Writing for HeroX and Universe Today!

good_news_farnsworthGood news, everyone! My services as a freelance writer were recently enlisted by the good folks who run HeroX and Universe Today. Thanks to my old friend and mentor, Fraser Cain (who consequently got me started in the indie publishing bizz), I’m going to be bringing the experience I’ve garnered writing my own blog to a more professional format – writing about space exploration, innovation and technological development.

As you can imagine, this means I’ll be doing less in the way of writing for this here website. But I promise I’ll still be around! After all, I’ve got lost more work to do on my stories, and there are always articles and headlines that need to be written about that I won’t get a chance to cover at those other sites. So rest assured, storiesbywilliams will be in operation for a long time to come.

XPRIZE_GooglePlus_Cover_2120x1192For those unfamiliar, HeroX is a spinoff of the XPRIZE Foundation, the non-profit organization that runs public competitions intended to encourage technological development and innovation. It’s directors includes such luminaries as Google’s Elon Musk and Larry Page, director James Cameron, author and columnist Arianna Huffington, and businessman/ philanthropist Ratan Tata, and more. In short, they are kind of a big deal!

Fraser Cain, founder of Universe Today, began HeroX as a way of combining the best of the XPRIZE with a crowdfunding platform similar to Kickstarter. Basically, the site brings together people with ideas for new inventions, finds the people with the talent and resources to make them happen, and funnels contributions and donations to them to bankroll their research and development.

big_bangUniverse Today, on the other hand, is kind of an old stomping ground for me. Years back, I did articles for them that dealt with a range of topics, including geology, natural science, physics, environmentalism, and astronomy. In both cases, I’ll be doing write ups on news items that involve technological development and innovation, and doing interviews with some of the people in the business.

If possible, I’ll try to link articles done for these sources to this page so people can check them out. And stay tuned for more updates on the upcoming release of Flash Forward, Oscar Mike, and my various other projects. Peace out!

Judgement Day Update: Using AI to Predict Flu Outbreaks

hal9000It’s a rare angle for those who’ve been raised on a heady diet of movies where the robot goes mad and tries to kill all humans: an artificial intelligence using its abilities to help humankind! But that’s the idea being explored by researchers like Raul Rabadan, a theoretical physicist working in biology at Columbia University. Using a new form of machine learning, they are seeking to unlock the mysteries of flu strains.

Basically, they are hoping to find out why flu strains like the H1N1, which ordinarily infect pigs and cows, are managing to make the jump to human hosts. Key to understanding this is finding the specific mutations that transform it into a human pathogen. Traditionally, answering this question would require painstaking comparisons of the DNA and protein sequences of different viruses.

AI-fightingfluBut thanks to rapidly growing databases of virus sequences and advances made in computing, scientists are now using sophisticated machine learning techniquesa branch of artificial intelligence in which computers develop algorithms based on the data they have been given to identify key properties in viruses like bird flu and swine flu and seeing how they go about transmitting from animals to humans.

This is especially important since every few decades, a pandemic flu virus emerges that not only infects humans but also passes rapidly from person to person. The H7N9 avian flu that infected more than 130 people in China is just the latest example. While it has not been as infectious as others, the fact that humans lack the antibodies to combat it led to a high lethality rate, with 44 of the infected dying. Whats more, it is expected to emerge again this fall or winter.

Influenza_virus_2008765Knowing the key properties to this and other viruses will help researchers identify the most dangerous new flu strains and could lead to more effective vaccines. Most importantly, scientists can now look at hundreds or thousands of flu strains simultaneously, which could reveal common mechanisms across different viruses or a broad diversity of transformations that enable human transmission.

Researchers are also using these approaches to investigate other viral mysteries, including what makes some viruses more harmful than others and factors influencing a virus’s ability to trigger an immune response. The latter could ultimately aid the development of flu vaccines. Machine learning techniques might even accelerate future efforts to identify the animal source of mystery viruses.

2009_world_subdivisions_flu_pandemicThis technique was first employed in 2011 by Nir Ben-Tal – a computational biologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel – and Richard Webby – a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Together, Ben-Tal and Webby used machine learning to compare protein sequences of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic swine flu with hundreds of other swine viruses.

Machine learning algorithms have been used to study DNA and protein sequences for more than 20 years, but only in the past few years have scientists applied them to viruses. Inspired by the growing amount of viral sequence data available for analysis, the machine learning approach is likely to expand as even more genomic information becomes available.

Map_H1N1_2009As Webby has said, “Databases will get much richer, and computational approaches will get much more powerful.” That in turn will help scientists better monitor emerging flu strains and predict their impact, ideally forecasting when a virus is likely to jump to people and how dangerous it is likely to become.

Perhaps Asimov had the right of it. Perhaps humanity will actually derive many benefits from turning our world increasingly over to machines. Either that, or Cameron will be right, and we’ll invent a supercomputer that’ll kill us all!

Source: wired.com

Off to see Prometheus!

Finaaaaally! Today the wife and I will finally be making our trip to see the latest installment in Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. I say in his franchise because it is really is his baby. Sure, Cameron did a good job with the sequel, a really good job in fact. But those who’ve followed, especially those who filmed the fresh hell known as AVP and AVPR, pretty much pissed it away!

Mr. Scott pretty much said so, when interviewed he stated that part of his reasons for making this film was to ensure that he wanted his old franchise to be remembered for something other than all the abortive sequels other people made. I really don’t blame him! If I were Scott, I’d be looking for the bastards with blood lust in my heart and a shiv in my hand!

Despite my best efforts, I have heard some things about this movie. I’ve avoided reading the details wherever possible, but it’s hard not to notice when people rave or complain about something. Hell, they say so right in the title lines! But I’m still going in with a relatively open mind and so real expectations. I hope it’s good, naturally; but even if it’s only mediocre, it will be light years ahead of AVPR.

Review to follow, not to mention some themed posts that delve into various aspects of the movie. In fact, I think I’ll revisit the Ancient Aliens post I did awhile back, where the concept of ancient astronauts came up. I know it’s a thematic element of this film, can’t wait to see what they do with it! Did I mention it will be in Imax 3D? Woohoo!

 

The Future is Here: Asteroid Mining!

The concept is not entirely new. In fact, it’s been a staple of science fiction for some time. Moving mining operations, refineries and even heavy industry to the Asteroid Belt as a way of reducing environmental stress and taking advantage of the sheer abundance of natural resources there. It was the concept behind Ben Bova’s The Asteroid Wars trilogy, and was even mentioned as early as 1898 in Garrett P. Serviss’ story Edison’s Conquest of Mars.

But as they say, science fiction leads to science fact. And when it comes to mining the asteroid belt, it seems some wealthy financiers and visionaries are hoping to get in on the ground floor. The company’s name is Planetary Resources, and its backers include James Cameron (of Aliens and Terminator fame) and Google founder Larry Page. Between these three forces, the idea and development capital are being made to being the commercial exploitation of our system’s many, many rocks.

The plan call for the development of viable space craft which will be able to fly out to the Belt, harvest materials, and then return. However, the long term projections involve the creation of mining colonies, heavily automated facilities that will be capable of taking in harvested rocks and ore and convert them to useable materials before they are ever brought back to Earth. After all, while every asteroid is a potential goldmine (literally!), the goal here is to eventually move the majority of the smelting and other potentially harmful operations off of Earth, into space and into orbit.

Click on the link below to read the full article and video below to learn the full extent of the company’s plans. Who knows? If the prospect looks good, maybe Cameron will want to buy the rights to Bova’s series and start making a series of promotional movies 😉

CBC News – Planetary Resources Inc.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/04/23/space-mining.html

Prometheus and an interview with Ridley Scott

Recently, I came across the lovely article entitled “Don’t f—- around with gods” from the Sydney Morning Herald. The subject was director Ridley Scott’s new movie, Prometheus, which is currently in post-production and set to be released in June of this year. As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, this movie is a return to the universe of Alien, a franchise which Scott began in earnest 30 years ago. Originally thought to be a prequel, Scott has since revealed that this movie is in fact a sort of standalone movie which explores the concept of Exogenesis – the idea that life came to Earth or other planets from an extra-solar source.

Although linked to the original Alien movie in that it deals with the same derelict that the crew of Nostromo encountered, the story is far more concerned with the alien race known as the Space Jockeys than the xenomorphs themselves. Or at least, that appears to be the focus. I’m sure the xenos make an appearance, and probably end up screwing everybody over, as is there tendency! But mainly, Scott emphasized that the plot, as suggested by the title, has to do with the discovery of powerful, dangerous things. When one encounters alien technology, the specter of the bound god who gave fire to humanity can’t help but be resurrected. It’s just timeless like that!

In the course of the interview, Scott also spoke extensively about his reasons for getting into science fiction in the first place. I have to say that I loved his answer: “Science fiction is a wonderful – sorry about the pun – universe for – again, another much overused word – creativity. It’s an arena where anything goes… The opportunity presents itself to fundamentally do anything you want, providing that you draw up a rule book in the first place. You’ve got to draw up the rules of your drama and within that universe you’ve got to actually stick to your own rule book. I think that’s what’s happening – we’re not drawing enough rules up when we do materials. It feels like writing a book…”

Wow. It’s wonderful when you see words that you yourself have said put into the mouths of true veterans! If I was to make a list of directors whom I admire for their creativity and vision over the years, Scott would be tied with Stanley Kubrick for first place! With movies like Alien, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down and Gladiator to his credit, I got to say that I’m pleased as punch that he and agree on two fundamental precepts. One, science fiction is a great realm for creativity and inventiveness due to the fact that the only limitations are those of the author’s imagination. And two, that it’s best to have a detailed game plan worked out in advance. This is what sunk Lucas’ prequels people! Always know where you’re going in advance and try to stick to the plan. Otherwise you wind up with contrived plot twists and forced situations. Trust me, I know!

Another great thing to read was Scott’s indictation that Prometheus wouldn’t be a massive CGI fest. Something which set Cameron’s Aliens apart from the dubious Avatar was the use of real live actors in suits or animatronics instead of digital creations. Granted, this was done in an age when CGI wasn’t available, but those who followed in Scott and Cameron’s footsteps understood the value of shooting things this way. If there was one thing AVP did right, it was the use of costumed actors and real sets rather than blue screens and generated images.

