Dostoyevsky in los angeles

Dostoevsky in los angeles

All images: sony

Weak point heart: in "terminator 4" is once again a machine the most human

Machine man reloaded – six years after the end of the "terminator"-trilogy, one of the most intelligent and multifaceted myths of the younger pop culture, hollywood is attempting a reboot of the franchise: terminator 4: salvation ("t4") is to be the prelude to a new trilogy. The new trilogy will have to do (almost) completely without arnold schwarzenegger, who once was the heart of the films as a muscle man machine between lumbering style and self-irony, but who has mutated into a californian governor in the meantime.

The columbia logo appears technically disturbed, the bass booms under the still black opening credits image and the terminator theme prepared by danny elfman is already clearly recognizable. Time for a few thoughts up front: it is in the nature of things, in other words the mobius strip-like intricacy of the terminator narrative thus far, that terminator 4: salvation, set in 2018, suffers from at least two cardinal problems: we viewers know before the film even begins that, whatever happens, john connor will survive this movie. And we know that the sickly "skynet" and that his goal of a cybernetic earth dictatorship will not be defeated in this film any more than his opponent, the people resisting in guerrilla cells under water, above the earth and in the air.

Whether the makers were really aware of this viewer dilemma? Or is it only, in the ever new rearrangements and overwritings of a quite obviously extremely problem-loaded process of formation – beyond the now mentioned john brancato and michael ferris, which already "terminator 3" paul haggis and christopher nolan’s brother jonathan are always mentioned – forgotten? As a result, not only the suspense and functionality, but also the credibility of the film suffers from this dilemma.

Ubermensch and untermensch

The previous "terminator"-among other things, the films lived from an element that was one of the most confusing in the series created by james cameron in 1984 "terminator"-trilogy, but at the same time it was also one of its special charms: the time loop. The previous films were forward-looking prophecies, set in our present and living from the contrast between this and the threatening future, which the audience always already knew about.

Dostoevsky in los angeles

These were films that told us something about the present by holding up a mirror to the future, reflections of a technological advance that was taking place. This worked brilliantly, because the image of the present, gridded by the future, was at the same time refluxed in it: in the movies, the present always meant freedom, the possibility to change the future or to make it undone. And even where the future that has already happened was made possible in the first place by confirming fate – for example, john connor’s procreation in "t1" -, it was confirmed by freedom, by the decision of will of human subjects; as paradoxical as everything might be at a closer look (and one would rather not raise the question, whether with john conner’s existence the nuclear war and the war of the machines against the people was made possible at all).

After arnold schwarzenegger canceled his participation, it was clear to the makers: either a new, credible actor had to be found, or the future had to be changed "terminator"-the focus had to be shifted 180 degrees: away from the machine and towards the human being. Obviously, they thought that there could be only one terminator and decided to go for the second option – probably a fundamental mistake, as it deprives the franchise of its inner center: the cybernetic machine, which was at the same time close to man and distant from man, superhuman and subhuman. The corresponding philosophical references were always vividly and pictorially obvious, there was no need for pathetic phases a la "what is it that makes us human? It’s not something you can program. You can’t put it into a chip." as you normally find it only in esoteric sessions, in the philosophy course of the adult education center and in party programs, but not in ‘terminator’ movies.

John, who will be 45 years old in 2029

The new hero is john connor (christian bale), who as an adult in the distant future of the first three parts was the commander of the human resistance in the war against the machines that had broken out in the meantime; at the same time, however, he was a kind of messiah of the post-religious age in the films: as an unborn child in 1984, a boy in 1992 and a pubescent youngster in 2003, he was respectively the target and the protege of those killer and combat machines that had arrived from the future. In the new film, that future is now the present, it is 2018, the time after the "judgement day", the nuclear catastrophe. Terminator 4: salvation is, by the way, also not one of those popular ones "prequels", which, like x-men: wolverine, batman begins or the latest star trek film, tells a prequel story. But it is also not a sequel. It tells the prehistory of that 2029 set frame story of the previous films: how did john connor become the hero and resistance leader who will be 45 years old in 2029??

Dostoevsky in los angeles

"So that’s what death tastes like."

Director "mcg" and the dozen or so scriptwriters who worked on the script at some point during its development had to be anxious to find something special, original, even unique, that would "t4" like the previous three "terminator"-the film’s unique selling point is that it stands out from the average science fiction film. The idea of such an intellectual unique selling point is this time already laid out in the prologue, the only section that is not set in 2018, but already in 2003: here, a woman visibly marked by cancer persuades dr. Serena kogan, a female dr. Frankenstein (helena bonham carter), a death row inmate, to donate his body to a cybergenetics project. "For a kiss" says the latter and sells his body for the physical experience. "So that’s what death tastes like", he says. But not for him – and certainly not for her either. For both will be resurrected. It as genetically designed "infiltration cyborg", a human-machine hybrid that combines a terminator body with human skin, brain and heart. This is not too far from the ideas that are actually floating around in the heads of some futurologists today.

