The Terminators (Review)
Directed by Xavier S. Puslowski
The Asylum makes a living producing mockbusters, which are DTV films with titles deceptively similar to films that have hit the theater the same week the DTV film hits video store shelves, thus people rent it by mistake and get enraged at what they saw. It is a strategy that works, gets them lots of press, and on occasion produces a film that’s better than the film it is mockbusting. TarsTarkas.NET has covered the mockbusters Transmorphers and Dragon (and will be covering more soon!), though those two films were done long ago when Leigh Scott was responsible for most of The Asylum’s output and better mockbusters. He has since left to do his own thing, and I haven’t really seen any post-Scott films from Asylum until now. Does it measure up? Read on and find out!
On first glance, you would think that The Asylum would get their pants sued off for the title alone. The Terminators? That doesn’t leave much room for error in what they are trying to mockbuster. But as The Asylum got lots of free publicity when they were threatened over the title of their The Day the Earth Stood Still mockbuster The Day the Earth Stopped, it is understandable why they would want to push the envelope again. From the trailer, it became obvious that they were using both the Terminator films and the remake Battlestar Galactica series as inspirations for the story and design, and that became even more obvious upon seeing the completed film.
What did happen is if you went to The Asylum’s Website, you saw no mention of the film. Sources say they did receive a cease and desist, but released the film regardless while scrubbing all promotion of it on their own pages. Sneaky, and calling someone’s bluff. The information was returned about a week later and is still up as of the time of writing this review.
One of the major problems with the film is the pacing. I am generally forgiving when it comes to bad effects (even if I point them out I find them charming) but as the Terminator franchise is generally known for fast-paced action, The Terminators is more on the lines of jogging action. A few sequences have brief bits of excitement on the scale of a bigger production (the van chase, the space battles), but most of the film is just the same robot guy walking along and killing people. Granted, there is no way that a small budgeted film like this could pull of complicated car chase sequences, nor are they expected, but when you are using all CGI for space shots, just go for broke and fund a few thousand dollars worth of cooler shots that will get people talking more.
This is Xavier S. Puslowski’s first film, though he has been the assistant director on many Asylum films (and if the rumors are true, he was basically the director on at least one of them thanks to the real director not doing anything!) Writer David Michael Latt is the current writer for what looks like everything the Asylum has done in the past few years, though this time he was working with story elements from lesser Asylum player William Morey. One common theme on Asylum productions is thinking big, so you can’t fault them for wanting to be able to do awesome stuff. The problem lies in their ability to do awesome stuff, which doesn’t always work with tiny budgets.
It is the future, and everyone owns a robot slave, called a TR4, all of which look identical, some bodybuilder. Yeah. I can totally see a sinister-looking model like that getting bought by families in the suburbs to cook breakfast. Of course, this movie would have not looked like the film it is mockbusting had the cyborgs all looked like Mrs. Doubtfire, but it would have been insane. Also, in this future where we have cyborgs and space stations and starships, everything else is modern day. In fact, the cars are all older model cars, probably because most of them are destroyed and a buying a new car would eat up the whole budget (it’s not like Chrysler is going to give them free cars, but maybe they should since they are broke and could use the publicity The Terminators could give them!)
From the opening credits (done in Windows movie maker) with the identical font to the actual Terminator movie, we can see right off the bat what the inspiration is. We are in space, and a space station that looks like Deep Space Nine’s little brother. We find out later it is called the Ellison Space Station. And the company that created the cyborgs is the Ellison company. I will go out on a limb and say this refers to Harlan Ellison, writer of The City on the Edge of Forever and the guy who sued James Cameron over the original Terminator because it ripped of two stories of his.
So a transport ship docks at this station, but it is filled with silent TR4 cyborgs like the one working with the crew right now. The TR4 who just punched a hole into the Sargent. Oops! Run for your life, the TR4s are going robot crazy! They got rust on the brain or something! No, wait, everyone on the space station dies. Well, one of them managed to contact some creepy guys in a goofy Apple Computer Store office who I guess are the CEOs of the Ellison company. They say the only way to shut down the TR4s on Earth is to do it on the computer on the Ellison Space Station. So how did the TR4s in deep space operate? Oh, never mind! The TR4s fly hundreds of spaceships off of Deep Space 8.5 and towards Earth. I guess a counter-assault is also sent to the station, as we see some arguing sassy crewmates on a ship that manages to get tractored in. They are Hudson, Fodder(!), and a black captain whose name I didn’t catch. Say goodbye to them for an hour. I think the main problem with the starships attacking a space station that controlled the power supplies of world-invading robots is they didn’t have an annoying kid in a fighter who flies into the space station, blows it up accidentally, and shouts “Now this is pod racing!” and “Yippee!!” On second thought, thank goodness they didn’t have that, because one Episode One is enough.
