Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series

Terminator Salvation -The Machinima SeriesSynopsis: In the year 2016, Resistance fighter Blair Williams embarks on a deadly mission to search for a threat that is weakening humanity’s defense against the self-aware artificial intelligence called Skynet and its lethal Terminators. Moon Bloodgood reprises her Terminator Salvation role in this original Machinima series, providing the voice of Williams as she takes on T-600s, MotoTerminators, Aerostats and Hunter Killers. Machinima delivers action and style in a big way through a form of animation created using video-game engines and graphics. Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series.

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Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series 4.0

eyesights: Moon Bloodglow.
eyesores: the déjà vu plot. its overemphasis on action. the crappy animation. the stilted voice acting. the bland music.

“The war was already lost. It was just a matter of time.”

In this day and age, no wannabe box office blockbuster ignores the financial rewards of tie-ins and/or product placement. ‘Star Wars’ showed Hollywood how it’s done, and the corporate machine has been refining the practice ever since.

With the release of ‘Terminator Salvation‘ in 2009 came a wealth of merchandising, including novels, figurines and, naturally, a video game. This eponymous game is a third-person shooter that is set in between the events of its parent motion picture and ‘T3‘.

‘Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series’, is a set of six web episodes which were released over six weeks and that were built from this video game’s framework and graphics. It reuses characters and locations from the game in an exclusive storyline.

I had no idea what this was when I picked it up for 1$ two-three months ago in a local second-hand shop’s cheap bin. I actually didn’t even see the subtitle; I honestly thought I was buying the motion picture with an alternate cover, and didn’t look any further.

When I realized what it was, much later, I was disappointed but nonetheless intrigued. I wondered what this “movie” might be: A straight-to-video animated movie? TV episodes pastiched into a makeshift film? I had no idea of its webisode origins.

But I figured that, at 74 minutes, it would be worth a look.

Each of the 12-minute episodes of ‘The Machinima Series’ is designed as a cliff-hanger, tying it to the beginning of the next one. The set follows the adventures of Blair Williams, played by Moon Bloodglow in the motion picture and voiced here as well.

Rooted as it is in a combat-based video game, the programme begins right in the heat of battle, with Blair musing about the war with the machines. She is soon sent out on a seek and destroy mission to find a target called “Ghost” who is jamming communications.

The writing isn’t stellar. Although the same writer was used throughout the series (whereas two different directors helmed the series), the plot is generic and the dialogues fairly mundane. Naturally, the onus is on the action, so it’s not really surprising.

Fight fight fight!!!

Each episode consists of at least two major action sequences. The rest consists of Blair wandering about the city as she seeks “Ghost”, tries to bring “Ghost” back with her and later tries to find “Ghost” again. Notice the simple three act structure.

Some of my favourite bits of non-sensical storytelling include a scene where Blair hears sounds of struggle and finds Terminator taking its sweet-@$$ time choking a man in the middle of a deserted office building. Um… what was the point of that?

Or how about the fact that she appears familiar with “Ghost”, based on what she says during the encounter, but we later discover that it’s not the case – that it was just cheap, cookie-cutter dialogue. And the tensed situations that are just nightmares? Cliché.

I was amused by some of the observations that Blair makes. She says Skynet is evolving, but doesn’t establish how she came to this conclusion. Then there’s her suggestion that “Ghost” is going to change things – after seeing “Ghost” in a rather run-of-the-mill combat situation.

Sigh…

There are of course various lapses of logic as well, but the worst is that there is no satisfying resolution of the story: what ‘The Machinima Series’ offers is an abrupt non-ending in which we don’t really know how we got to its last few moments.

‘The Machinima Series’ is not a new concept, and it’s been done better: the music sucks, eschewing Brad Fiedel’s classic themes, the animation is rudimentary, leaving the characters virtually expressionless, and the only decent voice-acting comes from Bloodglow.

At least ‘Red vs. Blue’ didn’t take itself seriously.

‘Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series’ tries to be cinematic in some shots, but it’s failed by a limited game engine, leaving it lurching much of the time. Like one online reviewer commented: it “looks like a video game… from 1998”. Too true.

There’s little saving grace here: ‘Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series’ is just another nail in a seemingly dying franchise.

Date of viewing: March 27, 2015

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