Tag: Christian Bale

Much Ado About ‘Terminator Salvation’

At the screening for Terminator Salvation I overheard many conversations in the audience regarding how much various people disliked, even hated the film. The interesting thing was that these conversations all took place before the film had even started. The various reasons given were all based on rumors they had been reading about on the Internet, rumors that were debunked by the movie itself. The comments afterwards were generally “I’m glad they didn’t do X, but I still hated it.” I really wonder how fair a chance a film gets when one has already been conditioning oneself to dislike it weeks in advance? I had read some of the rumors myself (this is a reboot, John Connor dies at the end, John Connor turns out to be a Terminator), but really only went in hoping for a good movie as my only expectation. And, you know what? I enjoyed the hell out of Terminator Salvation.

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First of all, this is not like the previous franchise installments. We don’t spend the whole movie watching John Connor and Co. frantically scramble to prevent Skynet from going online and bringing about Judgment Day. That ship has sailed, the machines have risen. Instead, after getting glimpses in the three previous films of Earth under Skynet’s rule we finally get to fully see that devastated future world. The story actually begins in 2003, presumably before Skynet brings on Armageddon as per the ending of Terminator: Rise of the Machines. Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is on death row and it is the last day of his life. Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) is a scientist for a Cyberdyne project called Project Angel who has convinced Wright to donate his body to her research. She herself is dying of cancer and it is hoped that Wright’s body will help her find the answers she is desperately looking for. After Wright is executed by lethal injection, the film jumps ahead fifteen years and we literally land right in the middle of a Resistance raid on a Skynet facility, where it is discovered that the machines are experimenting on humans. Among the Resistance soldiers is an adult John Connor (Christian Bale), not yet the leader he is destined to become. Things go horrible awry resulting in the destruction of the facility and the deaths of everyone except for Connor. Once Connor leaves, a lone survivor emerges from the rubble of the base – A very much alive Marcus Wright. From there, the stories of both Marcus Wright and John Connor become the focus of the film and both paths cross that of a teenage Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). Wright literally encounters Reese in devastated downtown LA, while Connor discovers Skynet is on the hunt for Reese, his once and future father. Eventually Wright and Connor come into conflict and, later, an understanding with one another that results in each saving the others’ life.

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Sam Worthington and Christian Bale both give performances that constantly vie to dominate this film and that is a good thing as it really elevates everyone’s work. Even the ever reliable Michael Ironside rises above what you usually expect from him. In his second big franchise film in less than a month, Anton Yelchin proves that he isn’t just silly comic relief and that the kid can act. He does a great job projecting Kyle Reese’s strengths and his complete idolization of John Connor is bittersweet, knowing his ultimate fate. I enjoyed Moon Bloodgood in Journeyman (I still miss that show) and it’s terrific seeing her here. Common was horribly underused in the atrocious Wanted, so I’m glad to see him in the much better role of Barnes, John Connor’s right-hand man. Helena Bonham Carter has a very small role that turns out to be far more pivotal than expected and she seems to relish the job, especially the part towards the end. I was surprised to see the character of Kate Brewster from the previous film and even more so to see her played by Bryce Dallas Howard, whom I didn’t see as an action film actress. However, playing a soon-to-be mother and a doctor suits her acting strengths and she does a fine job.

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McG does some wonderful visual acrobatics over the course of this film. There is a sequence near the beginning involving John Connor and a helicopter that is insanely ambitious and works beautifully. One thing that particularly struck me was how much the combat scenes looked like they would not have been out of place in Band of Brothers. There was that same gritty urgency and camera work that made you feel like you were really there that was present in the HBO mini-series. A nice treat for long-time fans is not only the dearth of new machines (the aqua Terminators still freak me out), but we also get to see the genesis of the T-800 models, the Terminators with human skin, tissue and blood over the metal endoskeleton. Marcus Wright is a key bridge to this process, as is strongly hinted at in the trailer. I knew, thanks to spoilers, what Wright’s big revelation would be, but I don’t think it was ever meant to be some huge twist for the audience. Instead, it’s a much more poignant revelation for the characters in the film and a particularly gut-wrenching moment for Marcus Wright. McG shows us that dark, post-apocalyptic future we’ve only previously glimpsed and drops the pieces into place for where we generally know things go next. Although he tells a complete story, he leaves things open and I’m excited to see more.