Christian bale’s lack of charisma

That cyborg named marcus wright soon turns out to be – like schwarzenegger’s "terminator" – as the most humane being among humans. His weak point is his heart – which he has in common with connor. And the unknown australian sam worthington outshines christian bale. This has many reasons. The stiff acting, bale’s lack of charisma, the method acting pose of the "serious" the lack of a good actor and the all too often shining through vanity do the one thing. Bale’s lack of impact also has something to do with the fact that he’s on screen far too often these days – and in roles that are too similar. Thus, the viewer has a hard time finding a real difference between bale’s "batman" and bale’s "connor" to make out. Bale is humorless in all cases and simply not likeable. Often enough, he is not sexy enough to cause any erotic tension between him and his girlfriend kate. By the way, bryce dallas howard outbids schwarzenegger and carter as the most wasted actress in this movie. In her five brief appearances, she stands around pregnant, says a "significant" sentence, but in the end it is only a cue for bale, and is otherwise left to the left.

dostoevsky in los angeles

Bale’s effect is additionally affected by his bad image as a hitman, bully and otherwise unpleasant contemporary. One can terminator 4: salvation not to be viewed without recalling bale’s freak-out on the film set, which went viral on the internet, in which he berated the cameraman, the number two on the team, for minutes on end, obviously not being in control of himself.

"Something has changed. This is not the future my mom was talking about."

Despite such weaknesses terminator 4: salvation not very original, but very dynamic and varied. The future world that the film shows is not technologically advanced and futuristic, but dirty and filthy, the heavy metal of the old fordist industrial age, populated by unshaven people with oil under their fingernails, photographic ouja-boards, and a lot more. A world reminiscent of the movies blade runner and above all mad max reminds. So in this at least "t4" a journey through time: back to the eighties. So this is a dystopian science fiction that looks more like a war movie, especially in its design.

Dostoevsky in los angeles

The colors are ashen and often completely desaturated, at times everything looks almost black and white – and that’s not the only thing that recalls the aesthetics of the world war ii era: the destroyed la looks remarkably similar to the berlin of the year zero. The images of people crammed like cattle into wagons, locked behind gates, then selected by facial scan openly quote the iconography of the holocaust. Moreover, the makers have visibly and in large parts successfully made an effort to plant plausible contemporary allusions and subtexts into their film: in addition to numerous film quotes and references to biotech and human experimentation, there are also references to the wars of recent times: iraq and afghanistan.

It is about occupation troops, about lawlessness and torture, about virtual warfare. Like its protagonists, the film can also be interpreted as an expression of the current state of the usa’s soul: imbued with latent despair over its own lost innocence and filled with desperate hope for a second chance. At one point connor says about his situation (and pretty much every american could say that about the present): "something has changed. This is not the future my mom was talking about." you had to laugh out loud if it wasn’t so sad.

"The absence of need and despair is the highest need and despair."

"No fate" wrote sarah connor in terminator 2: judgment day into a table, "no fate but what we make." today it is different. The open discourse of the film is conducted on the question of resistance. Resistance has a positive connotation, but when is it necessary?? And what is resistance? The hidden discourse, and here it becomes more problematic, revolves around the question of human freedom. For terminator 4: salvation sketches a universe of determination, of predestination. There seems to be hardly any room left for freedom here. This is how fate determines the course of events, a bitter bloody seriousness pervades the film.

Dostoyevsky in los angeles

Here the tragic pessimism of the 19th century is expressed. This is a return to the twentieth-century view of suffering as a legitimate impulse to thought, irony as a lesson, and contemplation of necessity to the point of self-sacrifice for it as the fulfilling moment of freedom. "The absence of need and despair is the highest need and despair." heidegger once wrote. In essence this is pure nihilism. Christian bale’s john connor is not simply a horseman after the apocalypse. He embodies a new celebration of existential actuality, the longing for hardness and heaviness, and is a thoroughly positively meant dostoyevsky character for our time. The redemption that this film carries in its title will not be found in the plot – and certainly not in any irony of the dialogues. It is in the character played by bale and in bale’s face. In the past such actors played villains. Woe to the country, woe to the audience, which needs such heroes.