Friday, June 19, 2015

Arguing With Terminator Salvation Nitpicks

 With the impending release of Terminator Genisys - which I'm pretty stoked about - I'm going to revisit some old Terminator posts as well as checking out some of the (usually terrible) games based on the series.

Before that: Terminator Salvation. Released in 2009 and alternately praised/reviled by moviegoers, the fourth Terminator movie is controversial. This movie has a lot more attention to detail than people give it credit for, yet I've seen it get torn apart on the internet a lot. Then again, what doesn't get torn up on the internet? In any case, this movie got a lot of flak, so I'm going to take a few of the more common nitpicks and do my best to argue with them here. Terminator Salvation isn't the best movie in the world and can't compare to the first two movies in the series, but it's a step up from Terminator 3 and a well-done addition to the series mythology. I appreciated the amount of thought that went into this movie.

Nitpick: Why does the Skynet facility have keypads and touch screens for humans to interact with?
Answer: It is heavily implied that there are hybrids doing Skynet's laboratory work. Also, advanced terminators have humanoid bodies. If the base is run by T-800s and hybrids, then they'll be able to interact with touch screens made for humanoids. More primitive machines wouldn't be able to utilize these controls, but they're all out on the battlefield rather than in the laboratory overseeing R&D.

Complaint: Where are the sweet laser guns?
Answer: The movie takes place in 2018, while the sweet laser guns didn't come along until later in the timeline. Most likely Skynet was the one that developed the plasma weapons seen in the flash-forward scenes of the earlier movies, and these weapons were then captured and reverse-engineered by the resistance. In this movie, the only plasma-like weapons utilized by the machines are large and cumbersome, built into the bigger machines. It looks like the story is years away from Skynet developing weapons that are compact and foot soldier-usable, much less humans reverse-engineering anything from them.

Whine: Why do the terminators have humanoid skeletons? They aren't infiltrators yet so why do they have to be humanoid?
Answer: Really? Yeah, I've actually seen this complaint. The fact of the matter is that a human body type is probably the most efficient physical configuration that can be found on Earth (except for maybe...cats). When it comes to traversing all kinds of terrain, there's no better body type out there. Why wouldn't lots of the machines be humanoid? There's also the psychological component. A walking skeleton with red eyes is something that would evoke fear in anyone who sees it approaching, right? Fear makes people make mistakes, and mistakes make people dead. Really, there's no reason not to have the terminators be skeletal even before the development of infiltration units. That and they're easier to mistake for a human at a long distance, as made evident by Marcus' first run-in with a T-600. The fact that the T-600s in this movie tend to be wearing rags show that Skynet is already in the process of figuring out comparatively-primitive ways to fool humans.

Beef: Why does molten steel not destroy the T-800, when it worked in Terminator 2?
Answer: Because in T2, he was completely submerged in it for a bit of time, long enough to disintegrate. In this movie, molten steel only pours onto the T-800 for a few seconds. It wasn't submerged in sustained ultra-high temperatures.

Bitch: Why do terminators in this movie like to throw people so much? Why not just kill them like the one in the first movie?
Answer: The terminator in The Terminator did indeed punch through a guy's chest in the first five minutes of the movie. However, for the most part, the terminators in the other movies threw people a lot too. Terminators throw people. For some reason people nitpick about this in Salvation while totally ignoring the fact that it happens in the other movies.

Grievance: Why doesn't the helicopter get knocked out of the air by the nuke at the end of the movie?
Answer: Admittedly, they didn't wait very long to set the nuke off when they were flying away. A little distance would have been a lot smarter. Plus, a precedent was set earlier in -the same movie- when a nuke went off at the beginning and caused Connor's helicopter to go spiraling back to the ground. That said, the "nuke" that goes off at the end of the movie is a small energy core from a terminator, not a high-powered nuclear bomb. Still powerful enough to level the Skynet tower, but we don't know the properties of this cell. It's a creation of the movie, and doesn't necessarily emit an EMP. That said, this is one answer where I'm really grasping at straws. Even if that explosion didn't emit an EMP, the fact that John Connor pushed the button well before their escape helicopter was anywhere near a safe distance away was kind of dumb on the part of the movie.