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This film is not about a bunch of franchise-altering M. Night Shyamalan-esque twists, nor is it meant as a reboot. This is the next logical marker on the road started in the first Terminator film and is a worthy addition to the series. At it’s core it’s about three men. Marcus Wright is a bad man who learns what it means to be truly human only to find out that he himself may not be. In the end, he realizes that to be truly human in spirit he must sacrifice the one thing that still makes him human in flesh. Kyle Reese is an idealist whose unwavering belief in John Connor, whom he knows through voice broadcasts only, inspires him to survive and spread hope and build strength in others, even when in the face of possible death. John Connor is a man whose destiny is unavoidable, but one he’s not sure he can meet even if he constantly inspires those around him. He realizes that there are better ways to defeat the enemy without becoming like them. These three men influence each other and challenge each other to be better people. They would not be the people they are in the end if their paths had not crossed. The fact that they are able to do all this against the backdrop of mechanical doom gives hope that the Resistance might not just win random battles against Skynet, but are capable of one day winning the war.

Despite what you’ve read or heard about this movie, ultimately you should go see it and judge it for yourself. Leave your expectations at the door and see what you think. Terminator Salvation might just be better than the rumors give it credit for.

New Video Surfaces from ‘Terminator Salvation’

The good folks over at io9.com managed to scrounge up this latest video featuring some of the leagues of machinery Skynet will be unleashing on the human population in next summer’s Terminator Salvation. It looks like this might be the first draft of a featurette that could make its way either onto the official website or perhaps even the DVD.

The video features a discussion with production designer Martin Laing (City of Ember, James Cameron’s upcoming Battle Angel) and his vision of the post-apocalyptic future that provides the background for Terminator Salvation. Laing comments that this film will very much be an “epic war movie”, echoing the sentiment of director McG at this year’s San Diego Comic Con.

Take a look at the video below for footage of the Harvester, Moto Terminators and a number of the other new machines that will be on the hunt for John Connor and the rest of the resistance in T4!

Click here for the original story over at io9.com!

Review: ‘The Dark Knight’

Every once in a while there is a film that stays with you long after you’ve left the theater. This kind of film makes you think and really contemplate it’s deeper meanings, it’s imagery, it’s place in the history of film and it’s effect on you. This kind of film really makes you take a look at yourself and contemplate society as a whole. This kind of film has many different layers and details, some that only become apparent the more you dissect it and some you can only see upon repeat viewings. This kind of film becomes richer and more powerful the more you view it and the more you reason yourself through it. “The Dark Knight” is just such a film. I don’t think it empty hyperbole to say that “The Dark Knight” is an exceptional piece of filmmaking. Christopher Nolan has crafted something truly rare and not easily dismissed.

“The Dark Knight” is not a perfect film, there are certainly things I didn’t like about it (Christian Bale’s voice when he’s Batman, for one thing). But those few things are easily forgettable when viewed within the whole story. The story is a really strong frame upon which every other element of the movie hangs. There are many themes explored here: friendship, loyalty, one man making a difference, belief in oneself, belief in those you trust, belief in the good of the members of a society and wanting a better life for oneself and those around you. All of this really revolves around the triangle of Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne/Batman. These three men truly want what’s best for the city and citizens of Gotham and they each go to great lengths to prove it. It’s interesting that while Batman is the public vigilante, Gordon and Dent also bend the law when necessary. They both understand that Batman has a significant role in ridding Gotham of crime and they are both not above bending the law or turning a blind eye when it is needed. One of the points brought up by Dent is that, yes, one day Batman will need to answer for his crimes as a vigilante, but for the moment he is an important element in keeping the citizens safe and bringing the truly lawless to justice. This trinity also believes unwaveringly in Gotham’s citizenry to be good people and to make the right choices. Seeing how strong the three of them are and what they are able to accomplish makes Dent’s fall all that more tragic. The citizens of Gotham themselves also get to shine in a significant part of the story as the best and the worst of the city show us what they are capable of when faced with one of the ultimate moral decisions. There is a lot going on in this film and fortunately it has the running time to make all the character developments and story progression feel both unrushed and fully fleshed out. You really get the sense of seeing a naturally developing story on an epic scale.

