15 June 2009

16 Terminator Rules

The 16 Terminator Rules that McG Broke (with Terminator Salvation)

01.The Terminators absolutely should not stop, ever
This is really key. Blowing holes in your cyborg assassin with a 12 gauge, setting him on righteous fire or smashing him to bits with a big truck will only delay, and not prevent, his continued pursuit of you.
Lesson for McG: That having near-indestructible bad guys is an awesome excuse for action sequences with limitless possibilities and zero consequences.

02. Settings for shootouts must be flamboyantly stylish
Like, ‘teetering on the very edge of preposterous’ stylish. The Tech-Noir scene not only serves as an awesome document of nighclubbing in the Age Of The Synthesiser, but also coined the name for an entire sub-genre of gritty sci-fi noir. And the bit in T2 with the shotgun and the box of flowers? Well that was just cool.
Lesson for McG: That audiences will swallow seriously over the top mise-en-scene so long as the action doesn’t let up.

03. The women should be hard-hitting ass-kickers
Linda Hamilton’s transformation from frizzy-haired waitress to steel-shouldered mother of the resistance is physically impressive, unusually forward-thinking and also pretty hot, in a niche magazine sort of way. Loken’s Terminatrix was less of a step forward but cemented the series’ laudable stance on featuring women who beat people up.
Lesson for McG: That strong women characters bring a depth and intelligence to films that might otherwise be dominated by stiff and conventional male heroes.

04. If Arnold Schwaznegger appears, aging must be ignored
The reappearance of Arnie in all three Terminator films is explained away but the fact that he’s actually playing different versions of the same machine, all modelled on the same man. A machine which, on the evidence of Terminator 3, apparently doesn’t work out quite so much as it used to in the ‘80s.
Lesson for McG: The fans love Arnie, even if he gave up even pretending to act years ago and would need a drastic digital makeover to sustain the illusion that the T-101 isn’t a sagging ex-bodybuilder turned politician.

05. Terminator vision must be red, full of data and slightly funny
One of the many bits from the Terminator series to have been spoofed on The Simpsons, so you know it must be crucial. It’s not just a Terminator touch, either, but an ‘80s action movie mainstay. Also see: Predator, Robocop.
Lesson for McG: That audiences love to look inside the mind of the beast, and feeling for a few seconds like an indestructible robot killer.

06. All traditional authority figures must be smug patriarchal pricks
We’re looking at you, Dr. ‘I’m sure it feels very real to you’ Silberman, and to a lesser extent at John’s foster father Todd. If it’s a real, human man in a position of power, they have to be detestable bastards.
Lesson for McG: That hulking swathes of his potential audience will be adolescent boys who hate being told what to do by their teacher/ dad / psychiatrist / the police.

07. All the shooting and driving must be balanced by some sad bits
It’s all very well that T2 had the best chase sequences since William Freidkin invented cars in The French Connection, but the only reason anyone remembered them is because Arnie’s sadsack tinman made us all cry at the end by lowering himself into a vat of molten metal.
Lesson for McG: That a well-crafted combination of action and sentimentality is the key to making Salvation more than just What Batman Did Next.

08. Time travel plotlines should tie themselves into unresolvable paradoxes
Snapping the timeline in two and then setting it on fire is practically mandatory. After all, this is a series built around the premise of an artificial intelligence technology only invented because it travelled back in time in the first place.
Lesson for McG: That trifling things such as logic, continuity and the laws of relativity should pose no barrier to a ripping yarn.

09. There must be a new kind of Terminator that technically trumps the old ones
Watching the Terminator trilogy is a bit like rooting through a draw of old iPods. There’s your first big chunky one that looked really cool at the time, the smaller, sleeker Nano with video, and then there's your iPhone, all technical bells and whistles like Kristanna Loken’s nanobot and plasma gun Terminatrix.
Lesson for McG: That like Apple geeks and cheap frequent flyers, movie audiences love an upgrade, and he’s got to come up with a new terminator with even sexier abilities.

10. A portentous voiceover and/or cryptic warning about the future in Spanish should appear at some point
Two points here really: there’s nothing quite like kicking off your film with a story about the simultaneous death of 3 billion people to raise the narrative stakes, and intimations of the coming apocalypse are best made in Mexico during heavy winds. Viene una tormenta!
Lesson for McG: That along with incredible action sequences and pithy one-liners, the general tone of the film should be one of overwhelmingly grim fatalism.

11. At least one chase sequence must feature an articulated lorry
Oddly specific, yes, but also true. The best might be the action movie generation-defining ‘Oh Jesus God he’s still coming!’ storm drain chase from T2, but each of the three films has it’s own big rig runabout.
Lesson for McG: That big metal stuff crashing and going on fire is cool, and audiences want more of it.

12. Our time travelling heroes should have a knack for memorable one-liners
"Come with me if you want to live!" What do you say to that? Yes? Almost certainly yes. All the time travelling heroes and villains from the previous films have insanely quotable lines - Arnie’s anthemic "Hasta la vista", Robert Patrick’s intense "Have you seen this boy?", and that thing that metal chick says in number three.
Lesson for McG: That the best films in the series have smart, cool scripts, and if this is all going to come good Bale best make with the iconic dialogue.

13. All future warzones must be situated at the top of a mountain of skulls
The existing Terminator series is a drawn-out tease of those incredible flashback sequences from Cameron’s original, with ragged human soldiers desperately fighting invincible war machines over the ruined corpses of their fallen comrades in a pitch black apocalypse. Yay!
Lesson for McG: That it’s finally time to make good on those promises. Not the bit before the war, not the bit where they stop the war happening, just man and machine gloving up and going at it.

14. The Terminator must impersonate someone, creepily
"Wolfie’s just fine, dear." Is he, Janelle? Is he? The Terminators have always done great impressions - just voice ones down the phone at first, and then melty whole-bodied ones with expensive computer effects.
Lesson for McG: That moments of shock imposter revelation might be B-movie cheap, but are also brilliant for sustaining tension.

15. The original Terminator music must be used
It’s no word of exaggeration to say that, with the possible exception of the opening strains of Beethoven’s Fifth and their evocation of Fate beating at the door of humanity, Brad Fiedel’s hammering score is the most powerful music of all time. ALL TIME.
Lesson for McG: To change nothing. The loud bangy bits should be used when something exciting is about to happen, and the aching synth bits when something sad and momentous is about to happen.

16. There must be a wince-inducing scene of a Terminator pulling itself to bits
Whether it’s slicing open your own eyball and flopping the ruined pulp into a cold sink, or pulling the flesh off your forearm like a wet novelty glove to prove to your future inventor that you really are a machine, being a Terminator involves high levels of self-mutilation.
Lesson for McG: That the best way to reinforce the inhuman nature of the Terminators is to have them hammer on the audience’s gag reflex.

See the article, complete with photos, at Total Film

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