Maybe having the geeks inherit the earth wasn’t such a good idea after all. Never before have we seen such a fringe demographic wield so much influence on filmmakers, despite not really possessing that much tangible power at all. This year, from Zack Snyder’s Watchmen to J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek, director after director has bowed down to the altar of geek. In some cases, the reverence works (see: Star Trek). But then there are other times when it does irreparable damage to the final product.
For an example of the latter scenario, look no further than the interminable Terminator Salvation. Director McG, a scourge of the fanboys if there ever was one, did all he could to satisfy the geek community—casting Christian Bale, begging James Cameron for a blessing (Mr. Cameron declined), making the film “dark and gritty,” giving birthday presents to Ain’t It Cool News head cheese Harry Knowles—and yet they almost totally rejected his final product. (Mr. Knowles’ screed against Terminator Salvation is one of the more vitriolic reviews we’ve read in quite some time.) Worse, because McG was so worried about the geeks, he ended up ignoring the rest of the audience to the detriment of his film.
(Be warned, this next paragraph is going to be chock-a-block with MAJOR spoilers.)
Take the ending. In the film, John Connor gets stabbed through the chest by a Terminator robot and winds up on death’s door. But! Before he passes away, half-human/half-robot Marcus Wright offers Connor his own heart to save the leader of the Resistance. Cue a misplaced voice-over and the closing credits.
Never mind that this supposedly emotional decision was rendered moot by a complete lack of character development; it was also kinda boring. John Connor lives, Marcus Wright dies, and we’re back to square one: humans are trying to win the war against machines. What was the point of all this?
The theatrical ending, however, is in stark contrast to the original. In that version, Connor actually dies, and his fellow Resistance compatriots decide to take his face and graft it onto Marcus Wright’s robotic body. But then Marcus awakens, looking like John Connor, and kills everyone in the room. The machines win. Now that’s an ending! But since it so diametrically opposed the canon established during the previous movies, the geeks revolted when it was released onto the Internet just under a year ago. (Now McG says it was changed because everyone involved in the film thought that ending would have been too bleak. Yeah, right.)
We’re not saying the original ending would have totally saved Terminator Salvation from its mediocre fate, but it certainly would have been a step up. At the very least, it would have given regular moviegoers something to talk about with their friends. (“You have to see the ending!”) Instead, Terminator Salvation seems resigned to a Watchmen-like fate on the road to box office disappointment. When are directors going to learn that trying to satisfy an unsatisfiable minority isn’t going to win them any fans from the majority? At the risk of our geek bona fides, it’s time for Hollywood to start making movies for everyone again.