Sunday, May 31, 2009

Terminator, Star Trek

Today I went back to see the new Star Trek film with my parents and my cousin and loved it. It really is a fun film, and my cousin, who has never seen anything related to the TV show or the feature films, laughed at jokes I thought would be considered “in,” such as Spock’s repeated use of “illogical” and Uhura’s choosing of Spock instead of Kirk, despite what played out in the original series. From the swashbuckling to the dog fights in space, and even the seemingly unnecessary jokes that I’m sure Orci and Kurtzman threw in, forgetting that this wasn’t the next Transformers movie they were writing, all came off as great. It isn’t Oscar worthy as Dark Knight was last year, but it worked more like Iron Man, in that it didn’t really have a misstep on its way to the perfect, fun summer action film.
This brings me to a dilemma though. A few days ago I went to go see the new Terminator film. Now I thought the trailers and everything I had heard made the film sound like it was going to be a great action sci-fi movie, fitting into the series flawlessly. I was even ready to accept McG as a great director. But then the early reviews for the film came out and it got trashed as being just another stupid flick that was too dark and violent to really have any redeeming qualities. So I was apprehensive when I sat down in the theatre. And when I walked out, all I could think about was Christian Bale yelling and lights flashing against dark landscapes. Now the film was ridiculous in its concept of the timeline, really not making the most sense in those aspects. But the terminator films never really did anyway. What was missing though was the human element. At one point John Conner yells about how the humans are acting like machines and need to develop some compassion, but he never really does this. He just yells in the only volume level he seems to use for the entire film. In James Cameron’s Terminator films, numbers 1 & 2, Sarah and John Conner were wiseasses, who were deadly serious fighting the machines, but were never above the opportune one liner. Simple, stupid jokes that reminded the audience that these really were human beings with redeemable qualities. So while Christian Bale may be a hardened John Conner, there never really is that little glimmer of humanity in his eye, the thing that let the audience know why his life was worth fighting for in the first place
And while I might be putting too much into having a couple extra, stupid lines of dialogue thrown into a 2 hour war movie, it would at least have the viewers smirk, enjoy themselves and really realize why the hell we paid good money to see people fight to continue to live. I can really only speak for myself when I say that if I had to live in a world without jokes, I’m not sure I really would fight for it. And theres the thing: it isn’t the jokes that really matter, it’s the humanity. When POW’s get left in cells and starved, the idea of life at home is what keeps them alive. Home is warmth, comfort, safety and loved ones. These are serious things, but if a POW gets home and hugs his family and doesn’t smile, why the hell did he fight to stay alive? So while there really wasn’t anything wrong with the film, I didn’t smile once during the whole thing. The cast was good, there were some fantastic set pieces and the dystopian wasteland that was presented was everything the previous films led me to believe would happen. It was a great realization on the part of McG, but at no point was there anything to make me understand what the fighting was for, despite how loud John Conner’s speeches were.
So while Star Trek did everything right in making me laugh and cry and cheer for it, Terminator made me put on a straight face for the entire run time, and that really just made my jaw get sore from clenching. I can’t wait for the next Trek film, but until McG can show me a reason to give a shit about his beautifully rendered, post-Judgement Day world, I just won’t care if there’s any more stories to tell.

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