Gripe: Why is it that bullets work on the terminators in this movie, when the other movies clearly established that bullets have no effect on terminators?
Answer: The terminators in this movie are inferior models compared to the ones in the other movies. earlier endoskeleton models aren't made from bullet-resistant hyperalloy like the T-800s are. In the original novelization of the first movie, Kyle Reese mentions that terminators up to T-700s can be stopped, or at least stunned, with high-caliber bullets. The T-800 is the first one that can't, which makes things problematic for him in 1984 when it's all he has to work with ("With these weapons, I don't know"). It can also be assumed that the very well-armed resistance soldiers in Salvation are using armor-piercing, high-caliber rounds on the T-600s they run into, which should indeed do damage. This is pretty simple stuff, and it amazes me how much I've seen this nitpicked on. Finally, note how the Arnold (which is obviously a hyperalloy T-800) near the end of the movie completely ignores being blasted by machine gun rounds? This movie doesn't conflict with the earlier films in this regard at all.

Grumble: Why was John Connor able to sneak into the Skynet facility with no backup and encounter almost no resistance?
Answer: Because Marcus, being a Skynet creation, was able to interface with the security system and shut most of it down, clearing the way of Connor to sneak in. Seriously, this happened like two minutes before he snuck in. (Editor's Note: In retrospect, I see why this is a complaint. Even though Marcus shut down the security system, Skynet was still aware of what was going on and waiting for John Connor to arrive so it could capture him; the lack of resistance is indeed a bewildering plot hole)

Objection: How can Kate Connor do a heart transplant by herself in a tent in the middle of the desert?
Answer: It's entirely possible that other medics were in the vicinity besides Kate. After all, it was a medic tent. Just because we didn't see them milling about in the immediate room doesn't mean they weren't there. The resistance has been shown to be pretty well equipped in this movie, and a team of surgeons probably would have had everything they needed to to operate and save John Connor. People act like Kate did this all by herself somehow, which gives them something to nitpick on. It's kind of ridiculous to assume she did, honestly.

Lament: Why do the resistance members and various future-people all have such good teeth?
Answer: Alright, I don't have a good answer for this one. The humans in this movie are way prettier than they should be. Even the homeless people are tanned and buff. It's like Miami.

10 comments:

  1. Ha, I liked all of the different titles for complaints.

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  2. That's a problem, then, with ALL Terminator movies. As soon as a Terminator is in arms reach of a human target, the target should be grabbed and crushed to death by the Terminator. I can understand throwing when it's Terminator vs. Terminator, but to toss a human makes no sense (Unless they were tossing them off the top of a building).

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  3. The Arnold Terminator in the second movie clearly explains that it contains detailed human anatomy atlas in order to be the most efficient killer possible. Then why do they keep throwing people around, instead of, say, squeezing them to death or biting their ears off or something?

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  4. Um, didn't the throwing only start in T3? Although it's been a while now...
    Also, Bilbo threw Ripley around in Alien :D

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    1. Holy shit, I didn't even realize that Ash and Bilbo were the same actor until now.

      As for the throwing, Arnold threw the bikers around at the beginning of T2. He and the T-1000 threw each other a lot. Trying to remember an instance of throwing in T1... I'm sure there is one that I'm forgetting.

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    2. In T1 when Arnold tosses Matt around when he's at Sarah's apartment.

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  5. As a vocal critic of Terminator Salvation, I'll respond to some of your points here.

    (Quote:
    Nitpick: Why does the Skynet facility have keypads and touch screens for humans to interact with?
    Answer: Because the advanced terminator models have human exteriors, and they're the ones controlling everything there.)

    That's still a woefully inefficient means of control. Considering their advanced nature, there's no reason for Terminators to be lacking wireless methods of accessing various facilities. For that matter, Skynet or some slave-AI could monitor everything and provide access as needed. Just because some of Skynet's machine are human shaped doesn't mean they need to be stuck with human limitations. It also doesn't make sense to implement a control system that the enemy can use easily.

    (Quote:
    Complaint: Where are the sweet laser guns?
    Answer: The movie takes place in 2018, while the sweet laser guns didn't come along until later in the timeline. Most likely Skynet developed the plasma weapons seen in the flash-forward scenes of the earlier movies, and these weapons were then captured and reverse-engineered by the resistance. In this movie, the only plasma-like weapons utilized by the machines are large and cumbersome, built into the bigger machines. It looks like Skynet is years off from developing weapons that are compact and foot soldier usable, much less humans reverse-engineering anything from them.)

