The development of the MTV style has brought us to Armageddon (a two-and-a-half-hour coming attractions trailer for itself) and The Cell (corrupt visual extravagance), so it is very tempting for critics to despair over the kudzu-like growth of this moviemaking approach. On the other hand, the world of music video also planted the seeds of Seven and Being John Malkovich, so it is not entirely a dead end. And now it has brought us to Charlie’s Angels.
“Not another movie from an old TV show,” moans an airline passenger in the opening scene of Charlie’s Angels as T.J. Hooker: The Movie flashes on the screen as the inflight movie. It’s a cute bit of self-deprecating humor, but this is one sentiment that backfires.
If movies indeed tap into the zeitgeist, Terminator Salvation, director McG’s grim reboot of the 25-year-old man vs. machine franchise, speaks to a demographic in awfully low spirits. Will this relentless, episodic slog through post-apocalyptic drear, punched up by paroxysms of extreme violence, deliver at the box office and resurrect the Terminator series (sequels are already in the works)?
Set in 2018, after nuclear Judgment Day, Salvation‘s ruined world has been leached of all color and signs of life. The days are steeped in sickly beige-brown, the noirish nights drenched in rain. Hunted down by machines of assorted shapes and sizes, the few remaining humans, always starkly lighted, resemble gaunted concentration-camp survivors stripped of any expression but a reflexive hunger to stay alive. (“We’re in the cattle car now,” despairs a fellow picked by an Ã¼ber-machina transporter.)
Lock-jawed Christian Bale plays grizzled resistance messiah John Connor as if programmed to project nothing but single-minded rage laced with unstoppable courage. Happily, Connor’s unlikely brother-in-arms (Aussie newcomer Sam Worthington, soon to star in James Cameron’s Avatar), a convicted killer reformatted by Cyberdyne, occasionally permits himself a welcome break from the stoic mode. On screen more and longer than Bale, permitted to act human once in a while, Worthington, like homeboy Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, steals the film away from Bale. Call it minimalist charisma.