Of Fast Cars and Killer Robots

Having grown up in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, I have a soft spot in my heart for the overly macho, lug-headed action hero archetype made famous by the likes of Arnold and Stallone. When Vin Diesel burst onto the scene as a leading man in Pitch Black I was sold. The guy had the acting range of a hollow log but he could pull off the big, burly action hero that I had grown up loving and it did not hurt things that Pitch Black was the Alien movie that I had wanted since James Cameron’s awesome film Aliens. After experiencing success in the films The Fast and the Furious and XXX, Diesel went a little wonky making some odd decisions with his career that included turning down reprising roles in sequels to his two most financially successful films. Diesel’s career had risen fast but had seemingly burned out just as quickly.

So what does a lug-headed one note wonder do to revitalize their career? Well he returns to the well of course and thus the fourth film in the Fast and Furious series has him reprising his role as Dominic Toretto. One of the tag lines for Fast & Furious was “new model, original parts”, implying that the gang is back together for this fourth installment of the series, its not exactly correct as Michelle Rodriguez is in the film for all of about 10 minutes and Jordana Brewster is drastically underused but it does offer up healthy doses of Diesel’s Toretto and Paul Walker’s character Agent O’Conner. And really Toretto and O’Conner’s interaction is where the original films charm and character came from to begin with so it is only fitting that it is the showcase of this new film.

The plot of Fast & Furious makes far more sense than either of the two previous sequels but much like all the films in the series, if you look too much into it you would be able to drive a truck through the giant holes in it. Of course anyone watching a Fast and Furious film is not watching it for the plot details but rather the fast cars and faster women. Fast & Furious delivers on that promise as beautiful women assault the screen in between the plethora of high octane street races and chases. When the film takes a detour to attempt to give you plot progression it does so with some intentionally and unintentionally funny dialog but more often than not it is just a staging point to get you to the next action sequence.

Fast & Furious is an overly safe film. It sticks to a tried and true formula that has been proven to work and it works better for this series with both Diesel and Walker at the forefront. If you haven’t previously liked any of the series films then this one is not going to change your mind, nor will it change your opinion of Diesel but if you are a fan then this is the sequel you have been waiting for. Vin Diesel should be happy to be home as this is the best film in the series since the original and one of the best action films of 2009. It’s nice to have you back, chrome dome.

4* / 5*

If there was a king of the overly macho, lug-headed archetype action hero it was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was Conan. He was the Commando. He was the guy who took down the Predator (Dutch). And most famously he was The Terminator. My love of the Terminator franchise comes more from James Cameron’s awesome sci-fi action piece, Terminator 2: Judgment Day than from the original film but regardless there is little denying that Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of The Terminator is itself iconic, regardless of the film. For me Terminator equals Arnold but this doesn’t seem to be a shared sentiment with the rights holders to the series.

This year saw the attempted revitalization of the series with Terminator: Salvation. It’s no surprise but I did not enjoy the film all that much having thought it was somewhat scatter brained, poorly acted and worst of all not exciting. That said I did enjoy the setting and thought that the backdrop of a destroyed Los Angeles was a great setting for a video game. One would think that if you took the setting of post-apocalyptic LA and blended it with Gears of War, substituting the Locust horde for killer robots, that you would end up with a fun game, even if it was a little bit generic. If you thought that, you would be wrong.

Terminator: Salvation is a mess. Wonky controls, bad level design, ugly visuals, mediocre (at best) audio, and a ridiculously short play-time (less than five hours) all plague Terminator: Salvation. I could get over the bad level design, the ugly visuals, the mediocre audio and the short play-time but when I play a shooter the one thing that needs to work properly is the shooting. It needs to be fun and it needs to be precise, Terminator: Salvation is neither and as such Terminator: Salvation is not a very good game.

Fans of the series (in particular the recent movie) may enjoy that the game is a prequel of sorts to the film. I say of a prequel of sorts because the plot of the game has nothing to do with the plot of the film or the series. Yes, you play as John Connor and yes you fight killer robots but outside of that, if you renamed Connor as Dipshit Magee and called the game Killer Robots in LA, no one would have known the difference and honestly I think it might have been a bit better.

If you are a fan of Gears of War and really (I mean really) enjoyed this summer’s film of the same name then maybe you might want to give this game a shot as a rental (and I stress rental). Otherwise play something else.

2* / 5*

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