Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Terminator? I Hardly Know Her

Gawd! That joke just keeps getting funnier!

More reviewing today. TV this time.

"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"

Once upon a time in the far-off land of 1984 there was a movie called The Terminator. It was a near-perfect piece of sci-fi action filmmaking that looped back on its own time travel storyline and tied up into a nice neat package. Originally, it was considered a relatively low-budget tune-up for director James Cameron before he took on what was then considered to be a much higher profile property, Aliens, the second film in the Alien franchise. But then something happened.

The Terminator made a mint at the box office and gave not-yet-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger the defining role of his career. It spawned catch phrases and copycats and clearly a sequel was demanded, if not exactly dramatically sensible. So seven years later along came Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which, while not the thoroughly satisfying film its predecessor was, featured parameter-defining special effects and unprecedented action. And having Arnold back behind the Ray-Bans was pretty sweet.

After the unnecessary (but not bad, really) T3: Rise of the Machines and with the key star now firmly ensconced in Sacramento, it looked like that would be it for this franchise.

But like a Terminator robot, it only took about 120 seconds to reboot.

Now these films (well, the first two, anyway) form the basis for the new Fox actioner "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." As the two-part pilot opens, John Connor (future savior of mankind) and his mother Sarah are lying low in 1999, recovering from the events of the second movie. And then the robots start showing up. Again.

Most of them are personality-less killers taking occasional blasts at John in yet another attempt to kill him and alter the future. One is his strange high-school classmate Cameron (a nod to the original film's directorial mastermind), masquerading as a pretty but awkward teenage girl. She whisks the mother and son away and, using a device that Future John managed to plant in the past (don't ask), spirits them to 2007, where they will be safe.

For about ten seconds.

Thomas Dekker, who was one of my favorite characters in the first season of "Heroes" as Claire the Cheerleader's outcast best friend, takes over the Edward Furlong (and Nick Stahl) role of John. The pilot doesn't give him much to do besides complain and go to the mall, the ultimate act of rebellion in the "I Deserve" generation. And occasionally he dodges arbitrary gunfire.

Taking over as the sympathetic, good Terminator, Summer Glau gives the best performance of the leads. Mind you, by now she can play bizarre super-powered teenagers in her sleep. See her do an even better job of it in "Firefly" and Serenity.

But the one who really let's the side down is Lena Headey in the title role. She has none of the buffed-up, take-no-prisoners pizazz that Linda Hamilton brought to the part in the first two movies. She just stares at everything with worried eyes and pouty lips and looks utterly unconvincing on a motorcycle.

And finally. I gotta say this: THERE'S NO ARNOLD! Not that I was expecting him to take time out from running the largest state in the union to save this thing, but there's no Terminator without Arnold. Without him to add a little charisma, the bad robots are nothing but target dummies, popping up and getting mowed down whenever the action lags a bit.

Like a robot firing at Thomas Dekker, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" misses the mark.

2 stars

No comments:

John and Dave talks Oscar nomination predictions