What pissed off Jack this week - again

A.P. Atkinson

Jack gets pissed off about a lot of things, it comes with the territory as you get older and it’s easier to embrace it than to make an effort to smile at people. Consequently, there net-result of all this is that there isn’t an awful lot of smiling.

With all the flu-panic nonsense going on, there is one thing that has annoyed me more than anything else. With the world going crazy, with America led by a man whose brain appears to be powered by a hamster in a broken wheel, and England being governed by a monkey with a mop on its head, one thing stand out as the most serious affront to human decency.

Terminator: Salvation

I’m going to ignore the fact that the director calls himself ‘Mc-G’ as if this middle-aged ginger man thinks he’s a cool rapper, but is partially obsessed with cheap fast-food burgers. As a man who rejected his given name, I have no choice but to give this a pass and respect his right to his own identity, even if it makes it almost impossible to take him seriously as a human. Terminator: Salvation did a good job of making it harder to take him seriously as a director.

No, it’s not this that annoyed Jack, although it was a close contender, it’s an element of the film that makes no sense to me that’s caused me to become annoyed enough to write about it.

Terminator: Salvation. A film filled with the wrong motorcycle.

There are plenty to choose from, you can find plenty to rant about with Christian Bale wandering through the story semi-aimlessly, scowling for all he’s worth for reasons that seem to often make very little sense. You could be really annoyed by the ending where a vet (yes, a vet, not a doctor, not even a nurse, not a field-medic and not a specialist of any kind) removes the heart from a half-Terminator and puts it in her husband with no consequences whatsoever, in a tent set up on a military base. In the future, which is now the past because the movie was set several years ago, there is no tissue-rejection and a heart transplant is as run of the mill as having your finger-nails cut. Don’t even get me started on the ethical implications of ripping a healthy man’s heart out to save a different man. This doesn’t even address the question of why he even had a heart in the first place?

But, the script was a mess and that wasn’t entirely the fault of the production. It was reportedly a victim of Christian Bale’s ego, suffering from constant on-the-fly re-writes, and the end result was a bit of a shambles. But, it wasn’t any of those things that really pissed me off. It’s something far, far worse.

Christian Bale is an actor who has never been accused of not taking himself seriously enough.

What annoyed me, more than anything else, is the Moto-Terminator. If you watch the movie, you can see two motorcycles that detach from a giant robot and chase after the protagonist (or one of them). I’m not even angry that later in the same scene, there are more than two of them.

What bugs me is that the Moto-Terminator we see on screen is not the Moto-Terminator that they were meant to put in the film, and that nobody noticed.

In the movie we see a bike that looks like a machine, with a low, sweeping hood covering the snout and two ‘lasers’ or other futuristic weapons on the sides. They have an appropriate look to them and fit the part. I have no issues with the design whatsoever, even being a huge, gigantic fan of sci-fi 2-wheeled designs.

The Moto-Terminator from the blu-ray, clearly built from the original model.

But, if you look at the merchandising, the design is completely different. The Blu-Ray boxset comes in a box with a model of the Moto-Terminator and the bike is a totally separate thing from what we actually got. The toys, models, posters and other merchandise all match the other version.

If you check back , you’ll see a very clear design progression as the bikes evolved from the first ideas. In the original proposals, the bikes were wheels bolted onto the end of a very humanoid-looking Terminator. The rear wheels bolted to the legs and the arms held the front. It had a head and a clearly-defined spine.

It even moved, the ‘body’ seemed to be able to come up and away from the running-gear and brandish its weapons, a design element used in the flying ‘Harvester’ vehicle. We see it catch two characters as they fall off the bridge and a large humanoid shape reaches out from the aircraft and then folds back into the spine. Is that the large robot that the bikes separated from earlier? It looks like it, and it does make sense from a design-philosophy standpoint. It would make sense for the bikes to follow the same plan.

But the design did evolve, however it maintained certain elements. It ended up with ribs, a clear spine and the vestigial remains of limbs. The head changed but you can clearly see it used to be a humanoid skull that slowly became a design-feature on the bike.

The original design - clearly a match to the merchandise...

This version of the Moto-Terminator was clearly a design they were happy with. They went to the trouble of building a full-sized version built around a Ducati Hypermotard and they filmed it with a stuntman and Christian Bale riding it, for the scenes where he captures one and uses it as transport. Filming seemed to be complete with this version of the bike and it was clearly so far along, in terms of movie production, that the merchandise was based off of it.

Then, for no good reason, they completely dropped the design and replaced it with something quite different.

This could have been for many, many reasons. Perhaps the director was chewing on his ‘Mc Lunch’ and decided he didn’t like the look, demanding last-minute changes? Perhaps there was a dispute with the effects company? Who knows? Who cares?

The new version was added as a digital element to all scenes. Even the shots where Christian Bale is seen riding the Terminator were modified to the new version, and both versions were filmed and completed.

The only exception to this is where John Connor can be seen pulling the eye out of the front of the machine after capturing it. In that scene, we see only a small close-up shot and it’s clearly the original version full-sized prop of the bike. As it is a close-up, you can’t tell unless you go back and compare the images.

So why did they change it? I was never able to find an answer. Last-minute alterations to a piece of art are hardly a new thing. There could be dozens of explanations, although it does seem odd that such a large and expensive change was made so late in the production.

The bike from the actual movie.

A better question is why does this bother me so much?

The answer to this is that the change is obvious and glaring. Even my wife, who is barely interested in motorcycles, noticed the switch, when I pointed it out to her. I wondered why this had happened and turned to Google and investigated. I found nothing, and so I dug deeper. There’s an 8-minute special-feature on the blu-ray and I watched that too. It shows the design and development of the bike and shows several scene of the full-sized working prop being ridden. But, it also shows the screen-version of the bike and makes no mention of how they went from one version to a completely different version so late in the day.

I never did find an explanation for why they changed the bike this radically at the end of production, so late that the merchandising all followed the original design and completely ignored what we actually got.

This led to what really annoyed me. You see there are two elements here that pissed me off. The first is that the change was made and nobody cared enough to address it. Film-makers were so little invested in their own work that nobody thought it was worth mentioning that the products you can buy have no connection to the screen-version.

But what really annoyed me is that nobody else noticed. There are dozens of reviews of the toys and models online where people inspect them closely. There are reviews of the film where people discuss the bikes, but never compare them to the version on the posters.

Why did nobody ever notice this? We’re not talking about casual viewers, we’re talking about movie-fans who were invested in this to the degree that they were happy to spend hundreds of dollars on it.

Is there a flaw in human nature or are we just so used to accepting things that people are not even bothering to question them anymore?

What really bothers me is that this blind-spot in human reasoning applies to other things. If the blu-ray box-set model looks totally different to the screen version and nobody notices, then it’s really no big deal. But, if we’re told something on the news and the truth around is radically different and nobody notices, that’s a huge problem.

What if there was a global panic about flu and we were told things that simple didn’t add up. How many people would question it and how many people would simply go along with something that made absolutely no sense because they’re so conditioned to ignore what’s under their nose that they didn’t even see it anymore?

We’d be in serious trouble then, wouldn’t we?

Do you see what’s really there, or what you think you see? In this extreme example, this is not a girl’s face, this is a random computer generation made on-demand from the website ‘Thispersondoesnotexist’. Still think it’s OK to not pay attention?

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