Having set the precedent, I think it’s only right that Scott remain true to this heritage. After all, his environments, especially that of the Space Jockey Ship, were known for their dark, gritty, grimy look, something which was very… Lovecraftian! Try doing that with digital effects, it just doesn’t work! CGI might be great for creating visuals, but the textures are always too clean and sterile. Or in the case of Avatar, too cartoony! And actors are far more convincing when they’re interacting with a real person, or even a robotic alien, than a standing stick or a tennis ball on the end of a string!

In any case, here’s the link to the article. It’s a good read, and definitely for fans of Scott, the Aliens franchise, and just sci-fi in general!

Aliens, revisited

After doing my due diligence to learn what I could about the Xenomorph for my post on Ancient Aliens, I found some interesting additional info that kept me reading. For one, I came to learn that there were a lot of details about the Alien universe that were revealed by Ridley Scott and James Cameron in the course of interviews, but never made it into the movies themselves. At the same time, there was plenty of info that made it into comics, novelization and other sources in the expanded franchise which fans of the movies would want to know about. There were a lot of mysteries in the Alien universe that were left deliberately vague, basic questions that never got answered.

For example:

  1. What was that derelict ship from the first movie and where did it come from?
  2. Why were there eggs aboard the ship in the first place?
  3. And of course, where do the Xenomorph’s come from?

Well, here are some of the answers that I found out:

1. Space Jockeys:
This is the name of the race that built the derelict craft that crashed on LV-426 and was investigated by the crew of the Nostromo. Based on the design of the skeleton that was featured in the movie, and additional material from the alien comics, this race was apparently humanoid, very large, and had elephant-like trunks on their faces. According to all sources on the subject, the Space Jockeys are millions of years old and go by many different names.

In fact, “Space Jockeys” was the name the set designers came up with, whereas H.R Giger (the designer of the Alien) called it “The Pilot”. This second name was used in the video game AVG 2, where the aliens are known as Pilots and examples of their technology as “Pilot Technology”. Yet another name comes from the novelization entitled Aliens: Original Sin by Michael Friedman, where they are known as the Mala’kak. Where they come from remains a mystery, but the fact that their ship was carrying Xenomorph eggs would seem suggests that there was some kind of relationship. Which brings us to question two…

2. The Eggs:
One theory has it that the Space Jockeys were the original victims of the Xenomorphs. Another has it that they were in fact their creators. This second theory is far more detailed and shows up in various sources. Apparently, the Space Jockeys (or Mala’kak) bred the Xenomorphs for use a civil war that was raging millions of years ago. This would certainly explain why the Xenomorphs are so hostile, so adaptive, and proliferate so quickly. Ultimately, the Xenomorphs turned on their creators and caused their extinction, and live on as weapons leftover from a forgotten war.

I got to admit, I didn’t like this theory too much. Somehow, it made the Aliens less scary to know that they were cooked up in a lab as opposed to say, borne out of conditions we can hardly imagine on a planet we have yet to discover. However, I also have to admit that it fit with something I notice whenever I watch the original Alien movie. Compare the Space Jockey ship to the architecture of a Xenomorph hive. Do they not look similar? All those curved surfaces and H.P. Lovecraftian sensibilities? Would it be so crazy to conclude that the Xenomorphs inherited their sense of aesthetics from their creators?

However, there remains the question of why a derelict ship was discovered on LV-426 carrying eggs. Could it be that this was a simple transport that was hauling eggs for the sake of the war effort? If so, then the most likely scenario would be that the pilot became infected accidentally and crashed into the planet, programming the ship to send out a distress signal before his untimely demise. However, we won’t know that for sure until the new movie comes out (see below!)

3. Xenomorph Prime:
According to various sources, the Xenomorph homeworld is a hostile planet named Proteus.  Much like LV-426, it boasts a cold and harsh climate that is rife with volcanoes and turbulent wind storms. According to one theory, the planet is not the actual source of the Xenomorph species, but was used as a storage house by the Space Jockeys to contain and breed them.

The exact source of this info is unclear, but in the 2010 AvP video game, things end with Weyland Yutani discovering the location of their homeworld. This would seem to indicate that it will be revealed and/or detailed in the sequel. Also, the info on Proteus (as it stands) is clearly linked to the theory that the Space Jockeys were responsible for the creation of the Xenomorphs, so I can only assume that it came up in one of the AvP comics or novels.

Prometheus:
In the course of learning all this, I also came to learn that Ridley Scott has been dropping some serious hints of late. Apparently, the concept of the Space Jockeys, the Xenomorph homeworld, and the link between the two species will be explored at some length in the upcoming movie, Prometheus. For those who don’t know, this upcoming movie is a prequel to the Alien franchise where the crew of an Earth starship discover the derelict years before the Nostromo. Originally, I was planning on avoiding it. But successive previews and all the promised explanations are starting to get to me. Coming to theaters this summer, people!

Strange Days

Here’s a cult classic you don’t hear about often. But that’s the way of cult classics, isn’t it? You never hear about them until you stray into the fan community and they insist that you have to see it. You finally do and then maybe, just maybe, you yourself become an accolade. Once that happens, you might eventually become aware of the community of fans that’s out there – most likely they have an internet fansite going – they spread the word and make sure the movie is listed as a “sleeper hit” or a “hidden gem”.

Yeah, that’s about how I came to see the movie Strange Days. I can remember when it came out back in 95, how little fanfare and attention it got and how briefly it was in theaters. In fact, I didn’t even hear about it again until recently when it turned up on somebody’s top ten lists of the best sci-fi movies. Upon further investigation, I found that this movie made it onto a lot of people’s lists, even a few professional ones. And since I committed to covering sci-fi cult-classics awhile back, I thought I’d check this one out. And, I am pleased to say, I was pretty impressed.

(Background—>):
In spite of being well-received by critics, this movie did quite poorly at the box office. Surprising, considering the all-star cast and the fact that James Cameron co-wrote and produced the thing. And when I stay all-star, I mean all-star! Ray Fiennes, Angela Basset, Juliet Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Michael Winscott all had main roles in this movie (this last guy you may remember as the creepy villain from The Crow, and every other movie he’s ever done for that matter!)

However, as is often the case, the movie went on to attract a cult following who enjoyed the movies cyberpunk elements, its millennial theme and dark, paranoid feel. And with few exceptions, the acting and delivery was quite good. Ray Fiennes excels at being the sleazy but redeemable huckster, Basset as his concerned and beleaguered friend, and Winscott as the creepy, paranoid control-freak. Juliet Lewis came off as a little labored, but then again, her dialogue was kind of the cheesy, looks good on paper stuff. Still, she manages to pull off the abused, damaged damsel quite convincingly (draw whatever inference you will from that ;)).

In addition, the movie did a good job of capturing that pervasive sense of millennial madness that was beginning to manifest around the early-mid nineties. While things like the Y2K virus quickly became a cliche, especially after they proved baseless, the years leading up to the millennium were not without their share of fears, concerns and a general sense of imminence. Many people, both religious and secular, predicted doom, thinking the world would end. Others predicted a sort of social cataclysm, that mobs and rioters would take to the streets and begin looting, especially if all the grids went down. But most, I think, were just worried that the madness and hysteria would be self-fulfilling, that some riots and crackdowns might happen before everyone realized that the world wasn’t ending.

Also, the technological aspects of this movie were quite interesting. Mainly, they centers on a form of virtual entertainment known as the SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device), a device which can record and playback events directly from the wearers cerebral cortex. This predicted the internet phenomena in many ways, the concept of “viral videos” and snuff films being the main plot device in the story. And one of the major events in the movie, the murder of an outspoken hip-hop artist and the controversy surrounding it, predicted the death of Tupac Shakur, which took place around a year later.

(Content—>):
The movie opens on the last days of December, 1999. Violent crime and gang warfare are getting out of control, and in the midst of all this, a major recording artist and activist named Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer) is killed. Meanwhile, a woman is being chased by two policemen, played by Vicent D’Onofrio and William Fichtner, who clearly want to kill her. Seems she saw something and was wearing a SQUID at the time, and when she gets away, the policemen retrieve the device and realize she got it all on tape (disc, whatever!).

Meanwhile, we meet Lenny Nero (Ray Fiennes), a former LAPD officer who has since turned to the world of contraband and sleaze, selling SQUID tapes to anyone looking for a break from reality or themselves. However, Nero has a rule that he never sells “blackjacks” (i.e. snuff films), because he considers himself a purveyor of experiences, not a peddler of smut! His friends, Lornette ‘Mace’ Mason (Angela Basset) and Max Peltier (Tom Sizemore) are also former LAPD officers who have since retired. Mason now does private security while Justin is a private eye. They don’t approve of what Nero does, but stick by him because of their friendship, and in Mason’s case, feelings of unrequited love.

Things begin to unfold when the woman who was being chased, named Iris (Brigette Bako), finds Nero at a bar. She claims someone is trying to kill her and has to flee, but that she recorded the entire thing on a disc and dropped it in his car. However, his car is soon towed and he’s unable to figure out what she was talking about. Shortly thereafter, a “blackjack” is dropped off at his house that shows someone killing her. Nero is freaked, especially since when he last saw her, Iris also told him that their mutual friend and Nero’s former lover, Faith Justin (Juliette Lewis), is in danger as well. This presents Nero with an opportunity to see her, only to be told by her and her manager that he’s not wanted. In between telling him that they are through, Justin is sure to relate that she’s also afraid because her manager, Philo Gant (Michael Winscott), is becoming increasingly paranoid and controlling. Spurned, Nero shows Mason and Peltier the blackjack and they are similarly shocked.