    I've heard this come up a few times, but it hasn't been a major complaint. I can accept that plasma weapons didn't hit the battlefield immediately. However, I can't believe that Skynet deploys ammo-wasting weapons like miniguns on Terminators that are comically bad shots. Conventional belt-fed machineguns would have been far more practical. There is one issue involving plasma weaponry in the movie. Mototerminators seem to have them, and considering how ridiculously easy it is to disable a Mototerminator, it's very odd that the Resistance hasn't cannibalized them for their weapons and power sources for use as vehicle-mounted weaponry.

    (Quote:
    Whine: Why do the terminators have humanoid skeletons? They aren't infiltrators yet so why do they have to be humanoid?
    Answer: Really? Yeah, I've actually seen this complaint. The fact of the matter is that a human body type is probably the most efficient physical configuration that can be found on Earth (except for maybe...cats). When it comes to traversing all kinds of terrain, there's no better body type out there. Why wouldn't lots of the machines be humanoid? There's also the psychological component. A walking skeleton with red eyes is something that would evoke fear in anyone who sees it approaching, right? Fear makes people make mistakes, and mistakes make people dead. Really, there's no reason not to have the terminators be skeletal even before the development of infiltration units.)

    This I agree with.

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    1. (Quote:
      Beef: Why does molten steel not destroy the T-800, when it worked in Terminator 2?
      Answer: Because in T2, he was completely submerged in it for a bit of time, long enough to disintegrate. In this movie, molten steel only pours onto the T-800 for a few seconds. It wasn't submerged or exposed to sustained ultra-high temperatures.)

      That steel was still thousands of degrees in temperature, and the Terminator was rather thoroughly doused. While I agree that it would not have been enough to completely melt the Terminator, it was enough heat to cause damage to moving surfaces and thin parts, as well as overheat temperature-sensitive components. The Terminator in T2 started suffering from critical overheating warnings before it became completely non-functional.

      Even completely disregarding the heat issues, what happened next was even more problematic. As steel heats up, it softens. Conversely, as it cools it hardens. So if the Terminator is having trouble fighting against the steel even before it cools completely, then the Terminator would have even more trouble fighting against the steel one it has cooled completely. There is no way that the Terminator should have been able to break its way out of completely hardened steel if it couldn't do so while the steel was still relatively soft.

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      Bitch: Why do terminators in this movie like to throw people so much? Why not just kill them? The terminator in T1 was a killing machine!
      Answer: The terminator in T1 did indeed punch through a guy's chest in the first five minutes of the movie. However, for the most part, the terminators in the other movies threw people a lot too. Terminators throw people. For some reason people nitpick about this in Salvation while totally ignoring the fact that it happens in the other movies.)

      In T1, the only person the Terminator spent any time throwing around was Matt, and after four throws directly into solid obstacles, he was dead. Matt did not last long at all. Also, it's worth noting that throwing Matt around wasn't the Terminator's first choice. It attempted to punch a hole in him first, only resorting to throws when Matt woke up in time and started fighting back.

      In T2, the Terminator was under orders not to kill people for much of the movie, so its options were limited. Even before that, none of the people at the bar were primary targets. It couldn't justify punching a hole in the biker whose clothes it wanted, and the biker behind him was in a sufficiently awkward position that grabbing him and throwing him was the easiest way to take him out of the fight.

      Yet in Terminator Salvation, the T-800 had every reason to kill John Connor, but was just tossing him through the air instead of slamming him directly into the closest solid obstacles available. John Connor was getting tossed so far that he actually had time to get away.

      Even worse was the T-600 from earlier in the movie. It was missing its legs, yet still opted to throw John Connor instead of keeping him as close as possible.

      It's worth noting that in the first two movies, throwing people around didn't prevent a Terminator from getting the job done. Matt didn't live to fight back, and everyone tossed around by the Terminator in T2 immediately stopped being problems. But in Terminator Salvation, the throws end up being tactical mistakes that allow John Connor the opportunity to keep fighting or to escape.

