Terminators, The (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring A Martinez, Jeremy London, Paul Logan, Lauren Walsh, Stephen Blackehart
Directed by Xavier S. Puslowski
The Terminators is like a Frankenstein mockbuster that's been assembled from concepts, plot points, dialogue, visuals, and designs blatantly stolen from a variety of movies and television shows most egregiously and obviously the Terminator movies, so much so it's amazing to think they actually managed to get this film out on the market without being slapped with a massive lawsuit. A computerized military defense system meant to protect us instead turns on us, nukes several major cities, sends human-looking cyborgs to exterminate the rest of us, and the movie is called The Terminators? How did The Asylum not get sued into oblivion for this?
But the "sampling" - as they call it in the music industry - only begins with Terminator. Aliens, "Battlestar Galactica", Star Wars, Blade Runner, and "V" are all invoked in some way or another. A circular space station straight out of 2001 with a tractor beam that can suck vessels into its docking bay a la Star Wars; an outer space dogfight that also evokes memories the original Star Wars. Those space transport shuttles bear more than a passing resemblance to the spaceships from "Space: 1999". A member of a team of space mercenaries is named "Hicks". When in doubt, open the bay doors and suck the thing trying to kill you out in the vastness of space. And this is only the stuff I personally recognized. The shameless highway robbery of various film and TV properties ranges from jaw-dropping to damn near inspiring.
Even video games get a nod. The cyborgs make pinball machine noises when bullets hit their metal exoskeleton. The laser fire and sound effects during that space dogfight are exactly like that of an early Eighties arcade game right down to laser cannon fire in the form of little triangles zooming across the screen.
Most amazing is that despite all of the blatant thievery and the absolute mess that is the barely lucid storyline, on its own terms, The Terminators actually works. More entertaining than it has any right to be; not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly livelier than quite a few other Terminator copycats that have come along. If nothing else, it isn't a total borefest. Given Asylum standards, that alone puts it in the win column.
Confusion from the get-go; is it set in the near future or an alternate universe with giant space stations, a military that has been replaced with an army of flesh-covered cyborgs referred to as TR (An abbreviation for "Terminator", a word never uttered for obvious legal reasons? Or TR could be short for "Total Rip-off"), and high tech corporations that have virtual rooms with holographic view screens and private space mercenary security forces orbiting the planet. After the opening ten minutes that just plops us down into this confusing world, the story moves to a small town on the outskirts of Los Angeles that isn't anywhere near as space age as everything we've just seen but when these average citizens talk they've clearly heard of these TRs and casually speak of cyborgs as everyday appliances.
The TRs declare war on the human race for reasons that really never matter much. They did it in The Terminator; that’s all that matters.
The TRs' questionable attack plan is to prowl the streets shooting random citizens with their handguns or manually mauling them to death with their bare hands - the funniest scene of the film has a TR in the background continuously punching a guy non-stop in the face long past the point of having killed this man as a second TR casually walks past. Given the rate at which they were eliminating people, I'd reckon the TRs wouldn't successfully wipeout the human race for 3-5 years.
Ah, but the TRs have also taken to nuking major cities. We know this because the radio tells us so. There is a lone scene where citizens in that small countryside community witness L.A. getting nuked. Only problem is the f/x guys opted for a tiny explosion that from a distance looked more like a missile struck a random building rather than a full blown mushroom cloud city nuking. The planes hitting the Towers on 9/11 generated more smoke than the supposed nuclear annihilation of Los Angeles here.
The TRs appear in the form of muscular actor Paul Logan and his black tank from hell; surprisingly inventive camerawork and visual effects allow multiple versions of Logan to be shown attacking on the screen at the same time. If the Schwarzenegger School of Muscled-Up Soulless Automaton Assassin Acting Techniques existed Mr. Logan would have graduated valedictorian of his class. He has that cyborg killing machine swagger down to a t(r) and is a major reason the film succeeds in spite of itself.
On the other hand, when the best character and performance in a movies comes from the guy playing the non-speaking, blank-faced save for the occasional angry scowl, emotionless, mechanical manslayer...
Soap opera star A Martinez is the small town sheriff leading a small band of fellow citizens trying to survive the TRs rampage. Their evacuation will soon lead them to cross paths with "Party of 5"'s Jeremy London and his EMP gun, the only weapon capable of disabling a TR.
Given the cryptic statements London repeatedly makes I was absolutely positive it was going to be revealed that his character was from the future sent back in time to help stop the TR uprising. To the credit of writer and Asylum executive producer David Latt he chose not to further purloin Terminator in this instance. Though I suspect he only did so because if he'd lifted yet another pertinent plot point from The Terminator movies with that character it would have made it much harder to work in an opportunity to pilfer "Battlestar Galactica". The difficult creative choices Mr. Latt must have had to make when cobbling this screenplay together.
The finale has the remaining survivors rocketing up to the TR space station in hopes of saving the human race from robotic extermination by flipping the off-switch and I am not kidding you when I tell you there is an actual on/off switch labeled "TR on/off" to be flipped.
The unsung hero of The Terminators is without a doubt director Xavier S. Puslowski and his ability to keep this mindless hodgepodge moving along at a brisk pace. When the events of an Asylum film reach the woods, that's when I usually start reaching for my remote; because if there's one thing I've learned from my years watching Asylum mockbusters, when you start seeing trees in an Asylum production you know the movie is about to get very bad and very dull. But this time, even as the momentary detour into the timber slogs a bit, Puslowski gets us through it rather quickly and relatively painlessly. For that alone the man deserves an Oscar.
Interesting footnote: If you take a look at The Asylum’s website currently you won’t find a single mention of The Terminators on it. No artwork, no trailer, no listings, even the film’s webpage has gone suspiciously missing. One of my Asylum insiders has told me that they did indeed get hit with a cease & desist, removed all info in relation to the film from their website to make it look like they were complying, and then went ahead releasing the film into the marketplace anyway. Never ever let it be said that The Asylum isn’t run by people with elephant-sized cajones.
3 out of 5
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