Friday, February 24, 2012

Review #34: Milking the Golden Franchise Calf

Terminator Salvation Official Movie Prequel: Sand in the Gears
Writer: Dara Naraghi
Artist: Alan Robinson
Published: IDW Publishing, 2009

As I have mentioned in the past, the comic medium has become yet another head of the hydra that is THE FRANCHISE. Everyone and their dog has a comic book line. Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files, Aliens, Predator, Aliens vs. Predator, and so on and so forth. So, it comes as no surprise that Terminator has been getting in on the action. And with the latest installment in that film series, comes this latest little suckerfish to attach itself to the pale belly of the beast.

Although the Terminator storyline is probably general pop culture knowledge, here is a quick summary: In the future, robots have begun taking over the world and one man, John Connor, is the key to leading humanity to victory. Multiple robot assassins are sent back in time to destroy him and thus any hope the resistance has in defeating the robot overlords.

The newest film, however, finally brought us completely into that terrible future, eschewing the usual time-traveling hijinks. This comic shows us around a bit, with resistance branches in both the States and Niger participating in a massive counter-offensive against the machines. In Detroit, Elena and William need Jackson's expertise in order to sneak into and sabotage a terminator factory. In Arlit, Bem, Yusuf and Lysette want to blow up a machine-operated uranium mine with a nuclear bomb. Both operations get shit on when the machines get wise to their hideouts and both teams end up having members sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Woo.

at least they didn't go for the cliché destroyed-Statue-of-Liberty shot

[I'm not going to bother with the preview of the film that they tacked onto the end of this, because that film was what I like to call “not good”, and, after flipping through it, the comic didn't seem much different. Also, side-note: the trailer for Terminator Salvation has to be one of the worst examples of a trailer giving away a major plot twist in modern film history.]

There is nothing compelling about this comic. The characters are forgettable, and mostly seem like roles that needed to be filled. “OK, we need some conflict on this team, so how about one is a black kid and one is a redneck. And for the conflict on the other team, one is an anti-colonial Syrian and one is French! Perfect.” We are supposed to care about them because they have each lost their families and everything important to them, but that's really the only reason the writer gives us, and frankly, it's not enough.

Also, they treat obvious advice from John Connor like it came from Sun Tzu or something:

exploit an enemy's weakness? that Connor is a genius!

Everyone seems to jizz their pants over John Connor. I've never understood why he is so important in this series. OK, so he leads the resistance... And nobody else is capable of leading? Why not? What exactly is so special about this guy? Is his midichlorian count off the charts? The writers are clearly trying to build up JC into some messiah-like – wait a sec...  John Connor... JC... Jesus Christ – OH MA GAWD!

I was gonna photoshop this, but it actually already existed!

The story arc is functional. The characters resolve their differences before the end. I had a hunch there might be a twist, but alas, no such luck. Elena didn't turn out to be a robot infiltrator. I guess that would have been too similar to the non-twist of the film itself.

The artwork doesn't really match the atmosphere, in my humble opinion. It should be a lot more dark/bleak/gritty, not so many bright colours and smooth lines. It looks sterile, motionless and emotionless.


However, I liked the international aspect! Hollywood often walks a fine line in this department: they want to show diversity, so as to appear modern/enlightened/not racist or xenophobic, just as long as the main hero is American. In the off chance that the protagonist is not American, well, they damn well better be speaking English, because Joe Sixpack don't wanna read no faggy subtitles! Besides the hero-worship of JC, this story was pretty even-handed toward both the Arabic and American characters.

Anyway, that is pretty much the only pro in this unnecessary addition to the Terminator franchise.

For further reading into why the Terminator franchise has been getting dumber and dumber, the good folks at Cracked have my back:

Terminator Salvation minus the bullshit
Terminators are inefficient 
The whole thing just plain doesn't make sense

Here's to the futile hope that they don't make another sequel!


  1. Interestingly, the Buffy comic book isn't a spinoff or adaptation. It's a direct continuation of the show's plot and is collected into "seasons". For all intents and purposes, the tv show became the comic book.