarzenegger fight the movie sported but it wasn’t good enough to overcome what was simply a really bad movie. I sat patiently through the movie when we rented it but threw my hands in the air in disgust at the end when Schwarzenegger was “upgraded” to a T-1000.
This franchise took a lick with Genysis but as long as Schwarzenegger is backing it there is really no end in sight. It’d probably take a few bad movies to put it to rest but there is always the inevitable reboot so I wouldn’t expect them to leave the Terminator to rest in peace any time soon. So I’m inclined to say this movie is definitely worth your time because this is probably as good as it gets for the franchise. It’s all downhill from here, or truthfully it’s been all downhill since the first film came out but it at least stayed interesting through three films.
NEXT MOVIE: Terms of Endearment (1983)