Shortly thereafter, Nero and Mason go to pick up his car so they can see what Iris dropped off and run into the same two officers who were chasing Iris earlier. They narrowly escape them and then view the tape, where it shows these same officers murdering Jeriko in cold blood. Shortly thereafter, Nero finds his supplier, Tick (Richard Edson), dead from an overdose of the SQUID. It looks like an accident, but Peltier suspects foul play since what appears to be an isolated case of murder might have something to do with a larger conspiracy he’s been hearing about. According to Peltier, there is a militant movement coming from City Hall and the LAPD who are determined to bring the city under control, even if it involves death squads! Because Jeriko was a major activist who was bringing the gangs of LA together to reign in the LAPD and the cities politicians, these squads would have been targeting him.

They then go to pick up Faith who is at a New Years party being hosted Philo. She reveals to them that she knows what going on, that Philo has become a total “wirehead” (i.e. SQUID-addict), who’s in the habit of having his artists followed because of his increasing paranoia. Iris was his mole and was tailing Jeriko, and was therefore with him when he was murdered. When she showed the tape to Philo, he feared for his business, beat her up, burnt the tape and told her killer where to find her. However, she made a copy in advance which she then put in Nero’s car. They now understand why Faith was afraid and trying to keep Nero away. Clearly, she feared for her life as well and didn’t want him getting involved. They all agree they should release the tape, but both Peltier and Nero worry about the impact it will have – i.e. a full-scale war between the gangs and the LAPD.

However, their rescue attempt is thwarted as Philo and his thugs intervene. Faith is then taken to his suite where she expects to die. After arguing and regrouping, Nero and Mason decide to attempt to rescue her again. Meanwhile, the streets are filled with people celebrating, rioting, and signs boasting “2K”. In the midst of the rowdy chaos, Mason and Nero manage to sneak into Philo’s party, Nero attempts to rescue Faith while Mason confronts the police commissioner and slips him the disk. Mason gets into Philo’s suite but finds him dead, and that Peltier, his friend, is the one who killed him. Seems he and Faith have been having an affair, and that HE was the one who murdered Iris and sent the tapes to Nero. He also confesses that the whole conspiracy theory was just his way of keeping Nero away from the authorities. In the end, it was all just a “traffic stop gone wrong”.

While this might seem like a letdown, I actually preferred it to the alternative. Rather than there being some big conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, the real motivating factor in all this was just random violence. And it is for this reason that Peltier did what he did. In a world as messed up as theirs, he believes what matters most is getting what you can before you’re murdered senselessly. In any case, Faith comes in and distracts him long enough for Nero to get the upper hand and they fight. Nero gets a knife in his back (symbolic since his friend betrayed him) but manages to toss Peltier from the balcony in the end.

Down below, Mason has been forced to flee the party when the two crooked officers spot her and begin chasing her through a crowd. She subdues them, but then is set upon by several riot cops. She is cornered and beaten, and it looks like its all over until a number of people in the crowd decide to help her out. A big fight, symbolic of the war they were anticipating, begins, but is broken up when the commissioner arrives and reveals he’s seen what’s on the disc. The two officers are arrested, one eats his gun while the other – D’Onofrio, in true psychotic form – tries to shoot Basset and is gunned down!

The movie ends with the New Year being rung in. Yes, in spite of the shooting, several deaths and a near riot, the countdown happens as planned and people cheer. Ah whatever, it’s New Year’s right? No sense letting a few fatalities ruin the biggest party of the millennium. Everyone is merry, people kiss (even some riot troops and civilians), and of course, Nero and Mason hook up! Seems he’s finally taken the hint and broken it off with Faith who, let’s face it, is more trouble than she’s worth. War is averted, the New Year arrives without the apocalypse, and there’s resolution all around!

(Synopsis—>):
Overall, I can see why this movie was a cult hit and why it didn’t do so well in theaters. For one, it wasn’t the usual big-budget splashy action flick Cameron is famous for, and it didn’t have a faithful marketing effort behind it. And that’s to be expected from a noire, cyberpunk thriller such as this, studios just don’t seem to know how to peddle and pigeon hole it. However, given its obvious depth and signs of quality, I think it was inevitable that audiences would take notice of it, adding it to their lists of favorites alongside movies like Blade Runner and Akira.

For one, the movie managed to capture, years in advance, the feeling of paranoia that surrounded the actual millennium. Ultimately, these fears proved to be baseless (just like in the movie!), which was one of the things I found subtly brilliant here. Long before the myth of Y2K began to circulate, it was easy to see how people would treat the millennium with a certain degree of paranoia. The religiously minded would fear that the apocalypse was at hand, the paranoid would expect riots, and others believed the world’s infrastructure to all go down! But of course, the clock struck twelve… and nothing happened. And, the plot where a hip-hop artist/activist is murdered in many ways predicted the feelings of loss and suspicion that followed Tupac’s death. Many of his die-hard fans continue to say he was assassinated, some even that he’s still alive!

In addition, the concept of VR technology and human experience was explored in depth and I found this very effective as well. On the one hand, the SQUID technology is just like a drug, something people do to escape their daily lives. On the other, there’s a lot of time dedicated to showing how something like this would have a negative impact on people’s memories and experiences by depriving them of authenticity. On several occasions, Nero is criticized for not being able to let go of the past, mainly because he keeps reliving it with his SQUID. The character of Mason says at one point that memories are meant to fade. Ergo, reliving his old experiences is depriving him of the ability to move on.

But what was best was the twist at the end. Ultimately, the threat came from close to home rather than from death squads or in the form of some big, shadowy conspiracy. All along, the characters are moving about thinking that they are witnesses to an assassination and that they can’t trust the authorities. But in the end, it turns out that the “assassination” was just a random act of violence – albeit with disastrous consequences if it went public – and that it’s their best friend they can’t trust. All of this is in keeping with the central theme and setting of the movie, which again, is millennial madness and an impending set of doom, all of which proves baseless in the end.

Movies like this one remind me that Cameron had a keen mind and some pretty cool ideas way back when. So… what happened? How did he go from Aliens, T2 and Strange Days to “I’m king of the world” and “Unobtainium”? Was it the money? Must be the money. Screws up everything!

Strange Days:
Entertainment Value: 7/10 (admittedly, not the funnest movie around)
Plot: 9/10
Direction: 8/10
Total: 8/10

(Even) More Plot Holes and Oversights!

Okay, picking up from where we left off! In my last post, I recapped all the holes that I found with Transformers and the Matrix sequels. Here’s some other recent reviews that also had holes in them:

Avatar:
This movie I did not like much, as anyone who read my review of it could tell. However, there were not a lot of holes that I could see. But after giving it a good once over, there were one or two that did stand out for me.

1. Dreamwalker:
The Na’vi made it quite clear that they didn’t trust the character of Jake Sully and his Avatar. In fact, the word they used was “dreamwalker”, implying that they understood exactly what he was (you know, a human-alien hybrid machine thing). So if they knew what he was, an imposter looking to infiltrate them, why the hell did they take him in and teach him everything they could about their culture? Why not say, “We know what you are, dammit! You wanna learn? Put on a gas mask and come out here.” And given the fact that they knew what he was, where he came from and who he was working for, it seemed very odd that they would be surprised when it was revealed that he had an agenda.

2. Ride the Big Bird and all is forgiven:
Another thing that struck me as odd about this movie was how the Na’vi basically forgave Jake Sully and all his lies simply because he showed up riding the big red bird. Granted, it was a pretty kick-ass entrance, and to the Na’vi, the ability to ride this bird of prey is a rare gift. But how does that erase everything he’s done or prove that he’s somehow worthy of their trust? If anything, this just shows more cultural appropriation on his part. He learns their ways, he rides their animals, he feeds what he knows to his corporate masters who are looking to exploit them. I’d have thought they’d want to club him the second he got off that bird!

That’s all I got for that one. Moving on…

I, Robot:
I could only find one plot hole in this one, but it was so big you could drive a truck through it!

“My Logic is Undeniable”:
That’s what VIKI, the central AI that controlled all the robots said after she explained her big, master plan to Will Smith and the others. So according to VIKI, robots were marauding around town, imposing a curfew and refusing to obey people’s orders because she reinterpreted the Three Laws. While they were meant to ensure that robots would protect and serve humanity, VIKI soon realized that the greatest threat to humanity was humanity itself. It was for this SOLE REASON that the robots were able to now break the laws, impose martial law, and kill people – as they tried to do to Smith on several occasions. It’s an explanation, sure, but it doesn’t make sense!

For one, the Three Laws are VERY specific. Rule one is DON’T KILL OR HARM HUMANS. This is the first rule for a reason and all other rules refer back to it, which makes it inviolable! So it wouldn’t matter what kind of revelations VIKI had about humanity or her purpose. Nothing can make Law One breakable because it was specifically designed to be unbreakable! Second, the idea that imposing martial law on humans was a logical way to ensure their safety is actually very illogical. As any AI would surely realize in the course of running scenarios, humanity would surely resent the imposition of martial law and would ultimately revolt. Hence, more violence would be necessary, which would in turn lead to escalation. No logic there, only the obvious: VIKI’s logic is in reality a tired cliche about evil robots, the one where they try to take over the world!

Demolition Man:
A slight improvement on I, Robot, in that I was able to find two plot holes, not one. But these two were really, really big!

1. Everybody’s got guns:
One of the earliest action scenes in this movie takes place in a museum. Why? Because the antagonist is looking for a gun and a museum is the only place in the future where a person can see one. Naturally, the Protagonist goes there, and a big ol’ gunfight ensues. One question: Why are the guns loaded? Forgetting for a second how stupid anyone would have to be to keep tons of loaded firearms in display cases, there’s also the more logical thing to consider. If guns are illegal and unobtainable, then its fair to say they don’t make them anymore. Which would mean that no ammo is being made either. Hence, not only would the gun fight in the museum be impossible, so would all gun fights in this movie!

Yes, even though we’re told early in the movie that the only place a person could even view a gun in San Angeles is behind glass, it seems that people are able to obtain them without much effort. The bad guys do it, the sewer-dwelling dissidents do it, and soon, gun violence is no longer a thing of the past! Oh, and did I mention that the antagonist even manages to find a loaded cannon inside this museum? WHAT KIND OF MUSEUM IS THIS???

