A word of warning: This entry will touch on a recent rumor about Terminator 4 that, according to Internet scuttlebutt, may actually be a lot more of an actual spoiler than the insane foolishness that it originally appeared. If you don’t want to be spoiled (though I honestly don’t figure there are a lot of folks out there anymore with enough faith in the series who are both looking forward to this movie AND want to remain spoiler-free), feel free to skip ahead to the last paragraph, which is a short little bit about Mass Effect.
So this rumor/spoiler in a nutshell is this: John Connor dies at the end of the movie (killed by an Arnold-model terminator), and in order to keep the morale of the Resistance up, they take a good cyborg and alter its face to look like John. From what I understand, the good cyborg isn’t actually a terminator but the product of an experiment by Skynet on a previously executed criminal.
Stupid, you say? Gimmicky? A twist for its own sake? Well, if you did say that, I fully agree with you, and if you didn’t say that, then…you’re entitled to your opinion, I suppose. (I know, I know, I’m breaking one of the unwritten laws of the Internet by not hurling derogatory profanity at you or finding colorful ways to suggest where your head might be, but I’m trying to start a trend.)
This isn’t to say that I’m wildly up in arms about this or planning to start some sort of letter-writing campaign to McG. (Side note: “McG?” Really? His choice, I guess.) I wouldn’t call myself a Terminator fanatic, but I do think the first two films hold a well-deserved place in sci-fi culture. I even thought Terminator 3 was passable entertainment that gets a little extra-credit for nuking the world at the end–an opinion which I realize puts me at odds with the large number of the fan base who prefers to think that T3 never happened.
On the other hand, the storyteller in me hates to see this sort of thing happen to any creation. When I first heard they were making a T4 (which turns out to be the first in a planned trilogy) dealing with the fight against Skynet, I was curious but worried. Finally we’d get to see more of the struggle of a human race pushed to the very brink of extinction (as Reese said in T1, “We were close to going out forever.”) against an artificial mind bent on finding new and better ways to kill them. The possibilities just for human drama alone in that premise are fantastic, not to mention the fantastic blockbuster setting of futuristic things blowing up that, frankly, draws a lot more of our interest than some of us would like to admit. No longer would we get glimpses in flashback-forwards (flashforward-backs?), but an entire tale that explains just how the pieces fit together.
The problem is perhaps best illustrated by many fans’ issues with another certain trilogy detailing the fall of Anakin Skywalker: there’s a risk that (at best) things will unfold differently than we’d always thought would be better, or (at worst) the whole thing will fall apart, blow continuity out the window, and just wind up being a product to sell rather than a story to tell.
Ignoring for now the fact that T4 has the additional task of making sure the time travel mechanics of the first three movies, well, work (I’m one of those people who believes that, in fact, they do–perhaps even in spite of themselves, but I won’t go into that here), they also have to make sure to treat the characters and established continuity of the series with some respect. This rumor makes it sound like they thought they needed some big twist (executives LOVE “twists” these days), and, perhaps taking a cue from the Battlestar Galactica folks, thought “OO! Connor’s a ROBOT!” and completely ignored the previous three films’ build-up of Connor as a leader. Essentially it takes the idea of the indomitable human spirit and guts it.
Maybe the movie’s smarter than I’m giving it credit for, but right now this seems rather pointless. Perhaps it’s a bid to throw some drama into things by having robot-Connor malfunction, or have the Resistance’s PR plan backfire when the word gets out that they’re being led by a robot. In another story, maybe that would work, but do they REALLY need to add extra sources of drama when they’re already talking about a story where humans overthrow the concentration camps they’re in, fight a war they’re massively unequipped for, and manage to finally destroy Skynet while having to deal with not one, not two, but THREE attempts to send things back in time to screw them?
James Cameron, who started it all, is no longer attached to the story, and it seems like those currently involved just don’t seem to get it. In an early teaser trailer for T2, we saw an assembly line stamping out terminator after terminator. Maybe T4 and its successors will wind up being well-crafted tales that hold together with the rest to become a true saga, but right now it’s just looking an awful lot like the series has shifted to an assembly line milking brand-recognition that simply and thoughtlessly pushes out product after product.
Maybe it’s just a rumor. Head on over to Ain’t It Cool News* where I first read about this and see what you think.
And now for the promised bit about Mass Effect: The much-praised console space-RPG is now out for PC. I’ve not paid too much attention to it so far (aside from getting a fantastic laugh about THIS), but when someone described it as being “like Knights of the Old Republic without the Star Wars trappings,” I got curious. I’ve only just got it–and really should be focusing more on writing to make my deadline–but look for more musings on my experience with it on this blog soon. For the moment, I can only report that having three immediately recognizable voice actors in the opening, while not good for immersion, is still rather cool. (Carth’s talking to Oz! Okay, more Geek Points™ for me.)
*But for the love of all that’s holy, do NOT look at the AICN Talkbacks! On ANY article! They’re just pure concentrated EVIL!! 🙂