The one piece of praise I've heard from countless Terminator Salvation audience members is, "At least it wasn't as bad as Terminator 3." But was McG's film really better? To find out, we're breaking it down and comparing the two "worst" Terminators to see who wins the crown of crap.
We asked you guys what you thought about T3 versus T4 and the majority of you voted that it was either much better, or at least slightly better. I narrowed down the most important aspects of the Terminator franchise, and weighed them side by side.
T3: Nick Stahl was a depressing casting choice, who has thus far carried the title of "worst John Connor ever." But his character's story was at least slightly more interesting to watch than one-note Bale. Still the voice-cracking teary-faced "Why me?" moments got real old, real fast.
T4: While a completely intimidating military leader, his inability to make anyone remember why they loved the little rapscallion smart ass from T2 brought out zero audience identification for the troubled savior of man. Plus, he was kind of a dick.
Winner: T4. Even though Bale leaned a little too much on the Batman voice, he was still a much more believable bad ass than Nick Stahl could ever hope to be.
The Big Action Scene:
T3: Watching Arnold get dragged through building after building (debris and glass flying) all while dangling on the end of the crane zooming down the road was one of the two saving grace moments from Terminator 3. More importantly, it looked and felt believable. Say what you will about Jonathan Mostow, his decision to use real props and stunt men gave the big action scene a sense of realism.
T4: When the Harvester let out its robo-moan, I got excited. But watching the giant robo-monster pluck the kindly old lady out of the gas station and then swing and miss an easy target while our heroes peeled out in front of it was pretty unforgivable. Sure you could argue that the bots would never fire on Marcus, but that didn't stop them in LA, or keep them from throwing him off the side of the prisoner transport. But if you open up that can of worms, you've got to start debating why the machines were dumb enough to keep Kyle Reese prisoner in the first place, and not just execute him on sight. (Boom — future John Connor, dead.) Already there's entirely too much thinking for an action scene. Also if you're going to build moto-Terminators with built-in guns, make them use it. This way, some jerk who's lost in time and his two kid sidekicks won't be able to take them out in a few minutes.
Winner: T3. Shoot as many moto-transformers out of the Harverster's legs you want, in the end it all felt like a Transformer with terrible aim. Give me Arnold getting thrown through cement walls.
T3: Seeing an aged Arnold picking up a coffin and taking on a pack of cops was, well, frighteningly upsetting and silly (and boy did they run with it — remember the heinous star sunglasses?). But the one thing Arnold had over Marcus was a sense of realism. Watching the original Terminator knife open his own chest, ripping away his fleshy covering was, well, freaking cool. That robot just cut into his chest with a knife!
T4: Sadly, Marcus' robot innards (while part human) always looked and felt like a failed Photoshop contest. And let's not forget his magic ability to heal off-screen because damn, CG is expensive, so thank God we threw that line in the script. Also, not once, even when he was fighting off other Terminators, did I get a feel for his super-strength or robot abilities. Nor did I believe that he had any sort of emotional attachment to Kyle Reese that would validate his big rescue attempt.
Winner: T4. While Arnold appeared to be a more realistic robot with his flappy exoskeleton bits and charred flesh (which is really saying something when you look at the money McG had to make Marcus seem like a half human half robot) the insufferable robot feelings climax throws the win to Marcus. Let's all thank the robot gods we didn't have to sit through another "I....can't...control...my...functions...John Connor....having....feelings" red to blue view finder moment.
T3: I've heard many a "thanks, but no thanks," to the T-X after she came out. Granted, her excessive amount of robot gadgetry seemed forced and got a little confusing at times (why doesn't she shape shift more? And if she can control all robots, why doesn't she attack John Connor through other machines?). But the T-X was above all things ruthless. Her primary function was to kill the human leaders of the Resistance, and that was always in the front of her mind. The she-terminator stuck to the franchise robot code that is, kill, kill, kill. Which made her frightening. Especially when she walked into a house full of kids and opened fire at point blank range. This is a robot that wants to kill you, not kidnap you in some poorly thought out plan and then leave only one Terminator to guard the door, when they have an ARMY being made in "the basement." Also the blood-licking DNA decoding scene was delightful. I was sometimes scared of this robot, which is more than I can say for the pack of blundering puppets from our Doomsday future.
T4: Was seeing the CG T-800 with the face of Arnold neat? yes. But the impact of that moment passed minutes after uttering the phrase "Hey, cool." The T-800 was not scary, and neither was Skynet. Never did I ever get the feeling of being menaced by superior robot intellect. Maybe the fight scene was difficult to follow, or perhaps it was because the T-800 insisted on throwing John Connor about when we all know it could snap his neck in seconds. It was a muddle of incompetence.
Winner: T3, for making a robot that never stopped trying to kill humans.
Kate Brewster (Connor)
T3: Claire Danes was not good in this movie. There was zero chemistry (from her end) and I just couldn't get on board with anything she did as Kate. Did she even care when her fiance was murdered? This character came across as a whiny girl, who conveniently knows how to fly a plane. I couldn't listen to her talk about so-and-so's basement for another second.
T4: Bryce Dallas Howard is a wonderful actress who was given nothing to do but stand around and make bug eyes for the entire movie. This is not her fault.
Winner: T4. For not having Claire Danes in the film.
The Big Finale:
T3: The whole thing was a lie. Judgment Day was inevitable. The two kids are tricked by a caring father into an underground bomb shelter, thereby just missing the nuclear war. This was the second saving grace moment of T3 and possibly the best part of the film. As a viewer, you kind of got the feeling it was being set up, but the big reveal was still shocking. Plus the bomb shelter was time-capsule gorgeous, and part of me wanted to live down there and start on the Resistance — after we killed Danes and ate her for sustenance, of course.
T4: Marcus gets his second chance, by giving John Connor his heart. Do we care about his second chance? Not really. No one ever truly believed a dude who befriended orphaned kids in a run-down future was ever really that bad to start off with. So the whole "this is your moment, Marcus" thing was a total waste. But it all worked out in the end, and the team flies away on the wings of helicopter angels to have a big teddy-bear picnic in the sky. From high above, Marcus looks down from Heaven and winks. John Connor lifts his weak limb and shoots back a thumbs up, to heaven. And for one moment in the hell we call a future, things are A-OK. At least that's what I got out of it.
So as of right now, it's a tie. Hmmm, I leave it in your hands. But I'm starting to lean more towards T3, which at least doesn't have a wily sidekick child in it, who just so happens to have a bag of convenient tools on her at all times. But that's just me.