2. The Worst Laid Plan:
The movie comes to a climax when Simon Phoenix (played by Wesley Snipes) finally confronts Dr. Cocteau and asks him the basics: aka. “why am I free, programmed to kill Friendly (Denis Leary) and can access anything in the city?” The answer: “so you could kill a political dissident who’s annoying the hell out of me.” THAT’S IT?! You thawed the most dangerous criminal of the 20th century just so he could get rid of a grungy man whose crimes including spraying graffiti and stealing food?! That’s like sending in a Cobra to deal with a mouse!

As if that’s not bad enough, why hadn’t he given any thought to what he was going to do with him once it was all over? He hadn’t even considered how he was going to reward him when he’d done his job. “What do I get?” asked Phoenix. “Well, what do you want?” said Cocteau. Did he assume that thawing the psycho and making it so he couldn’t turn on him would be enough, that everything else would just work itself out?

Also, Cocteau did think to install that little neural block in Phoenix’s head. But what about those criminal friends of his he agreed to thaw? As if agreeing to unleash twelve more psychos wasn’t enough, he didn’t even bother to think of a way to control them! Even if Phoenix couldn’t kill him, what was to prevent the others from shooting him and staging a coup? Which, by the way, is it exactly what they did! What could he have been thinking as he stared down the barrel of that gun? Was it that a little graffiti and petty theft didn’t seem so bad anymore? Or could it have been how stupid he was for ever thinking he could call up a bunch of psychos and expect them to behave themselves?

The Star Wars Prequels:
As always, I saved the worst for last! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that these movies were quite awful and forever tainted my memory of the originals and the legacy of the franchise. Still, I hope people will indulge me as I list off some of the things that were truly and specifically awful about them. And those things are, of course, the parts of the plot that made absolutely no sense!

1. Qui Gon – Jedi Master, Idiot:
Would anyone be surprised if I were to venture that the stupidest character in the first movie was NOT Jar Jar Binks? Yep! If you think about it, Qui Gon Jinn comes off as the dumbest. Not because he was a clumsy, ignorant, horribly racist caricature, but because the things he does makes no sense. For starters, why would a Jedi Master decide to pick up some gifted boy on a distant planet and not bother with his mother? Why, for that matter, would he agree to host him in some pod racing tournament in order to secure the parts he needs to get off planet (instead of say, going to another vendor or hiring a new ship altogether)?

And why, last of all, would he ask his apprentice to train him as his dying wish when everybody and their brother is saying the boy is dangerous? Does this guy just love doing things the hard way and being reckless? He’s supposed to be a Jedi Master for Chrissakes, the kind of guy who is patient, cunning, willing to let things unfold before making any hasty decisions. True, its the plot that’s the real source of dumb when you get right down to it, but Qui Gon is it’s enabler. He’s the guy doing things that are completely out of character for completely unclear reasons.

2. Premonitions Ignored:
For that matter, why DID the Jedi Council agree to train the boy? They all said he was dangerous, so why would they do it? Second, WHY, if they thought it was dangerous to have Anakin around Palpatine, did they allow him become his go-to guy and spend so much time with him? Third, if they sense the Dark Side around Palpatine, why the hell did they let him run things and accumulate more and more power? It was one thing for the Senate to be too stupid to see what was going on – why did they cheer when he said he was overturning Democracy and creating an Empire? – but aren’t these guys supposed to have premonitions and feelings that make them especially insightful? Even if they had been completely blinded to the Force by Palpatine, simple logic would have sufficed there.

In fact, throughout the entire trilogy there are several instances where the Jedi say that they suspect something’s wrong or that things are going in a bad direction, but then do nothing about it. Each time it’s “we must meditate”, “we must be careful”, “we must think this over”, etc. But seriously, nothing is ever done! Consider the first movie. A whole bunch of shit goes down and it is revealed that a Sith was at the center of it. Rather than investigate to see who he was working for, the Jedi treat it like a big mystery and then forget about it. In movie two, they know that the creation of the clone army is part of a larger conspiracy, but again, they don’t investigate! They just make some more cryptic comments and roll with it. Its only by movie three, when war is upon them, Palpatine is firmly in charge, and the Jedi are dispersed and at their most vulnerable, that they finally choose to act! But by then, wouldn’t you know it, it’s already too late.

All along, one simple question would have led to them to the source of their problems and possibly averted the whole take over: Cui Bono? Who stood to benefit from all this chaos? Any idiot could see it was Palpatine, he was the one person who consistently succeeded as a result of everything that was going on. And if they knew that the Sith were somehow at the center of things AND sensed the dark side of the force around Palpatine… Well, you know the saying: TWO AND TWO EQUALS FOUR!

3. Assassination Plot:
This is something that many amateur critics have pointed out about this movie, so I shan’t go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, its one of the biggest plot holes in the second movie! At the beginning, it’s established that there are people looking to assassinate Padme/Amidala, yes? So what do Anakin and Padme decide to do? They use her as bait while Anakin waits outside her bed chamber. What are they hoping to do, catch the assassin climbing in through her window or sneaking through her door? And we’re to believe this was HER idea? How dumb is she, or they for that matter that they would approve?

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this scene. In addition, we learn that the real assassin, Jango Fett, subcontracted with another assassin to do the job. And what does she do? Sends some probe to Padme’s window where it cuts through the glass and then sends in poisonous slugs. That’s right, this probe which could have easily lobbed a grenade in or shot her with a laser instead sends in a bunch of slow-moving poisonous slugs! Then, to top it off, the Jedi chase her across town where finally, Jango shoots her with some kind of dart gun from a safe distance. If he could do that, why not shoot that same thing into Padme’s room? What the hell was the point of all this subcontracting and chasing?

Oh, and its from this dart that Obi-Wan is able to find out where Jango was operating from, because apparently the dart is of a specific design. This leads him to the cloner’s planet, to a confrontation, blah blah blah! Point I’m making here is, if Jango was going to assassinate someone, why would he use a weapon specific to the world he’s been hiding on? Does he not have his own weapons? Common weapons? Untraceable weapons? Weapons that won’t lead a Jedi to his doorstep? Man, that was a stupid scene!

4. Uncompassionate Jedi:
It’s kind of common knowledge that Jedi are supposed to be compassionate. In fact, Anakin even said that compassion was essential to being a Jedi in the second movie, during his whole spiel about love (ick!). So why then are Yoda and the Jedi Council such a bunch of unfeeling jagoffs in this trilogy? When they meet young Anakin and sense his fear of losing his mother, they get all nervous and tell him how that’s the path to evil and he must let her go. What kind of advice is that to give a nine year old? Second, when Anakin comes back to Yoda seeking counsel about his prescient dreasm, the ones where Padme dies, he’s told something very similar. “Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.”

Again, what kind of advice is this? It makes no sense, taking issue with a child who is afraid to lose his mother, or telling a man he should be happy to lose his wife. And yes, this was all done to make Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side seem inevitable, but that’s precisely why it makes no sense. Yoda and all the other Masters believed Anakin was potentially dangerous because of his fear of losing someone he cared about. So why then are they giving him these ultimatums, “it either us or the ones you love”? Can they not see that its precisely them telling him that he has to sever all ties and become an emotionally disconnected that is making him dangerous? Ah, which brings me to my next point…

5. Genocide, No Biggie!:
In movie two, Anakin commits genocide and Padme doesn’t seem to care. Seriously, he confesses it to her and she acts as if he just told her he knocked over a mailbox because he was pissed. That alone was an indication that Lucas was asleep at the wheel when he wrote this movie. But what of the Jedi? Yoda sensed through the Force that something terrible was going down and that Anakin was at the center of it. But, upon his return, the subject never comes up and by movie three, only Palpatine mentions anything about it. Are we to believe that the Jedi Council was so distracted with the war that they just forgot to ask Anakin about this murderous episode of his? Or is it that they just never thought to ask what the hell that mega-dose of negative energy he was putting out happened to be? You can’t say they didn’t know. Yoda felt it man!

And speaking of no one mentioning anything about his little act of genocide, in movie three, Anakin similarly slaughters a whole bunch of Jedi “younglings” (aka. children). When Padme is told of this, she expresses shock and disbelief, saying that he couldn’t have. Uh… why? Does she not recall him doing the EXACT SAME THING a few years before to the Sand People’s children? Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe he said flat out that he murdered the entire village, including the women and the children, and really didn’t seem sorry that he did. So how is she going to say that Anakin is incapable of committing a terrible crime when she knows for a fact that he’s done it before? Do the Jedi and anyone who’s not the bad guy in this movie have incredibly short memories, or do they simply not care about genocide so long as its Sand People who are murdered? I know Lucas likes to play around with racism, but this is going too far!

6. The Prophecy:
This is a minor point, but since it was intrinsic to the plot, its worth mentioning. In the first movie, Qui Gon tells the Jedi Council that he picked up Anakin because he believes him to be the one that was foretold by a prophecy. Mace Windu then cites it, saying that it basically states that there will be “one who will bring balance to the Force”. This prophecy comes up again in movie three, when Yoda says that this prophecy may have been misread or misinterpreted. And Obi-Wan clinches things off near the end of movie three where he whines at Anakin after hewing off three of his limbs, saying how he failed to live up to the prophecy by turning bad.

Okay, so with all this talk about the prophecy, why is it that no one bothered to fully explain what it was about? “One who will bring balance”… yes, I can see how that could be misinterpreted, mainly because there’s so little to go on! That could easily mean he would go on to wipe out every last Jedi and Sith, thus leveling the playing field by making sure there was no one left who could wield it.

Wait, that’s what it actually meant?! I was making a bad joke! Yes, for those who don’t know, Lucas actually explained the whole prophecy thing in these EXACT terms! He said that since Anakin/Vader helped exterminate the Jedi and then went on to kill Palpatine (the Sith Lord), that he effectively brought balance to the Force. Yep, he fulfilled the prophecy by killing everyone on both sides, thus leveling the playing field. Wow… it takes a powerful imagination to turn what one person would consider a joke into a serious attempt at storytelling!

