I'm torn between my head and my heart.
But I'm also fascinated by something...
Let me start at the beginning.
JOHN CONNOR x CHRISTIAN BALE
= AN INSPIRED MELD OF 2 OF MY FAVE THINGS, WHICH INDUCED A HAPPY SPASM OF ANTICIPATION
Next, it was:
TERMINATOR + McG = MEH, BUT I WAS WILLING TO GIVE HIM A CHANCE
Then, out of America, came:
BAD REVIEWS + BAD REVIEWS = PANIC - WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?!
EMPIRE MAGAZINE + DECENT REVIEW = SLIGHT RELIEF...maybe
ME + VIEWING = PLEASANT SURPRISE(MUCH ENJOYMENT ÷ NEAR-FATAL PLOT FLAW*)
*...but we will get to that
SALES DOWN IN THE U.S. + TOP OF THE U.K. BOX OFFICE = MY UTTER BEWILDERMENT
Why the disparity in response between the two countries? Was it, simply, that England's large Welsh and Australian contingents were feeling patriotic about Bale and Worthington? Unlikely.
Is the British audience more willing to accept mediocrity? Possibly - look at the majority of its TV programming. But, then, I'm not British, and you won't catch me watching East Enders, either.
Are the English less hard-core nitpickers when it comes to their sci-fi? Not really.
Or...had they just been smart enough to avoid "Charlie's Angels" and therefore had no deep-set prejudice against McG? Strangely enough, I think this may be closer to the truth.
The more reviews I read, the more I noticed something: the majority of the haters weren't giving a solid reason for their thorough dislike of the movie.
- "Too loud" - um...what?
- "Not violent enough" - OK, perhaps. That was definitely one of the problems with Alien vs Predator 1 & 2, but hardly a killing stroke (pardon the pun) in this case.
- "Too much action vs too little story" - sorry, but there actually was a story there, flaws aside (yeah, yeah, I'm getting to that).
- "Christian Bale's Connor wasn't engaging" - fair enough, but this is the first of three movies - he's got to give the character some room to grow. Besides, as Bale has said, this really wasn't John's story - it was Marcus' - and one of the things I've always appreciated about Bale as an actor is his understanding of when to hog the spotlight and when to let someone else shine.
- "The franchise is dead without Arnie" - are you crazy? Would you seriously have wanted The Governator wandering around, trying to equal his former glory? Remember Rambo 4, people...remember Rambo 4...
Now, don't get me wrong. The movie wasn't the best thing I've ever seen, but it was enjoyable. As it should be. It certainly had far more of the "feel" of a Terminator movie than T3 did. I also appreciated the fact that, as with Star Trek, CGI was used sparingly and effectively. In other words, I don't think McG did too bad a job. Sure, the ending felt like it had been stuffed into a VacuSac and had the air sucked out of it (I'm guessing that had to do with the multiple versions and edits that were reportedly trialled), but at least we didn't have to put up with things exploding unnecessarily all over the joint and multiple close-ups of the hero's knee-cap throughout the most crucial moments, as we undoubtedly will get with Transformers 2 in a week or so.
hmmm....Bale's uncontrolled, f-bombing outburst on set. It's interesting to me how much this has set people against the movie itself. And how it comes up in every single negative review. Why? It has no impact on the tone of the movie. More likely it was the other way around - when you watch John go through intense situation after intense situation, you begin to understand the pressure Bale himself must have been under, day in and day out. I'm not excusing his behaviour, but I do understand how the mood of a role can easily rub off on you. It seems, however, that the Americans have taken this mis-step more to heart than the Brits have. Perhaps it's just that, as one of my friends said, the British don't mind a really good rant every now and then.
It does go to show just how a bit of bad (or good) publicity, or a pre-conceived notion, can taint the consumer reaction to something.
Now - as promised - to the problem with the story. Whilst most of the objections I've seen in online forums can be easily debunked, there is one thing that has been troubling me since the day after I saw the movie (yes, it took me awhile to realise this - don't laugh).
Kyle and John are numbers 1 and 2 on Skynet's "most wanted" list...but, John is not yet the leader of the resistance and Skynet doesn't know that Kyle was/will be his father. How does that work? Now, I can accept that maybe John was number 2 for other reasons - something to do with the opening sequence, for example. Or, perhaps, the Terminatrix conveyed her mission to Skynet when she activated the machines at the end of T3. Either of those are perfectly plausible. But nobody (except John and Kate) knows what Kyle will become. Because it hasn't happened yet. The T-800s from T2 and T3 knew, but they were both destroyed in the past. The only explanation I can come up with is this: Dr Silberman and the staff at the institution where Sarah was locked up were the only other people who would have known about Kyle. Cyberdyne Systems is obviously dabbling in medical research at the beginning of the movie, so, perhaps that gave Skynet access to Sarah's medical records.
It's a stretch, but it will have to do.
To be honest, there are other problems with the story - there usually are, in time-travel movies - but they are relatively minor. However, the whole story hangs on this one. Hence, I am torn between my head and my heart. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie; on the other, I will have to turn my brain off the next time I watch it.
P.S. Sam Worthington: we love you and you're a fabulous actor, but next time you might want to get Christian Bale to give you a few lessons in "how to keep up your fake American accent". ;)
P.P.S. Anton Yelchin. I just couldn't finish this post without mentioning him. I liked him as Chekov, but he seriously made an impression on me as Kyle. Unassuming, unflashy, amusing; he plays the character exactly the way he should be played, and he creeps under your skin. Just like Michael Biehn did. My final, overwhelming impression as I left the cinema was, "Man, I could have kept watching him all evening." The kid's got a future. More, please.