Some actual cool (if short) shots of ships attacking a city and landing on Earth are shown. Hey, maybe another three minutes of that would have made this film ten times better! TR4s then stroll in the Apple Store Room on Earth and kill all the creepy characters, so go TR4s! Creepy dudes and Apple Stores need to be all killed. The soundtrack at this point sounds like a bunch of bats screaming while being scraped on the chalkboard, so crank it up!
Enough of that exciting stuff, let’s check in on Chuck the white trash guy, and Tiffany the girl who wants to marry him despite the fact he’s already married to Chloe, and she’s pregnant. Sheriff Reed is also there in this small town that overlooks LA, but everything is boring until a rocket flies overhead and blasts LA, which is not what you want to see on your way to work. LA has a big fireball in the middle of it, the effect is pulled off good with some nice reactions of shock by the Sheriff.
A guy driving his truck slams into a TR4 with a pole, the truck goes flying and the TR4 is perfectly fine. TR4’s are sooo cool they even violate the laws of physics! Because it is the future, see. TR4s start to kill everyone in town, except Chloe who hides behind a fence. Sheriff Reed doesn’t do much of anything, but stumbles across some scared survivors holding out in a warehouse (yet making lots of noise – good job, survivors!) The important survivors are Pallas, Bronson, and Laura. The rest will be dead too soon to care about. And that time is now, as TR4s have heard the noise these idiots are making and bust in, blasting women. Everyone runs out and hops into a van driven by Chloe, who happened to be driving by right then in her escape. So the escapees are Sheriff Reed, Chloe, Pallas, Bronson, and Laura.
They drive and drive, then drive and drive. According to the radio, the cities destroyed are: Washington DC, New York, LA, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Houson, San Antonio, Seattle, and Portland. Well, looks like I’m dead. Frakking skinjobs! A spaceship chases after the van they are in, blasting at it. Somehow, Laura manages to open the back door of the van and fall out of it. D’oh! Then the van crashes into a big puddle and is stuck. Laura has a broken leg, and they all hide in the forest and then run some more as the TR4s and the spaceship chases them. They are also still LOUD AS HELL when trying to hide.
Some random guy zaps the TR4s with an electric weapon, and they all fall over. Hooray for random guy! They then act all hostile and weird to the guy who saved them, and the guy doesn’t want much to do with them. He’s Kurt, by the way. Everyone bickers for a while as Kurt throws away cell phones and cigarettes because the TRs can detect them. Also, he’s a big cancerphobe. But mostly the cyborgs. Kurt has several transport ships just sitting in a field, but no fuel to fly them. He wants to go to Ellison Space Station and turn off the TR4s, but has to get fuel, probably fluorine. Pallas has a disturbing amount of explosives knowledge, so if you are a US government employee who has been getting threatening letters, it is probably her.
Before anything can happen, the TRs come, Laura gets capped, and they steal a transport the TRs landed in as it already has fuel. Except a TR4 grabs onto the ship as it takes off, causing them to crash into the ground. D’oh! Well, it was only 45 minutes it, no way they would stop the Terminators so quickly. So now they are going to a warehouse they didn’t mention before and grab some oxygen tanks and a truck. They do, but TR4s show up as the TRs will be hanging around abandoned warehouses in the middle of the countryside during the initial stages of their conquest of the planet. One TR4 gets nailed by the truck and is moved, the complete opposite of the one that smashed a truck earlier. I guess he didn’t have a pole. A TR4 gets on the back of the truck with Bronson and Pallas and fights them, the soundtrack goes echo-crazy and grunt-tastic. Bronson is about to get crushed, but Pallas grabs the TR4 and falls off the truck with him, which means the TR4 rips out her guts instead, and the annoying Bronson still lives and we are down a hot chick. Damn you, Bronson! I will never forgive you!