To be fair, I could kind of see how this would work and how misinterpretation and subversion would thus play a part in it. But really, if this prophecy is supposed to be some mysterious trickster-style, monkey’s paw kind of thing where it comes true, but only in the worst or most painfully ironic of ways, shouldn’t we hear more about it first? Some details, some indication of how it could have a double-meaning or easily be a foretelling of doom and not salvation. Because as it stood, that prophecy was paper thin!

Okay, that’s all I got for now. I’m sure I could find more if I tried, but not without exposing the depths of my geekiness and obvious obsession with details even further! And frankly, I have a hard enough time taking myself seriously as it is. Until next time!

Avatar!

Oh, I was dreading doing this review. Although I do LOVE trashing bad movies, there a couple reasons why I wasn’t looking forward to doing THIS one. For one, I didn’t want to have to see it again. Second, it’s kind of a controversial subject, this being such a big movie and all. Those that liked it seemed to really like it, those who didn’t REALLY DIDN’T! That’s the funny thing about James Cameron movies, I guess. At least when it comes to everything since Titanic. But I’ve got little to say on the subject that isn’t directly to related the movie’s content, hype, and how it was TOTALLY OVERRATED! Yeah, this is Avatar… whatever.

Avatar (the Cameron flick, not the Japanese anime!)
Yes, that’s another well-known fact about this movie. In addition to sharing so many plot elements with other films (most of which James Cameron did himself), it also shares a name with a Japanese anime of the same name. To keep things differentiated, the anime and the live-action adaptation, directed by M. Night Shyamalan (huh! another terrible director!) went by its alternate name The Last Airbender. Personally, I think Cameron should have changed the name of HIS movie. Avatar, the anime, came first, and Cameron’s movie had far more to be ashamed of!

In any case, this movie was treated favorably by critics for a number of reasons. Foremost were the visual effects, which everybody agreed were pretty damn impressive! Then there was the powerful story-telling. Uh… okay. Then there was the multi-layered thematic nature of the film. Right! However, those of us who aren’t superficial morons who aren’t ignorant of cinematic history (or real history for that matter) noticed a few things that didn’t quite measure up to all the hype. Here they are…

1. Insipid Plot:
So many critics liked the story, huh? Odd, because what I saw was cheesy, cliched, and actually kinda racist film. And here was what made it all that… and by that I mean, really really bad! For one, the idea of an idealized native culture that is being ruthlessly exploited by evil corporations and their military stooges. Sure, sounds familiar enough, and its pleasing that in this context, the native species would be given its due considering how the opposite attitude – that of Europeans “civilizing” the “savages” of the world – has been so widely accepted for so long.

But it’s still pretty insulting. Simply flipping old racist constructs on their head and idealizing the victims doesn’t set the record the straight or undo the harm. If anything, its more for the sake of the victimizers that this is done. In short, its easier to vilify one’s ancestors in fiction that to actually address how that kind of shit went down in the real world. In fact, one thing I loved about the popular response to this movie was the people who came forward and demand that audience who claimed to love the movie do something about actual exploitation and genocide in the real world. Love the Na’vi, you gullible fops? Then fucking stop the ongoing oppression of First Nations!

Second, if you think about it, this movie was kinda racist itself. The Na’vi were helpless before the onslaught of the human corporation and their armed forces, until a defector came along and led them to victory. Can you say “Great White Hope”? Bingo, these people had to be rescued! What is that if not a heaping dose of the more recent, but not less racist notion that the indigenous people of the world who’ve been traditionally wronged by westerners can only be saved by them? God forbid you’d ever think that these individuals can help themselves, or need a break from being saved! Hell, it was the idea of “saving them” that created this whole problem in the first place! But I’m getting preachy here, moving on! Sure, there were lots of fitting elements that are taken from real history, such as the residential school which they had set up for the Na’vi, and the whole “negotiations for their land” angle, but it was all so painfully obvious! Which brings me to point two…

2. Obviousness:
Where to start? How about “Unobtainium”? Seriously… how lame was that?! We already have the many, many instances in the movie where people go on about how rare and valuable this mineral is. You don’t have to give it such an blatant name! Second, the name of the planet… Pandora. Also a patently obvious reference to the heavy handed moral of the story, which is that humanity shouldn’t be messing with people and places it doesn’t understand! There was that horrid speech the CEO (played by Giovanni Ribisi) gave where he talks about how precious and valuable “Unobtainium” is, and how the “flea-bitten savages” are getting in the way. And did anyone else notice that their was a Dream Catcher and other Native artifacts being prominently displayed on the wall behind him? Was that not just the most blatant case of symbolism ever? We get the allegory, and we also get that the guy’s a greedy little bastard. You don’t have to show AND tell us is such an insistent way.

And of course, there’s the divide between the scientists and the corporation and its military enforcers. Whereas the former appreciate the planet and its people and want to understand it, they wanna rape it. Add to that the clear and obvious indications that Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) was going to defect and that he and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) were going to get together. All of this stuff has been so done to death that it was obvious how it was all going to play out as soon as the introductions were finished! Sure, its nice to have a script that writes itself, but man, a few surprises would be nice!

3. Weak Characters:
To put it simply, the characters in this movie are cardboard cut-outs. On the one hand, you’ve got the conflicted hero with the sympathetic injury, the hardened military man who doesn’t give a shit, and the corporate sleazebag who only cares about the bottom line. On the other, you’ve got the down-to-death native characters: the wizened old chief, the stern second in command, and the beautiful chiefs daughter who loves the foreigner. Holy shit were these last elements stolen out of Pocahontas, and it wasn’t even original when they did it! The former characters were largely stolen from Dances with Wolves, though just about any movie about the closing of the frontier would do here! As I’ve said already, there’s absolutely nothing original here, just a rehashing of old ideas and things that have been done to death.

4. Recycling:
According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics praised Avatar for its “imaginative, absorbing storytelling.” That’s also funny because when I watched this movie, all I saw was a whole heap of things Cameron’s already done, of course with some Pocahantas/Dances with Wolves stuff thrown in for good measure. For starters, you’ve got the theme that was present in Aliens, of the evil mega-corporation that is motivated by unbridled greed and using the military to further its aims. And let’s not forget those armored mechs, which very much resemble the cargo loaders from Aliens as well! Hell, even Sigourney Weaver was in this! I know Cameron likes to reuse actors, but given all the parallels he made to Aliens already, her presence was just a little tongue-in-cheek. Oh yeah, then you’ve got the unlikely love story between star-crossed lovers who managed to succeed against all odds. That’s Titanic right there! And the whole human-machine hybrid (some alien DNA sliced in there for good measure)? That’s right out of Terminator!

So really, the only thematic element in this movie that Cameron hasn’t already done was the whole raping the virgin planet and exploiting the natives thing, but that he simply ripped off from half a dozen other movies! So really, nothing this movie did was original! Sure, some would say that the concept of a massive, planet-wide organism who’s neural pathways connect everything is cool, but that’s been done too, by Stanislaw Lem no less. And when he did it, it was original, hence better (see Solaris)!

5. The F/X ARE The Movie!
The best criticism I’ve heard yet about this movie has to do with Cameron’s motivation for making it. I mean, if you think about it, what was the purpose of creating this… thing? It certainly wasn’t to tell a story that needed to be told. And it sure as hell wasn’t to add to the already impressive array of original franchises Cameron has under his belt (see Aliens and Terminator). Overall, it really seemed like the only motivation Cameron had in making this movie was to test out the latest in F/X technology. That and making an obscene amount of money! But really, one of the biggest selling points of Avatar, which the studio and distributors advertised ruthlessly, was the fact that it boasted the latest in CGI effects, 3D, and fully mapped-out virtual environments. Kinda reminds you of Lucas, huh? Another guy who makes movies simply so he can create something that has the latest in F/X… and no story. In fact, you might say that Cameron was even hoping to replace Lucas as Hollywood’s pioneer in the field of F/X. There’s something cool about being on the cutting-edge, but as many people have told Lucas, F/X do not a movie make!

And while we’re on the topic, what was the hell was all that stuff about people feeling depressed and experiencing withdrawal symptoms after they left the theater? I kid you not, apparently some people felt so depressed after returning to the real world that they reported suicidal thoughts! WHAT? Did they really think the movie was that beautiful? Sure, it was impressive, but personally, I also the whole set-up looked artificial and overdone! In addition to the Na’vi looking like a bunch of cartoon characters, the “rich” 3D environments were so obviously rendered. Some people obviously found that impressive, but really, all I could think was how CGI it all looked. Far from being immersive, it was actually kind of repellant. If the Matrix sequels and Star Wars prequels taught us anything, it was that saturating every scene with digital effects doesn’t make a movie look or feel any more real. It those case, it had the opposite effect; people were very much aware of the fact that they were watching something that WASN’T REAL. And when it comes to movies, suspension of disbelief is everything!

Okay, now for the good stuff. It WAS entertaining. And I liked the fact that this time around, the natives kicked ass! I was totally set for a sad ending when the final fight scene was happening, which would have been far more realistic considering that’s how it happened in the real world. But I think we can all agree, this way was much better! Screw you ya corporate-military asswipes, Eywa don’t take shit from nobody! But alas, I couldn’t get over the way this movie was pitched at sort of a fifth-grade level. It was cheesy, cliche, full of obvious references, recycled elements and themes, and really didn’t give us anything new aside from the special effects. And even those felt cheesy, and definitely weren’t enough to overcome the weaknesses of the plot (and I saw it in Imax!)

Clearly, the movie was a confluence of motivations that came down to money and testing out the latest digital effects. It pioneered the use of the new 3D technology – yet another thing that’s being recycled here – and as expected, other studios and movies are following Cameron’s lead (which was clearly the point!) And of course, Cameron made his obscene amount of money, once again earning the prize for top grossing-film of all time, as well as half a dozen Academy Awards for best visuals, effects and art direction. Mercifully, Cameron did NOT quote the movie when he got up to accept this time. Remember that dreadful “I’m king of the world!” speech after Titanic? Douche…

All in all, I think this movie is best filed in the guilty pleasure column, somewhere between Independence Day and Army of Darkness. Maybe you got other titles in mind, point is, don’t expect a lot from this one!

