Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Being a science fiction fan and a lover of the first and second Terminator movies, I went to se Terminator Salvation with my screenwriter friend, Todd Alcott, who was in town for the weekend. I'll leave script analysis to the experts, but since I watch a doctor on TV, I consider myself fully qualified to probe the parameters of cyborg medicine.

Here's the basics of the plot from the Sony Pictures Official Website. My commentary is in italics:

"'Terminator Salvation' is set in post-apocalyptic 2018, where John Connor (Christian Bale - His character is a self-important jerk.) is the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future that Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington - Yummy!), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past (Connor doesn't care about Marcus' past. It's not an issue for him). As Skynet prepares its final onslaught ("Final" indeed!), Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind. (Yes, there's a "secret", but it's established pretty early. "Possible" annihilation doesn't seem that exciting, does it?)

The movie has lots of good action, but lacks in plot. It's not entertaining enough to keep me from dwelling on trivia that wouldn't even get my notice on a better film. Like the dweeb that I am I took notes in the theater - for my blog, which makes me dweeb-concentrate. Today's entry covers the first entertaining distraction I encountered in the film.

Giant humanoid-shaped robots scoop people (like Jane Alexander) up in their mighty, bone crushing hands and drop them into cages on "human transport vehicles." The puny humans are dropped from a height of a minimum of 15 feet, to either land on other people (ouch!), or land on the floor of what looks like a cattle car. The citizens of the future have incredible righting reflexes and manage to land on their feet more often than not.

Landing on one's feet from extreme height can result in a fracture-dislocation, where the lower bone of the ankle, the talus, is driven up between the two leg bones, the tibia and fibula. Usually there is some breakage of the fibula, and if you try hard enough, you can break your tibia, too! Depending on the direction of the force, the foot can also be displaced to the side(1). This type of injury is incredibly painful. Suddenly, a person with this type of fracture is a few inches shorter when standing on his broken foot, as compared to the healthy side.

Above is a picture of normal alignment between the tibia, fibula, and talus at the right ankle.

Here (below) is a dislocation-fracture of those bones. Notice the way the talus is now in between the bones of the lower leg. The fibula, on the left, is also broken but the break is not visible in this xray(2). Gruesome, isn't it?

Another variation can happen when the foot is displaced laterally (eversion) and the fibula is broken. This is called a Pott's fracture, pictured below. When comparing the two photos, be aware that the fibula is on the left side, and the tibia is on the right side in the xray above. In the illustration below, the fibula is on the right and the tibia is on the left. These are both right feet, but xrayed from the front and drawn from the back.

You'll notice that when the people are dumped out of the transport cars (in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Soylent Green with Charlton Heston) no one is limping, visibly in pain, or three inches shorter on one side because his foot has been shoved up his leg. Let's face it, Jane Alexander looks great but she is getting older, and she should be a little gimpy at this point in the film.

Is there more than ankle fracture to this movie? Oh yes! So much more! Next time, I write about Marcus' cybernetic brain, hair that will not burn, and child safety.

1. Dupuytren's fracture and Pott's fracture both present as variations on this scenario. I remember being told by a professor that one of these injuries is nicknamed "Paratrooper's fracture" because these types of injury are common if you land wrong when sky diving. This is, providing your parachute opens. If it didn't then you would really be "landing wrong!"
2. Xray is from the article by: Adla, Deepthi Nandan, Rachael Joanne Hutchinson, and Ian R. Scott. "An Unusual Fracture-Dislocation of the Ankle." Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, American Volume 86.10 (Oct. 2004): 2287-2289.


  1. So that's what it's called. I had one of those fractures when I was a teenager -- broke both my tibia and fibula by falling ten feet or so and landing straight on my right foot.

  2. Ow! Jeez! Since you don't walk with a limp or anything, I assume you healed all right. Any giant robots involved?