Sunday, May 24, 2009

Women go crazy bout a sharp dressed man

Women don't fare so well in Terminator Salvation.


First, we have lying, dying mad-scientist-doc Helena Bonham Carter, who talks poor Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), death row inmate, into leaving his body to science. (The scene in which he dies by lethal injection is barbarous, and I wish someone had warned me that this sequence begins the movie; I found it much more jarring than regular cartoon sci-fi violence.) He wakes up in 2018, obviously "resurrected" from the dead. (Yeah, something weird is happening.) He is now in the middle of the Man-vs-Machine war, the plot-center of all of the Terminator movies.

Sexy Woman-of-Color warrior Blair (Moon Bloodgood) is later saved from gang-rape by Marcus, and thereby cuddles up with him announcing he has a "strong heart." She then proceeds to smuggle him into Resistance HQ, wherein we find John Connor (Christian Bale) and the rest of the righteous. Marcus is discovered to be a cyborg, a new type of infiltrator-terminator, made of real skin, nerves and blood ("blood" is the insignia of the resistance fighters). What happened to the ever-barking watchdogs from Terminator I and II that could always sniff out the Terminators? (Hmm, I guess that would have interfered with the whole Terminator-infiltrator plot.) Helena Bonham Carter made him into some new weird thing. Great scene where he looks down and sees his half-robot self, opened up and all a-blinking with lights: AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! And once Blair sees this, well, it's all over, people. She is greatly overcome with emotion, calls him "he" instead of "it" (cyborgs are "its" of course) so you know she is already far-gone over (admittedly fabulous-looking) Marcus. Despite the fact that she is a kick-ass resistance fighter and pilot, she risks all to defy her Leader-Prophet John Connor, to aid Marcus in his escape.


Yes, we know even a badass warrior-woman's silly little head can be turned by the first pretty face she sees with a "strong heart"... so she abandons everything she believes in to aid someone who could be an enemy, who is shown to be a member of the other side. I realize this whole segment of derring-do exists primarily to move the plot along and provide more thrills-and-spills, but it made me indignant and interfered with my enjoyment of the movie. Couldn't some guy have done this instead?

Why ruin the only positive, strong female character in the movie by making her a lovesick turncoat? Infatuated with a cyborg, forgodsake.

Ohhhh yes, we find out later that Marcus (surprise!) does actually have a "strong heart" but not before they tie beautiful and disobedient Blair to a chair so there can be a few scant seconds of titillation (this is a PG-13 movie, after all) before getting back to the explosions.

John Connor's lovely redheaded wife (Bryce Dallas Howard) has nothing to do but be pregnant and poignant throughout. Jane Alexander is on hand to be a victim.

The wonderful ass-kicking Sarah Connor of past Terminator movies seems to have been an anomaly; don't look for any women you can be proud of in this movie.

Dumb ending. (Translation: More sequels to come!)


Roxie said...

I disagree that HBC's character is a liar. She doesn't know what they're going to do to his body. It appears to me that she's as honest with him as she can be. She tells him he'll have the chance to live again, although the cyborgs only come to be years after her death.

Bloodgood's conviction turned betrayal bothered me greatly. However, I think women fared much better in T:S than we usually do in action or sci-fi movies.

No women nor POC was killed for the salvation of the white hero. This is something that happens ALL THE TIME in action/superhero/sci-fi films that really disgusts me.

And while Conner's wife (Kate?) was preggers during the whole thing, I don't feel like it was a focus AT ALL. To me it played out more like she's his number 2. His confidant, a competent doctor, and oh yeah, really pregnant. I mean, they didn't even make some sappy comment about how Conner is doing this for teh babies or anything!

I mean really, my standards may seem low, but only based on past experience.

Prudence said...

Daisy - I've come over from Feministe.