Avatar:
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Plot: 3/10
Direction: 8/10
Overall: 6/10

T2!

Normally, if I do a review, I try to re-familiarize myself with the material before writing about it. That way I’ll be sure not miss anything. It’s only been on occasion that I’ve done one strictly from memory, and that’s assuming it’s still fresh. That was certainly the case with Independence Day and Terminator: Salvation, the latter I had seen just a few weeks before, and the former I’d seen so many times that I really didn’t need to see it again! However, this was not the case with The Terminator. Here was a movie I had not seen in years. Make that MANY years, and yet I penned my review almost entirely from what I could remember of it. Not smart! Even less smart to watch it immediately thereafter and realize all the points I missed! Luckily, I still have two more movies to do in the franchise, and most of what I noticed applies directly to the sequel!

First off, James Cameron was guilty of recycling actors even more than I thought. Michael Beihn, Bill Paxton, and Jennette Goldstein all played prominent roles in Aliens (Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez) and were around for either T1 or T2, in some cases, both. But I forgot about Lance Henrikson, the man who played Bishop in Aliens. Turns out, he played one of the LA detectives in the first movie who got his ass shot off when evil Arny came knocking! Wish I hadn’t glossed over those guys in my T1 review, turns out they were actually pretty important. In any case, that makes four actors whom he used for both franchises, and I’m betting there were more in the background somewhere…

On top of that, I came to see just how many action sequences were reused in T2. I don’t want to get too specific just yet, but let’s say that action scenes involving motor bikes, big-rigs, car jumping and pile ups were also reused from the first movie. The only real difference was the budget, and of course Arny was now a protagonist instead of a force of pure malevolence. And there was also one all-important theme that made it into both Aliens and T2, and that was the theme of reconciliation between man and woman and humans and machines! But more on that later. Having just watched the movie and it still fresh in my mind, let’s get to the specifics of T2, one of the biggest and most successful sequels of all time!

(Background—>)
T2 was generally lauded by critics, all of whom thought that Arny did a great job reprising the role that complimented his particular brand of talents (his natural grandeur and presence, for example). Cameron’s gift for action direction was also seen as a big plus, and with three successful movies under his belt (T1, Aliens, and The Abyss), he now had a bigger budget and a degree of creative freedom he did not have with the before. And as I said in my first Terminator review, T2 also did better at the box office, not proportionally speaking, but certainly in terms of overall gross. And according to some, it was one of those rare movies that was believed to be better than the original. I’m not one of them, but I can certainly see why others might think so. On the whole, T2 was bigger, glitzier, and a lot more fun than the first. It’s mass appeal, made possible by its awesome action sequences, intense pace, and cutting-edge special effects which involved the use of CGI (something brand-new at the time) were sure to please. It also did a good job of wrapping up the temporal paradox presented in the first movie, and offered a way out of said paradox that was both believable and consistent with it. It may not have been as gritty, realistic or smart as the original, but that was to be expected. Originals are meant to set the tone and establish the parameters, sequels to expand on them. And in that respect, T2 was a fitting follow-up to the first, superior in some respects but certainly not better.

(Content—>)
The movie opens with scenes from modern day LA, moving from traffic jams and pedestrian crossings to a playground with children at play. This is clearly a “before” scene, where the music is foreboding and things suddenly slow down, with the sound of children laughing in the background. And then, the big white out. If this isn’t indication enough that something terrible has happened, we immediately cut to the “after” scene – a blackened ruin littered with skeletons and rubble. We are told that is what Los Angeles looks like in 2029, cold, dark, and dead. Linda Hamilton’s voice over then reminds us of the relevant facts, how billions died on Aug. 29th 1997 (“Judgement Day”), and those who survived lived only to face a worse horror… the war against the machines. We then get a moment of pure symbolism as a machine foot crushes a human skull, followed immediately thereafter by one of pure action porn!

All over the post-apocalyptic landscape, machines are attacking, purple tracers fill the sky, and human resistance fighters mobilize to fight back. This sequence was certainly superior to the ones in the first movie. There, the post-apocalyptic battle scenes involved just a few people and models, fighting in a limited fashion that gave the impression of guerrilla-warfare rather than an epic confrontation. In T2, there were literally hundreds of people and models being used, and the pace and scale was faster and bigger. The humans aren’t hiding here, they are out in full force, fighting, dying, shooting and killing. This gives the impression of a genuine war: ugly, awesome, and epic! Naturally, this was due to budgets, but that doesn’t change the fact that T2’s opening action sequence was far more kick-ass! We even get a shot of John Conner, the future version. He’s grizzly, determined, and surveying the field while his mother continues to let us in on things: Years back, a Terminator was sent back in time to kill her before she could give birth to this illustrious man – who is looking mighty heroic right now – and failed. Now, another one is on the way, hoping to strike at Conner himself. But the resistance has sent another warrior, and only time will tell which one reaches him first…

And, much like in the first movie, we cut back and forth between three points of view: Arny, the T1000 (played by Robert Patrick), and the main protagonists – in this case, John and Sarah. She’s in an insane asylum. The character of Doctor Silberman (Earl Boen), who in the first movie pronounced Kyle Reese insane, is back and saying the same thing about her. John is in foster care, is clearly disillusioned over the fact that his mother is locked up, and chooses to take it out on his foster parents. That’s an immediate selling point to this movie: the idea that anyone who knew the future would be a Cassandra, shouting to the wilderness and being totally ignored by the people (or in this case, committed). Conner’s delinquency is also a realistic touch. We know he will grow up to a hero someday, but right now, he’s a pissed-off adolescent who’s confused and bewildered. On the one hand, he hates his mother for apparently lying to him for so many years, and on the other he obviously misses her. Remember that photo he gave Kyle Reese, the one she had taken of herself at the end of the first movie? Well, turns out he’s kept it. Must be some embers still left in that hearth, huh?

Anyway, Arny has his scene where he wanders into a biker bar naked and wrecks the place up in order to get his hands on some badass looking clothes and a Harley. This is of course a retake from the first movie, but unlike the first where the evil Arny killed to get them, the good Arny in this one merely brutalizes a few people. Yep, this is the good guy… baby-steps I guess! And just like in the first movie, the bad guy has an easier time, simply killing a police officer and then commandeering his vehicle. Turns out when you’ve got liquid metal for skin, you don’t need clothes. You just morph your surface layer and boom, you’re good to go! But alas, the T1000 (as Arny explains later) cannot form complex machines, so he still needs the policeman’s car and weapons.

The three finally meet and, just like in the first, we get a tense, climactic moment with slow-motion and intense music. John sees Arny as he pulls his shotgun out of a box of roses (product placement, Guns and Roses did the theme music!) and thinks he’s out to kill him. But those fears are generally allayed when Arny levels the gun and yells his famous tagline, “Get down!”, and shoots the T1000 behind him. A gun fight ensues, followed by a wrestling match, followed by a big-ass car chase. Again, elements of the first are at work here again. In T1, Arny was chasing Sarah and Kyle on a Harley, followed shortly thereafter by a truck. Much like in the first, it all ends with the truck crashing and exploding. This is not to say that it wasn’t awesome this time around though. As usual, Cameron’s flare for action-direction makes the scene tense and beautiful, and the way Arny keeps flipping that gun around to reload it? You look me in the eye and tell me you didn’t think that was badass the first time you saw it! And of course, the sequence ends with the T1000 walking from the fiery wreckage unharmed, provided by some of those cutting-edge digital effects I mentioned!

John then has a chat with Arny about what’s going on. Some funny lines here: “Don’t take this the wrong way but… you’re a Terminator, right?” Keen grasp of the obvious. “Okay… And you’re not here to kill me! I figured that part out for myself!” Well he did save your as several times in just the last few minutes so… duh! What makes this funny is that while freaked out, John clearly has a framework in place for understanding what’s going on. In spite of the fact that he’s spent the last few years thinking his mom was crazy, he still remembers everything she taught and what he’s just witnessed just confirmed it. Sure he’s freaked out by all the violence and near-death, but one he’s not is shocked. He doesn’t even get that phased when Arny tells him that it was HIM – John Conner – who sent him; his future self, that is. Somehow, it all just makes sense given his upbringing. And of course, Arny takes the time to explain the particulars of their enemy. Let me see if I can condense it all into a few bullet points here:
> T1000, advanced prototype, liquid metal, here to kill you.
> Can’t form weapons beyond knives and stabbing tools.
> Can also morph into things, but only things of equal size
> Can impersonate other people and knows where you will go
> Oh yeah, and its not known if he can be destroyed or not

Yikes! That’s another thing that I enjoyed about this movie. At first, it seems like Arny can defeat the T1000 as he manages to save John Conner from his repeated murderous attempts. However, as more confrontations ensue and Arny is forced to go toe to toe with him, the T1000 begins to show his superiority. Not only does he managed to take Arny’s arm off, he even manages to take Arny out. Well, temporarily deactivate, but you get the idea. In the end, Anry’s only able to win by outsmarting him, and relying on the help of John and Sarah.

But getting back to the storyline, Arny soon confirms that the T1000 has already killed John’s foster parents and warns him that his mother could be next. But not before John has an expository scene where he expresses all his angst over how his mother taught him everything he knew, only to be taken away from him and declared a delusional psychotic. And now, it appears she was right all along, so naturally he wants to find her. But no, Arny reminds him, the T1000 would have anticipated that, and will try to impersonate her and will kill her in the process. John freaks, a ruckus ensues, and it ends with John realizing that Arny must obey his orders. So naturally, he orders Arny to help him save his mother (Oh, and not to kill anyone, on a count of he almost killed two people during that ruckus).