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    2. (Quote:
      Grievance: Why doesn't the helicopter get knocked out of the air by the nuke at the end of the movie?
      Answer: Admittedly, they didn't wait very long to set the nuke off when they were flying away. A little distance would have been a lot smarter. Plus, a precedent was set earlier in -the same movie- when a nuke went off at the beginning and caused Connor's helicopter to go spiraling back to the ground. That said, the "nuke" that goes off at the end of the movie is a small energy core from a terminator, not a high-powered nuclear bomb. Still powerful enough to level the Skynet tower, but we don't know the properties of this cell. It's a creation of the movie, and doesn't necessarily emit an EMP. That said, this is one answer where I'm really grasping at straws. Even if that explosion didn't emit an EMP, the fact that John Connor pushed the button well before their escape helicopter was anywhere near a safe distance away was kind of dumb on the part of the movie.)

      Just one of those power cells was enough to lift the side of a mountain in T3. Hundreds of them should produce a cataclysmic explosion. I don't think EMP would have been an issue as helicopters aren't electronically controlled anyway, but being so close to the explosion was very risky, especially since John Connor knows how powerful those things are.


      (Quote:
      Gripe: Why is it that bullets work on the terminators in this movie, when the other movies clearly established that bullets have no effect on terminators?
      Answer: The terminators in this movie are inferior models compared to the ones in the other movies. Arnolds (T-800s) and more advanced types are pretty immune to bullets, while the earlier T-600 (the vast majority of the terminators in this movie) can actually be damaged by bullets. It can be assumed that the resistance soldiers are using armor-piercing, high-caliber rounds on the T-600s, which should indeed do damage. This is pretty simple stuff, and it amazes me how much I've seen this nitpicked on. Finally, note how the Arnold near the end of the movie completely ignores being blasted by machine gun rounds? This movie doesn't conflict with the earlier films in this regard at all.)

      No particular problems here.

      (Quote:
      Grumble: Why was John Connor able to sneak into the Skynet facility with no backup and encounter almost no resistance?
      Answer: Because Marcus, being a Skynet creation, was able to interface with the security system and shut most of it down, clearing the way of Connor to sneak in. Seriously, this happened like two minutes before he snuck in.)

      That's true, but the real problem is why Skynet allowed everything to remain off. Remember, the whole point of Skynet's big plan was that it was trying to lure the Resistance into a trap. Sure, Skynet wanted John Connor, but he wasn't the only target. Once John was in the trap, there should have been machines all over the place. So if the plan was to trick the Resistance into attacking so that it could wipe them out with machines that weren't really disabled, where were the machines? The Resistance just flew in with no problem. And why was Skynet's trap for John Connor so pathetic? A single naked, unarmed Terminator?! Couldn't Skynet have given it a gun at least? Or make more than one T-800? Or back it up with several T-600's? Or at least lock the doors? I understand why Marcus was allowed to shut down the defenses, but there was no good reason for Skynet to leave them offline.

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    3. (Quote:
      Objection: How can Kate Connor do a heart transplant by herself in a tent in the middle of the desert?
      Answer: It's entirely possible that other medics were in the vicinity besides Kate. After all, it was a medic tent. Just because we didn't see them milling about in the immediate room doesn't mean they weren't there. The resistance has been shown to be pretty well equipped in this movie, and a team of surgeons probably would have had everything they needed to to operate and save John Connor. People act like Kate did this all by herself somehow, which gives them something to nitpick on. It's kind of ridiculous to assume she did, honestly.)

      This is simply not possible. To do the surgery requires lots of equipment and a very sanitary environment. An open-air environment is not the place to do a heart transplant, where dirt, dust, pollen, bugs, and whatever else are being freely blown about by the wind and right into an open chest cavity. Plus, among other things they're going to need a heart-lung machine, which is a very bulky piece of equipment. They're not going to be able to pack everything they need onto some helicopters and deploy it at a moment's notice. Plus, it's not as if all this surgical equipment runs on batteries. That heart-lung machine is going to need a 100% reliable power source, or John Connor won't live long enough to receive the new heart. And just imagine what a sudden gust of wind might do just as the doctors are making a critical incision.

      Besides, if John Connor's situation was so dire, why couldn't they take him to proper medical facilities once he was stabilized? They were sitting around in the desert the next day lamenting over John Connor's bad situation. If he's ok to lay on a gurney in the middle of the desert, why not put him on a helicopter and get him to a proper medical facility? It doesn't seem like a smart idea to loiter in the desert in broad daylight and risk being spotted by HK's that weren't at the base when it exploded. There was no dramatic benefit to having everyone loiter around in the desert throughout the night and into the next day. The scene wouldn't have lost any impact if John Connor had been sent to a field hospital, and it would have stretched credibility a lot less.

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