I have not seen this film yet, but I do very much want to see it. I do love the Terminator movies, although the one from a few years ago was a bit rubbish. Yes, it was a female terminator, which might be seen as equality, but was a machine after all (an "it" as you say), plus she was of course perfectly formed which always seem a cowtow to stereotyping - but essentially I just think the plot wasn't brilliant.

This new film promises to get back to the gritty premise of the original, about the freedom fighters and the Connors, and I had hoped it would follow in the spirit of Sarah Connor.

The emphasis on female heroes at the moment seems to be on how they can be sexy and feminine as well as being tough, or indeed in spite of being tough.

I suppose that there is a danger in dismissing a pregnant character as a positive female role, I should think the woman bearing John Connor's child is doing a fairly important job in the scheme of things really, and I don't hold with the opinion that being pregnant somehow makes a woman any less legitimate as a strong character, but like I say I've not seen the film.

I was reading your post forming the opinion that the new film sounded like such a turnabout from the Sarah connor days, agree with you there. She was pregnant and tough in the second film.

Dennis the Vizsla said...

I didn't read the post because I don't want to be spoiled for the film, but I read enough of it to say:

"Helena Bonham Carter? In a Terminator movie???"

Ailurophile said...

I also didn't read the post thoroughly since I still haven't seen the movie. I especially like your kitty Daisy! Beautiful tuxie :)

CrackerLilo said...

Oh, man, this doesn't sound promising. The sad thing is, Roxie's right in that this is probably an improvement over many other action and sci-fi movies. *sighs*

Anonymous said...

I wanted to see the movie, but so far it sounds as if the bulk of the undertones suck. I would like to point out that Marcus certainly wasn't cast as a 'poor soul' in the beginning, that there wasn't a love story in the book between Marcus & Blair, (I liked to think I would've noticed if there was), and that there was no 'smuggling' involved, he was being escorted and tripped a terminator frequency bomb right outside base, he never got as far as the trained dogs. The book certainly has its flaws, but a crappy love story and lack of strong female characters wasn't one of them. Particularly Kate, she's been arguing with people through the last several books. Blair was no slouch either, if memory serves she shot a chunk out of one of the gang's survivors' thighs so he couldn't follow, and there's a particular pilot I don't remember the name of that's been prominent.

Sad that movies are almost always worse than the books, you might enjoy the books better.

-its A.W., can't figure out how to sign in, don't see the option m'looking for.

Natalia said...

I was largely disappointed with this film, for various reasons (T2 is one of my favourite movies of all time), but I disagree with the idea that Blair's a 100% turncoat.

I think her actions were not executed well, and this is the fault of the script more than anything - but I also think that the filmmakers were trying to show us that Blair is the only one who has her head screwed on straight.

Yeah, Marcus was a drone and all, but he was able to fight against it at the end (I HATED the whole heart donation thing at the end, btw), and I think we, as the audience, see that Blair's instincts were right. The others are so demoralized, so bent on revenge, that they don't realize that Marcus means well.

Even John Connor eventually lets Marcus go. Although he doesn't admit his mistake to anyone, he puts his trust in Marcus regardless. Which proves that tacitly, he agrees with Blair.

Do I think that Blair's character could have been handled better, though? Hell yes, I do. A franchise that brought us Sarah Connor needs to live up to its own standards. And I completely agree with your characterization of Bryce Dallas-Howard - she is WASTED in this role. Hell, I think Christian Bale is wasted, cool action sequences notwithstanding.

I really hope that they'll make the next one and learn from their mistakes.

Cassandra Says said...

Blech, movie sexism. Honestly as a writer this just seems lazy to me. There are other ways to move the plot in the direction you need it to go without resorting to cliches.

Dunno if it will bother me any more than the last movie with the very skinny female Terminator, though. Call me picky, but if you're going to have a character whose job is essentially to kick people's asses I want her to have some clearly visible muscles. Yeah, I know she's a cyborg and made of metal, but still, it was distracting to have her look so very un-buff.

Anonymous said...

Great review, enjoyed reading it.