They then get to the asylum where Sarah is attempting to make her escape. Seems people told her that a dead-ringer for the man that shot up a police station and killed 17 officers in 84′ was spotted at a local mall. Thus why she needs to escape tonight. If things are happening again, she needs to make sure her son is safe! She does this smashing the face of the guy who’s been physically and sexually abusing her for the last few months and taking Dr. Silberman hostage. Naturally, we don’t feel sorry for either of these people, since the attendee is a dick and Dr. Silberman is a cynical douche! John and Arny are simultaneously breaking in, which begins with Arny knee-capping the guard at the front (he said he wouldn’t kill, wasn’t nothing in there about knee-capping!) They meet up inside as Arny steps off the elevator right in front of her, and a slow-motion scene ensues where Sarah recognizes him and becomes so terrified that she runs back in the direction of the guards she eluded not a moment previous. Arny saves her and issues one the tag-lines from the first movie: “Come with me if you want to live”. John is also there and lets just her know that Arny’s cool, right before the T1000 shows up right behind them and tries to kill them. Dr. Silberman witnesses all this, and is no doubt going to need therapy himself!

Another chase scene ensues. Arny and Sarah protect John, steal a police car, and start driving backwards while shooting. The T1000, for his part, sprouts swords and crowbars from his arms and pursues them. Here too we see a scene being rehashed from the first movie, where the evil Terminator jumps on their car and starts smashing through the window, trying to get his hands on his target and almost succeeding. But in the nick of time, they manage to shake him with some keen maneuvering and shotgun blasts. This time around, its Arny who does the rescuing, blowing off one of the T1000’s limbs and sending him flying off the back end of their car. Having made it away for the second time, the three of them start make their way out of town in great haste.

While in the desert, we get some pacing scenes as Arny, Sarah Conner, and John get to talking, and in the course things, learn some things about each other. For example, Sarah wants to know how Judgement Day happened, how Skynet was created and who’s responsible. Arny reveals that a man named Mr. Miles Dyson is responsible for the breakthroughs that led to Skynet’s creation, and that the key developments are happening pretty much as they speak. We already know from a rather telling scene earlier that Mr. Dyson, over at Cyberdyne systems, was the recipient of the remains of the first Terminator and is working on a big AI-related breakthrough. Seems that Conner was right, that someone conspired to remove them from the factory where Sarah left them, and made sure they got into the “right” hands. Sounds… conspiratorial! In any case, it was the first Terminator’s broken CPU and remaining arm, which came from the future, that ended up being the basis for Dyson’s research, and hence Skynet’s creation… The temporal paradox strikes again!

There are echoes of Alien and Aliens here. In those movies, the megacorp Weylan-Yutani kept screwing over its own people in order to get their hands on the alien specimen. Here, however, we are getting it more in the form of the dark future/cautionary tale, where networked, intelligent computers are responsible for nearly wiping out humanity, largely because we made the mistake of trusting our fate to them. But unlike the first movie, T2 introduces us to the human side of that equation, how it was human avarice that led to Skynet’s creation, and how Skynet decided to kill humanity because they tried to pull the plug on it. Doesn’t make Skynet any nicer, but it was a nice touch, as is the humanizing of the people responsible which follows later on. But at the moment, Sarah is obviously perturbed by this information, and we can tell she’s going to do something about it very soon…

Also, there’s a very important scene in all this that didn’t make it into the original movie but came with the director’s cut. This is the scene where Arny reveals that all Terminators have their CPU’s set to “read-only” when they are sent out, a provision against them exercising too much independent thought. While they are held up in an abandoned garage and nursing their wounds, John proposes that they remove Arny’s chip and switch this fail-safe off so he can be of more use to them. After removing it, Sarah tries to smash the chip with a hammer but John stops her. She tells him this could be their last chance to be “it”, and that John doesn’t understand this because he’s never had to kill one of them. But John insists that they need Arny, that “it” is a “he”, and that if he’s to be a great leader someday, his mom ought to start taking his ideas seriously. She decides to go with him, although just barely, and lets Arny live. This scene is important because it establishes that in spite of the fact that the good Arny saved them, Sarah still doesn’t trust him and is willing to kill him as soon as the opportunity arose. One would expect this considering what the first Arny bot put her through.

There’s also the amusing scene where John tries to teach Arny to smile. This is just one of many where John is trying to teach him how to “be more human”. Most of these are pretty cheesy, consisting of one-liners and hand gestures, but this one was actually funny and even made sense in the overall context of the movie. Later, we see Arny pulling facial expressions, and the more anal-retentive critic would surely want to point out that this is supposed to impossible. Cyborg’s don’t feel emotion, hence they don’t smile, smirk, or shrug. The subtleties of facial expressions and how they convey emotions would surely be beyond them. But, if they knew someone was teaching them what faces to pull and when, they just might find it realistic and shut the hell up!

Anyhoo, John, Arny and Sarah show up at Enrique’s hideout. This would be the former Green Beret gun-running dude John mentioned with earlier, one of several dude’s she shacked up with while he was growing up. While at Enrique’s hideout, they start stockpiling guns and getting some new vehicles together. Arny gives us a preview of things to come when he hoists up the mini-gun and smirks at John. “It’s you, definitely,” John says. And in the course of things, Sarah watches her son and the Terminator talking and carrying on and has a revelation. Turns out that of all the father figures that had come and gone, the Terminator is actually the most ideal father figure for John. He’d never neglect him, never abuse him, and would die to protect him. We see at last a reconciliation between humanity and technology with this, not unlike the one that took place in Aliens between Bishop and Ripley. Once again, James Cameron is showing his fondness for certain themes. Still, it works here. After all the paranoia and hatred Sarah has been living with over the years, she finds herself finally able to trust her enemy – a killing machine – with John’s life. Irony!

But then, Sarah has another one of her apocalyptic dreams, and this one is particularly graphic! She even sees an alternate version of herself playing with a baby. This is a particularly symbolic moment, we get the impression is seeing what she’d look like if history had worked out just a little different. And like everyone in the playground, she doesn’t appear to be able to hear Sarah as she screams at them to run. In any case, they are all vaporized when a nuke goes off in the distance, graphically! I tell ya, that shot scared me when I first saw it. I believe it was the first case of the effects of a nuclear blast being caught on film. Sarah then wakes up with a start and she sees the words that she herself carved in the picnic table not a moment earlier. “No Fate”, which paraphrases what John told Reese to tell her: “The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” Ironic, given the temporal nature of the story, but it certainly convinces Sarah that its time she acts. She grabs her guns, a truck, and tells John and Arny she will meet them later. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out what she’s got in mind (killing Dyson) and they head off to intercept her. Arny warns John that this is bad strategy, that the T1000 could anticipate this move, and that Dyson’s death might actually prevent Judgement Day. But of course, John tells him they have to. It’s a human thing!

They arrive at Dyson’s just in time to find that Sarah has shot up the place, put a bullet through Dyson’s shoulder and just about to deliver the coup de grace. But alas, she couldn’t. He’s still human, and she’s not a monster. So instead, they decide to fill him in on things and give him the benefit of the knowing everything his work will lead to. Arny starts by pealing the flesh off his arm and letting his robot innards tell the story. Dyson immediately recognizes the arm, since he’s got an identical one at his office. We get the distinct impression that some pretty messed up possibilities are going through his mind. In any case, Arny has his full attention now and he tells him to “listen to me very carefully.” Sarah’s voice-over fills in the rest and says that Arny told him everything – about Skynet, Judgement Day, and the war – as we cut to what is clearly several hours later. Naturally, he’s shocked and professes that he never intended for any of that to happen, but Sarah is naturally unconvinced. Seems “men like him” are the reason the hydrogen bomb exists. They think themselves creative, but only know how to create death and destruction, so fuck em, they’re evil! Uh, remind me now, who shot up who’s place here in a homicidal attempt? But alas, because he didn’t know, and maybe to prove he’s not a bad guy, he agrees to help them, which includes destroying the lab and also the remains of the first Terminator. Hello! This is the first time those remains have even been publicly acknowledged. Everyone is surprised, except Sarah who is both feels both angry and vindicated. She’s known all along that there was some kind of cover-up and nobody believed her. Now, she’s hearing from the horses mouth that she right. Still, right or no, she still gotta feel pissed!

What follows is another tense series of scenes as they rush to Cyberdyne, commandeer the facility, and begin laying explosives. Meanwhile, the police show up, thinking they got the man who shot up the police station back in 84′, and cordon off the building. Sarah’s voiceover and a shot of them driving up a dark highway convey the significance of these scenes perfectly before they actually unfold. Essentially, after years of trying to ensure that the machine’s didn’t alter the future, they are now trying to do the same. Whereas they were just players before, doing what was required of them, they are now free-agents who have the power to change history. Arny has his scene with the minigun too where he levels all the cop cars out front, firing a couple thousand rounds and a handful of grenades into the police cruisers to gives Sarah, John and Dyson the time they need to finish rigging the place to blow. But, as promised, does so without hurting or killing a single person. Not bad, Arny! Way to respect human life! Of course, the police are pissed and start firing back at him, and their SWAT team goes on in with blood on their minds.

There’s also what appears to be a sort of reconciliation taking place between Sarah and Dyson now, paralleling once again what Ripley experienced in Aliens. Obviously, Sarah had become embittered towards her male counterparts after years of being ignored and condemned by them. After losing Reese, she wasn’t able to find a single stable father figure for John, not one who would stick around after she told him the truth at any rate. Then there were all those who condemned her and put her in an insane asylum. On top of that, there’s men like Dyson who were responsible for Skynet’s creation in the first place. But now, she and Dyson appear to be coming together thanks to their common cause. There’s even a symbolic moment where Sarah passes him the detonator and we get a close-up of it changes hands. This reconciliation is cut short however when about a dozen SWAT team members comes breaking in and fills Dyson full of holes! But once they realize the place is totally rigged, they pull back! And the three protagonists managed to make it out right before the bomb goes off and levels Cyberdyne! But the front door is still blocked and there’s no way they can make it out without some shooting. That’s when Arny issues his famous tag-line from the first movie: “I’ll be back”! He gets about a hundred bullets to his face before knee-capping and pelting all the SWAT team members with their own tear gas canisters. He then steals the SWAT van and drives it through the front foyer, thus ensuring their escape. Meanwhile, the T1000 has shown up and steals a helicopter, much as Arny stole that 18-wheeler in movie one, and is even sure to include the “get out!” tag-line to its driver.

