Tag Archives: last in the series

Terminator Salvation

MV5BMjA5MzE0MTMyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDYwNjAzMg@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_So, it’s a Terminator movie, right? These are basically brilliant studies of predestination versus free will and where humanity exists, set against the backdrop of evil robots bent on making explosions happen. Very much a win-win. The latest entry in the series, Terminator Salvation, made the good decision of ignoring the third movie (without necessarily contradicting it) and the understandable decision of ignoring the recently lamented Sarah Connor Chronicles. With all of the time travel events over the course of the series, pretty much anyone could create a canonical Terminator story these days, saving only that it doesn’t contradict the first two flicks. I still haven’t completely decided how I felt about this one, but I’ll say this in its favor: it made me want to rewatch the originals.

Our setting is some years after Judgment Day. Skynet has broken humanity but not destroyed it. There are still roving bands of civilians, and there is a serious resistance against the machines, and a young man named John Connor has had some solid successes thanks to his mother’s advice and foreknowledge, enough that people see him as at least a mascot and possibly a prophesied savior. And while Connor is preparing to fulfill the destiny that will cause Skynet to try to kill him via Austrian time travel desperation, an unexpected new party, Marcus Wright, shows up with information about the whereabouts of one very necessary Kyle Reese[1] and a decided lack of information about himself, such as where he came from and why he’s a robot. And suddenly our hero is adrift in a sea of questions with no more prophetic answers.

As far as the whole question of where humanity exists, this movie was a champion. I know I just called Connor the hero, and he’s always been half of the hero of the series. But for this movie, and without intending the claim to be a spoiler, Wright was very much the hero. Or, let us say, main character, as that’s equally precise and far less prejudicial. The predestiny part was kind of handwaved but ultimately irrelevant, which makes it hard for me to accept this as a pure Terminator movie; except that the original ignored questions of humanity, so I’ll let it pass. As part of a likely series of sequels, there’s still some time to address all relevant philosophies. So, for explosions and things, yeah, it’s here and Connor is ready to deal with it. But for philosophical discussion, the camera is firmly on Wright from start to finish.[2]

[1] John Connor’s father, thanks to a crazy-ass time loop. But seriously, I’m sure you must already know that.
[2] Well, and on the talented but tragically named Moon Bloodgood.

Long Way Home

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t figure out how deeply flawed the final volume of that Buffy/Angel crossover series was until the last 50 pages or so. Because, I have this habit of not letting things go, however terrible, until I’m through with them, and it would have sucked to bitch to myself constantly for 300 pages instead of only 50. Seriously. There was this bowl of queso at lunch yesterday that tasted truly awful, but I kept retasting it because part of it reminded me of some other taste, and I couldn’t quite put my, er, tongue on it. Meanwhile, my co-diner was actually throwing up due to the chemical poisoning from whatever plastic thing had melted into the queso mix. I’d like to think that if she’d been throwing up before I kept re-tasting, that would have stopped me. I really, really would love to think that.

Sadly, that story was more metaphor than digression. There are good Buffy books out there, as much as any randomly farmed out novelisation franchise can have quality. This trilogy, as I’ve said basically from start to finish, does not reach that low watermark. The banter and adventure is, y’know, fine. The storyline, though, got just about as bad as it could have. The thing I figured out 50 pages from the end is that they had no possible way to satisfactorily conclude the story. I was wrong in that, and I admit it; they wrapped up without taking any cheap shortcuts as I expected. No, I spotted the real problem after the fact, which was that it should have been those 50 pages all along, and that the 250 previous pages were nothing but an artificially induced delay to make it long enough to be a trilogy, since that’s what the authors had promised to their bookfarm foreman.

My point being, Long Way Home is easily the worst-plotted book of a pretty bad trilogy, in which the first volume failed to deliver on even a freaking crossover. There’s a Batman book I read in my middle youth, in which someone decided to write a polemic decrying the child sex trade (a topic which until that moment had been mostly the subject of widespread praise, I’m sure) and thought that it might be fun to have Batman involved. This trilogy is like that, except about urban gang warfare or possibly the Soviet bloc. Buffy and Angel are about as poorly shoehorned into the plot here as Batman was in The Ultimate Evil. Credit where it’s due, though: regardless of how bad a fit Batman was in that story, at least the story itself made a lick of sense. This one, not so much.

Doom 3

So, after that long Half-Life detour, I finally did get around to playing Doom 3. And then came a very frustrating interlude this morning when, less than 10 seconds from victory, my wireless/optical mouse crapped out and I had to start all over. (Well, okay, just the last battle all over. Still, though. It was stressful.) In any case, after a 20 minute struggle to fix the mouse and a 2 minute struggle to replay that end bit, I have now finished.

Was it exactly the same as Doom and Doom 2 and Quake and etc.? Well. It still didn’t have a story the way Half-Life does. I mean, it has a story, and a pretty good one. But it’s basically the story of everything that led up to the endoomening. Space marine wandering around the planet Mars shooting demons, that part is identical, but now it has prettier graphics and a backstory. Which is to say, the fun in the game is seeing the graphics, but not in seeing how it turns out. Still, the backstory part is an improvement over the original Doom. I’d compare it to Doom 2 as well, but that would require me to remember anything, anything at all about that game that would distinguish it from the original. As for the Quake comparison, well, Quake sucks as a single player game, so this is much better than that. So, to answer the actual question: it’s different, but only cosmetically.

That’s okay, though. Going into Hell with guns blazing to save humanity is its own reward. On top of that, the graphical and auditory enhancements have made it pretty spooky. Okay, there’s no good reason in-game why you can’t have the flashlight and a weapon out at the same time. But it would ratchet the tension way down, and the whole point of the Doom franchise is to be twitching around at every noise afraid of being blasted into a lava pit by a giant beholder (which we call a cacodaemon, because this isn’t Dungeons and Dragons, but I think I know a beholder when I see one, thanks). It succeeds masterfully at this aspect, and the backstory-gathering is all gravy on top of that.

I hope they wait for Doom 4 until we’re at another full leap forward technologically, because otherwise they’re really going to have to write an engrossing plotline after all, and id’s only real innovative strength (at least, that others don’t do as well at or better) is the iconic shock image, eg Doom’s missile-launching minotaur or Wolfenstein’s power-armored Hitler. Good Stuff, yeah, but only so good when games that are chock full of plot are in the same place on the store’s shelf, for the same price.