Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles

Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles
starring: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Richard T. Jones
Fox Mondays 9:00 est.
I wasn’t expecting to like Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles as much as I did. In fact, when I first started hearing about this project, months ago, I had almost zero interest. It felt like a step backward for the series, and in many ways it still is, but it’s a step backward that makes sense. For once.

This series takes place between the movies Terminator 2 and Terminator 3, and its events effectively wipe Terminator 3 from the record, either ignoring it completely or making it so those events never take place. This suits me just fine, as I’d never seen T3, so it significantly flattened my learning curve. It is, in short, the story of Sarah and John Conner running from killer robots, protected by a defender sent back from John’s future as the leader of humanity against the machine race. Sounds a lot like T2, and it is, but there’s a key difference. Now that the T-101 is governing California, the future needs a new defender, and here the producers make a really interesting choice.

Knowing any “buff-guy” type is going to live forever in Schwarzenegger’s shadow, they replaced him with former Ballerina and Firefly psychic commando Summer Glau. Glau’s casting is inspired. She’d already proven her action-hero chops in Joss Whedon’s Serenity, so whether or not she could handle the action sequences was never in doubt. But while her River Tam was a wreck of brilliant tics and undulations, she could summon a stiff coldness and directness of purpose that Glau brings back here in her Cameron. It works really well, and not just because “hey, it’s a pretty little girl who can kick ass” because I would hope, as a culture, that we are past that now, but because no one questions it.

With Glau and Lena Headey, as Sarah Conner, as the characters protecting a teenage boy acting as the “damsel in distress” in most situations, it could easily be a self-conscious “girl power” statement, which would be just fine. But the fact that its not presented that way, that it’s just that these two characters happen to be women and no one, absolutely no one, in at least the first two episodes, questions their credentials to do so, is completely refreshing.

I also love Headey’s Sarah Conner. She’s significantly less buffed-out than Linda Hamilton in T2, but that doesn’t make her less tough. It’s a quieter strength she brings to bear hear, born of hope and passion, a passion to make the world a better place than she knows it is otherwise going to be. The fact that she knows she’s coming off as a paranoid schizophrenic, and that any ping they make on the system of the world can bring down Armageddon, makes her more than a little bit guarded. But she’s not cold.

Thomas Dekker, center of the gay-not gay Heroes’ Zack controversy steps in for Edward Furlongas fifteen-year-old John Conner, the future savior of humanity. He and Headey have great chemistry together, and he walks a fine line between petulant teenager and heroic young man in a way that completely fits that part. There’s not much else to say about him, as Headey bears most of the first two episodes’ emotional weight.

Bottom Line: Much better than it should be, and a welcome addition to the schedule especially in the Strike Era. I have a few logistics/plot hole problems (no i.d.'s, but they have cel phones already?), but for right now, I’m in. I’ve always a sucker for a band of plucky rebels.

1 comment:

NorCalScan said...

Thank you - after the super bowl my brother and I decided that this may be our new "24" since the writer's strike (and a DUI by Sutherland) has kept "24" from existence this season. Damn you writers to hell for trying to make a living....

KO said that you wrote a review so we read it at 8:58 tonight to quickly see what the backstory was and what we missed. I had to pull T1 and T2 out of my butt it's been so long. It's in the netflix queue now to refresh my head and share with KO what a good movie was. I don't remember ever seeing T3. But by 10pm tonight I think I got all of it back. I may have to read up a little more (or just wait for T1/T2 again). The whole time-shift of John and what exactly he is responsible for in the future and why some T like him (defenders) and some want him dead practically before he's alive.

And dang, I didn't catch the defender was a she. I thought you were talking about Sarah or some other gal (yeah yeah, skimming 90sec before show starts). But the second she showed up tonight my brother and I were in unison, "woah...wow. SHE is the defender? That's the pretty little girl that can kick ass?!"

John pisses me off. But that's because I was raised not to backtalk. I guess if I knew how important I was in the future, I'd be a little cocky too. Serves him right to have to face his mortal enemy in the eye to get the key and piss himself beyond dehydration...

Commercials tick me off too. Maybe because it was real hyped in the super bowl and they were expecting lots of people, but it was WAY watered down in ads. 4 minutes of show before 2 minutes of ads is wrong. Even 24 isn't that bad...sometimes...