Which brings us to chase number three! This time, the good guys are in a SWAT van and the bad guy in a helicopter. True to the first movie, there’s a change-up when the bad guy is shmucked and has to switch vehicles. Having lost his helicopter, he commandeers (what else?) an 18-wheeler and chases them into a Foundry. Really? They have Foundries in LA? Right beside of the highway to boot? Just asking… Point is, more action porn follows: Arny delivers his “Hasta la Vista, Baby” line and shatters the T1000 with a bullet. This was after he forced him to crash his truck that was apparently carrying liquid nitrogen (…really?). The bits begin to melt because there’s hot metal all around (Foundry, remember?), and the three protagonists are forced to flee again. But with nowhere to run, they have to fight it out inside the Foundry, and get pretty beat up in the process! As a climactic scene, this was quite effective, being in such a hostile environment and everyone already being wounded. You can feel the tension and danger, which is made all the more palatable since it’s clear that there is no chance of escape. With Sarah already reeling from a gunshot wound in her thigh, and Arny twisted up from the crash, it really seems like they might not make it.

And yet, they do! And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the last scene where Linda Hamilton empties a whole shotgun into the T1000’s body, one-handed! Or how Arny shows up at the last second and pops a rocket propelled grenade into his belly that blows him in half! The T1000 then falls to his death in a bath of molten metal (how’s that for irony, liquid metal man!) and things end tidily when John realizes that the metal will make a perfect disposal spot for the remains of the first Terminator. But alas, Arny realizes that he too much go into the cauldron. As long as any evidence of the future remains in the past, there will always be a chance that Skynet could still be created and Judgement Day still happen. And so the movie ends with Arny being heroically lowered into the molten metal and giving John the thumbs up before disappearing beneath the surface (John taught him how to do that, which makes it all the more sad!)

Then, there’s the very last scene, which is kind of a controversial issue for me! In the original movie, it took the form of them driving along the dark highway again, a clear metaphor for the future, with Sarah giving jer final voice-over that wraps things up nicely. She says she is finally able to face the future with hope because, as she says, “If a machine – a Terminator – can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too…” Cue music and roll credits! I get tingly just thinking about it. But in the director’s cut, the last scene was altogether different. Instead of the still uncertain but hopeful future, we get to see the picture of that future, and its totally disappointing! Apparently, its 2030 or so, Judgment Day came and went without incident, and Sarah is making another recording where she explains how she got drunk and celebrated the fact that it never came. Everyday thereafter was a gift (a line that would make it into T3). And now, she’s sitting on a park bench and watching John play with her grand daughter in that same old playground. The background shows LA of the future, a skyline that looks like something out of a bad sci-fi movie or a rerun of Star Trek (the original version). Oh, and apparently John is not the grizzled leader here, but a Congressman who fights the good fight on the floor’s of Congress.

Where do I begin? Well, for starters, this whole franchise was gritty and dark and never did more than it had to. So ending it with a scene that lays things on way too thick just seems inappropriate. There’s also the fact that its totally sappy! John becomes a peacenik Senator and everybody lived happily ever after? C’mon people! This is supposed to be a movie about post-apocalyptic nightmares and murderous machines! I can understand wanting to end it on a happy note after all the darkness and extended horror shows, but this was ridiculous! But luckily, this scene never made it in to the original. Clearly, someone felt that it would be better to let the movie end on the same note it had maintained throughout. Thus, they went with the highway ending which was best: succinct, serious, symbolic, yet still hopeful. And it wrapped up everything from the first and second movie nicely, with no wasted effort or needless screen time. Last thing you want after tying up all the loose ends is to drop a fresh load of crap on the audience! It brings the whole production down!

(Synopsis—>)
This time around, I think I’d like to start by mentioning what was weak about the film. For starters, the themes that were present in Aliens that had a way of making it into this movie too. The theme of redemption, be it between man and woman and man and machine, was present in both. As was the theme of the evil corporation working behind the scenes so it could get its hands on something dangerous, and in so doing, condemning people to death. It was only recently that I even noticed this, and it kind of brought the movie down in my estimation. However, I am hard-pressed to argue this point too finely. These themes worked too well for them to be considered weaknesses, in my estimation. It was good and fitting to see Sarah find common ground with her fellow man after so much time of being at odds with them. It was also cool and ironic that a Terminator was capable of learning the value of human life and was ultimately the greatest protector/father figure that John Conner would ever have.

And of course the action scenes that were re-hashed from the first movie. Like I said, one could take the position that this was somehow lazy or uncreative, but I’d be hard-pressed to argue that as well. Mostly, they felt like homages, inside references to stuff the audience already saw and would instantly recognize. Those are desirable in a movie, they are like punch lines that make the audience go “Ahaaaa!” And done properly, they are also amusing and entertaining. And they certainly were in this movie. Arny’s big one-liners, “Come with me if you want to live” and “I’ll be back” were both deliberate references to the first movie and they worked. The way they zoomed in on Arny’s face and that intense expression as he said the latter; everyone in the audience knew it was painfully significant!

As for the other weaknesses. These mainly took the form of the extended and deleted scenes. For the most part, they kinda sucked. The alternate ending, where Sarah and John are alive decades down the road and the world is peaceful. SUCKED! The scene where we see Dyson at home explaining his work to his wife, how he’s creating the basis for AI… that one was a tad obvious. We already get that his work is revolutionary and will pave the way towards machines that will be able to think and become self-aware. No need to come out and say it. The ones I mentioned, where they switch Arny’s CPU from read-only mode and John teaches Arny facial expressions, those were good and should have been included in my mind. There were also a few from the Foundry where we see the T1000 having some problems re-resolving after being frozen and shattered, which were also good. But of course, running-time is a factor and that’s why we have director’s cuts.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s that one big, possible plot hole in the movie. Essentially, we are told from the get-go that the machines have once again sent back a Terminator and the resistance has once again sent back a fighter of their own. Now didn’t Kyle Reese say in the first movie that they found the Terminator’s time machine when they trashed Skynet’s HQ and only one Terminator had gone in? Didn’t he also say that he was the only other one to go through and they destroyed the machine immediately thereafter? Well sure! So theoretically, John should have been safe from then on. All of this meant that the future would unfold as promised, Judgement Day would happen, and John Conner would grow up to lead the resistance to victory over the machines. There’s simply no way the machines would have known that they had failed, they don’t have a crystal ball that shows them the past or how alternate time lines are unfolding. So its not like they could just say, “Woop! We missed! Send another one!” The very act of sending Arny back was a desperate act, they’d just have to expect that however things were unfolding for them in the future was the direct result.

But, this can be explained away easily enough. For example, how could Kyle know for sure that they destroyed the time machine after he left? For all he knew, they found out that the machines had actually sent two Terminators back in time, one T101 Arny bot and one T1000 advanced prototype. The first one was sent to take out the mother, the second to take out John should the first one fail. The resistance could then say “Oh crap! We need to send another fighter of our own to deal with the second one too! Any ideas?” They looked around, saw another Arny bot, figured it would have a better shot of protecting John from a T1000, decided to reprogram it, and sent it on its merry way. THEN they destroyed the machine! Okay, that works, more or less. Only problem is… you can’t keep doing it! A third batch of Terminators would just make things stupid!

Okay, now the strengths! The movie’s action scenes were awesome! Cameron has shown again and again that he has an eye for making destruction, shoot-em-ups and car chases beautiful! Its little wonder then why he’s a renowned action director. His ideas tend to be old fashioned, but they work in the context of classic sci-fi and his directorial style brings a sense of grandeur and epicness to his work. And of course Arny, a man who embodies those traits, was well suited to what he had to offer. Not the best actor in the world, but he’s nothing if not grand and epic. And this time around, he went beyond those simple attributes to bring some heart and humanity to the Terminator, which is ultimately what makes him him. He’s Arny, the action hero with a heart of gold and a keen sense of humor!

T2 also had a very good plot. Aside from the one possible plot hole which I don’t think anyone cares about anyway, it was virtually seamless. The future that Reese knew and told Sarah about was the direct result of everything they did together in the past. The Terminators exist because the wreckage of the first one was found, John Conner exists because Reese and Sarah had sex, and so on. Kyle Reese told Sarah in the first that he was from the future, but that it was one possible future, maybe… He didn’t know. But alas, we do! It was all foretold thanks to a temporal paradox where the future influenced the past and vice versa. But this time around, they found the fulcrum of this would-be future and removed it. Anal retentive critics might say “Well, if they destroyed all of Cyberdyne’s research, wouldn’t that mean that Skynet would never exist?” Well, good point actually. Once Cyberdyne was destroyed, shouldn’t Arny and the T1000 just have disappeared? Ah, but they had that one covered! You see, as long as the T1000 and Arny were alive and in the past, there was still the chance that Skynet would be created. Hell, for all we knew, that was HOW it got created in the first place. So technically, the future could not be altered til both the T1000 and Arny were destroyed and there was no chance whatsoever that their wreckage would fall into the wrong hands… again!

Another thing worth mentioning was that this movie was made in 1991, a full seven years after the first movie and five after Aliens. In between, he did the Abyss in 1989, but that was it, and had already begun working on Aliens back in 84 when he was shooting The Terminator. So really, he and his people had years to work out the script for T2, and it really showed. I can remember seeing it when it first came out and being blown away, in part because it had such a big feel! This was the long-anticipated sequel to the first movie and just about everyone agreed that it was fun, cool, and awesomely good. Like I said, Cameron already had a reputation for being a sci-fi director after Aliens and T2 really cemented that for him. The use of cutting-edge special effects, the big-budget action scenes, the way the plot really came together; he really topped off the Terminator franchise big time with this movie. The only downside would be if someone got the bright idea to do a third movie. Worse yet, that they’d shoot it sometime after August 29th 1997, when Judgement Day was supposed to have happened! Why, then they’d have to come up with some contrived explanation for why it didn’t happen on schedule, or why the Terminators were still being sent back in time! And that would be just downright nutty…

Terminator 2:
Entertainment Value: 9/10!
Plot: 8/10
Direction: 8/10
Total: 8.5/10