Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gas Stations & Semi-Trucks: A Terminator's Tale

With the release of Terminator: Salvation drawing near, I figured it was a good time to finally watch those James Cameron classics: Terminator & T2. That's right, until the past few weeks, those were both on my odd & eclectic list of 'Films I've Never Seen.' To remedy the situation, an impromptu association was formed: The 'Terminator Movies & Beer' Club. We've had two successful meetings, and I'm still trying to decide whether I'll honor the apocryphal Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines with a viewing.

Observations: Turns out that without ever having seen either film, I'd already learned the plot of both films just by living my daily life. Within the first ten minutes, I knew why Kyle was there and who John Conner's dad was/would be. For T2, I knew who was the good Terminator and the bad Terminator before their "revealing" showdown in the mall. It's all in the commercials, or the narrative is so simplistic that it seeps in through pop-cultural osmosis. Therefore, with no interesting story-lines or plot to become engrossed in, I soon learned that the Terminator movies are just long, nearly-dialogue-less, montages of explosions, special effect cyborgs and, oddly enough, endless close-ups of Semi-truck grills. While I've long known that James Cameron has a potent fixation on manually operated cranes and underwater vehicles, I can now add to that list gas stations and semi trucks. I'd say about 75% of T1 & T2 take place either at a gas station or near a semi truck. Cameron exploring our human self-destruction through the metaphor/realism of oil consumption? Yeah, that's probably it. Man, he's a gifted film maker.

Favorite inter-texts/drinking games for the Terminator films:
1. The last twenty minutes of Terminator are a lot funnier if you imagine Kyle's name being pronounced by Eric Cartman.

2. Comparing the indestructible T1,000 model to the indestructible aliens from that trilogy: especially the T2 death scene a-la Aliens 3 (or vice versa).

3. Shout/shot "Grill!" every-time the camera zooms in on the front of an automobile, "Semi!" every-time there's a semi-truck in the shot, and "Gas!" every-time a character pulls up to a pump or beats someone up outside a station.

It's amazing how little happens in each of these movies. It's just chase scene after chase scene, with exposition parsed out every 45 minutes or so. It's fun once in a while to watch movies that you can talk over the entire time and still feel you didn't miss anything. Well done James Cameron. Good luck McG.


Ben said...


Just a "hey, I see your blog and it's neat."

Oh, and your reflections on the Terminator movies are great. I would have to completely agree with your assessment... They're pretty much 2 hour long chase scenes. This is even more pronounced in the 3rd one. I'm interested to see how the 4th movie goes.

One more thing - Where did McG come from? My own personal prejudices have me wondering how someone that goes by that "name" has been so successful in the biz.

Oh, and I'm Meredith B's boytoy, by the way. We've met once or thrice.

Kj said...

thanks Ben- good to see you here as opposed to the corner of Queen Anne & Mercer where our paths have previously crossed

When iIthink of McG as a director- just Charlie's Angels comes to mind- not necessarily a bad thing- but he's been a producer on some decent-ish stuff. He's probably a younger, hipper Michael Bay which could be good for the Terminator franchise. What worries me most however, is the writing team for T4- previous credits including T3 and Catwoman. Yikes. But there are few actors around that can salvage a film better than Christian Bale. Hopefully his crazy flip-out thing he did wasn't a result of his knowing how bad the movie was gonna be. I get less hopeful everyday.

Ian said...