The characters, and the actors portraying them, are the highlight of “The Dark Knight” for me. There isn’t a weak performance in the entire film. Even Eric Roberts, who normally hamfistedly chews the scenery, does an impeccable job. Nolan proves what a skillful director he is as he pulls, at worse, fantastic acting out of his cast and, at best (and there is a plethora of this), stunning, masterful work from an ensemble at the top of their game. Christian Bale plays a Bruce Wayne/Batman who is totally committed to his mission, yet sees in Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent a way to both make Gotham City safer and a way to no longer need to be the Batman. Bale makes you believe that Bruce Wayne is ready, almost desperate for a normal life with Rachel Dawes. And I’m really, really glad Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role of Rachel Dawes as I felt that Katie Holmes was the weakest point of “Batman Begins.” Gyllenhaal does a superb job as Rachel, defiantly never acting the victim, even when she is one. Eckhart’s Harvey Dent is the kind of politician you wish would really exist. He’s honest, tough and fearless in going after the corrupt. Watching him become Two-Face and the character traits that he retains, albeit in a twisted and brutal fashion, is really fascinating. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, all actors who seem to effortlessly inhabit any character they portray, show us in no uncertain terms why they are revered as much as they are. Even the cameos by Anthony Michael Hall as Mike Engel and Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow are outstanding.

Which, of course, leads us to Heath Ledger’s Joker. I can’t help but be sharply reminded of Brandon Lee and “The Crow.” Granted, Lee died while making “The Crow”, but the parallel for me is how their final, posthumous performances turned out to be career defining. Ledger gives us the quintessential Joker and a performance that is nothing short of flawless. The first time through, you literally have no idea what he’s going to do at any given time. He’s labeled perfectly in the film itself as an agent of chaos. That is very true. He is pure anarchy with no remorse. Best of all, we are given no motivation for why he does what he does. He simply creates havoc and chaos and terror for no reason other than that’s what he wants to do. The Joker is pretty much the polar opposite of Batman and he revels in it. I know it’s already been said many times and will be repeated for a while to come, but if Ledger doesn’t get at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination then it really is time for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to call it a day. Tell me I’m wrong.

You may have noticed that at no point in this review have I called “The Dark Knight” a comic book movie. I have not and will not refer to it as such because I believe to do so would truly be a monumental disservice to Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and the entire cast and crew. They have not made a comic book movie, but have given us an exceptional film. “The Godfather” is not just a gangster movie. “Citizen Kane” is not just a life-story movie. “The Wizard of Oz” is not just a fantasy movie. While I wouldn’t presume to put “The Dark Knight” up on the mantle next to those three films (yet), I do think that relegating it to simply being a great comic book movie is just wrong. It is an exceptional film and deserves to be judged and critiqued on the merits of being a film. “Iron Man” is a comic book movie (and I love it for being so), but “The Dark Knight” is not. This film transcends its genre to give us something you don’t get to see but maybe once or twice every few years, the kind of film I described in the opening paragraph. Again, tell me I’m wrong.

UPDATE 6/17: TERMINATOR SALVATION Teaser Trailer

Update 6/17!

Here is the official release of this trailer.  This time in glorious Quicktime!

Terminator Salvation Teaser Trailer

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Looks like the first teaser trailer for “Terminator Salvation” has been officially unofficially leaked to the intertubes. I like the tease and it’s great to actually get a sense of what this thing is going to look like, even if it is brief. I’d say that they appear to be keeping the visual tone of the Cameron Terminator films, so that’s a plus for them. We should hopefully be able to dig up some more info on this for you at Comic Con, so stay tuned!