Monday, April 26, 2010
Christian Bale in Terminator: Salvation is a puffy, ugly human face surrounded by immaculate set design. His skin is a bruised carmine pink. The chin is shaped by a rust-colored beard, the head is supported by a puce neck.
As Lev Kuleshov found with Ivan Mosjoukine (whose face would come to define so many ideas about cinema) and David Lynch rediscovered with Laura Dern in Inland Empire, the image of a face can be more expressive than a facial expression. When a CGI double of Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives late in the movie, that’s when the film finally confirms what’s long been suspected: that the Terminator movies are about décor, about wallpaper patterns and reflections. The real thing was always an afterthought. There’s a reason the only actor whose image (if not presence) has stayed consistent throughout the series is the one playing a robot.
Maybe its because it continues insisting that it’s “about humanity” that Terminator: Salvation seems more inhuman than Michael Bay’s burlesque Transformers, a Back to the Future pastiche combined with the image of a robot pissing on a man’s head and a bit of John Milius fantasy, all Hardy Boys teenage adventure and mythical authority figures (Jon Voight as the secretary of defense in that film might as well be John Bennet Perry as General MacArthur in Farewell to the King).