Luckily, a cut scene outside show several cars still driving around, so there are survivors everywhere, I guess. These stupid cyborgs are totally inefficient! Unless the cyborgs are driving cars… The van runs out of gas, so they have to head back to the parked ships via sewer tunnels. Bronson has to carry the heavy tank, so he does nothing but complain. That’s all he’s been doing the entire movie, but now he is doing more of it! In the tunnels they run across the girl Chloe’s husband Chuck was boning, Tiffany, so now they got that going for them (Chuck is dead. His name is Chuck and he likes to get shot in the head by TR4s.) There are also some tunnel workers who somehow haven’t heard the world ended and a few TR4s running around who kill them. Yes, TR4s are patrolling the sewers of a small town on the first day of their invasion of a planet. These are the Keystone Cyborgs!
By now buildings are blowing up for no reason, Tiffany is freaking out, and gunfights are everywhere. The action is fast and confusing as the spaceship gets fueled (it is a different ship from the ones in the field and the one they stole, so I don’t know where this one came from!) Sheriff Reed gets shot, but you see metal under his wound. Oh, frak, another skinjob! The spaceship takes off (you take off!) and is instantly chased by four other spaceships. Because Bronson is too much of a pussy, Chloe takes the gun and lasers down the other four ships. Yes, a small town wife is a better shot that cyborgs who are programmed to gun down spaceships. Thanks, Playstation! At least the space battle is interesting in part, but it needed more of the cool space shots and less of the in-spaceship shots.
Sheriff Reed starts to malfunction and shuts down, but Bronson freaks out and thinks everyone is a robot. Bronson, you are dumb and I can’t wait until you die. Sheriff Reed reactivates, and Kurt explains he is a field agent for Ellison whose job is to monitor Sheriff Reed. All of Reed’s memories are just Kurt’s implanted. Bronson shoots Sheriff Reed in the head, but the wound just grows closed. Reed is a TR5, which has liquid skin like the T-1000 but metal underneath, I guess. Their spaceship get tractor beamed into the space station.
They leave the still rattled Sheriff Reed on the ship and head off to try to shut down the power, which will stop the TR4s. Luckily, none of the hundreds of TR4s on the station are waiting outside the ship to shoot them. So now they are sneaking around on the ship, we have gone full bore Battlestar Galactica. Tiffany is about to kill herself, but gets yelled at by one of the dead crew members who isn’t quite dead yet. I think Tiffany was supposed to be having a Baltar moment, but not sure.
Kurt is at the computer, but it won’t let them shut it down, so they have to get the Sherrif so he can hack in. Too bad for Bronson, who gets his jaw ripped off before they can leave. Good for us, because he finally shuts up. Take than, Bronson! But then all the TR4 units stop, because something is draining the power. Hey, remember those sassy guys on the spaceship from way over an hour ago? Suddenly they show up on the station and are all surly. Hooray for Hicks, Fodder, and black guy.
We see where all the energy is being redirected into….Darth Cylon! Darth Cylon kills Hicks before he can complain about bug hunts. Darth Cylon then kills the other two members of the rescue squad, so these guys showed up only to get killed right away? Only Kurt and Chloe left, with Tiffany wandering around the ship seeing dead people and Sheriff Reed guarding their ship. Kurt gets stabbed by the Darth Cylon, and Chloe is almost killed, but Sheriff Reed arrives and distracts Darth Cylon. He lures Darth Cylon into an airlock, and tells Chloe to shut the door. Both of the robots are blasted into space. NOOOOOO!! Not Darth Cylon! He was my favorite character!
Tiffany finds a giant switched marked TR5 main control, and shuts if off. The robots are stopped, and the day is saved! But everyone is dead, and it just ends with them stuck in space. So, uh… The first lyric of the end credits song is “So this is how it ends…” so I guess that is how this film ends. With an ending but no conclusion.
That wasn’t that bad, but it tried to bite off more than it could chew. Overall, I didn’t dislike it, it was similar in tone to a lot of SciFi Channel films. I am probably making an accurate prediction when I say this will show up there one day.
Trivia note: The movie is owned by Termination Robots LLC, so that was probably the original title
Rated 6/10 (Studliest stud who ever studded, Captain Coolio, Icy to dull the pain…, Jesus in a surprise cameo!, Hot to relax it away…, Tractor beam me up!)