When Bad Movies Happen to Good Critics (An Occasional Series)

on May 21, 2009 by Steve Simels


terminator-salvation-Christian-Bale.jpgLet me stipulate up front that I have not yet seen Charlie's Angels director McG's new franchise entry Terminator Salvation (in theaters today), a film I have been anxiously awaiting because of all the important, even existential, questions that were left dangling in the incomparable Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines .

Incidentally, that title sounds much more impressive when uttered in a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. Try it -- it's fun!

But I digress.

In any case, I was immersed this morning (as is my custom) in the great comforting warm bath that is the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section, when the following passage, from a review of Terminator Salvation by A. O. Scott, normally the most perceptive of reviewers, jumped out at me.


"McG may not yet have a signature style -- he lacks the baroque vulgarity of Michael Bay ("Pearl Harbor" and "Transformers") or the punchy inventiveness of Brett Ratner (the "Rush Hour" movies and "X-Men: Last Stand") but he manages speed, impact and the choreography of techno-mayhem with aplomb and a measure of wit."


To which I can only add a big "wha?"

Seriously, this is so wrongheaded I almost don't know where to begin. I suppose with McG himself, and the fact that Scott has forgotten Auteurist Rule Number One -- never, under any circmstances, trust a director who's given himself a wacky nom de cinema. Trust me, A.O. -- Savage Steve Holland broke my heart many years ago, and I for one will never let something like that happen to me again.

No, but really -- Brett Ratner and "punchy inventiveness" in the same sentence? C'mon, folks, we're talking about the guy who almost singlehandedly killed the X-Men franchise, and of whom it's been said (by wiser people than I) that the four most frightening words in the English language are "A Brett Ratner film."

As for Michael Bay and his numerous crimes against art and commerce, very little needs to be added except that his masterpiece remains The Rock, which features the following conversation between the characters played by Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, both in full Wagnerian over the top mode --

John Mason: Are you sure you're ready for this?
Stanley Goodspeed: I'll do my best.
John Mason: Your "best"! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.

-- and that the only wit he's ever displayed on screen was in a Verizon Fios commercial --

-- that's a deadly parody of the cheesiness of his ouevre.

Sheesh, A.O. Take a couple of weeks off, watch some Grand Illusion or Tokyo Story, and then get back to us when you're feeling less over-stressed.

Coming tomorrow: The rediscovered Pauline Kael essay Ker-splat!: Soul, Subversion and Sinew in the Films of Herschel Gordon Lewis.


Tags: McG, Terminator Salvation, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage

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