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Film Reviews

Terminator Salvation

Short Circuit: The Terminator franchise runs out of steam.

By Eric D. Snider
Posted // May 20,2009 -

The climax of Terminator Salvation takes place in a factory where Terminator robots are made, and this Terminator factory is indeed a marvel of efficiency. The factory that makes Terminator movies, on the other hand, seems to have gone haywire. It’s cranking out stuff that doesn’t even make sense!

The Terminator franchise turns a corner with this, the fourth film. While the first three took place in the present and dealt with robot assassins coming from the future to kill various members of the Connor family, Salvation is set in 2018, at the beginning of the events that those cyberkillers were so eager to prevent. Without the time-travel element or Arnold Schwarzenegger starring (I guess he’s busy now, or something), it hardly feels like a Terminator picture at all. It stays faithful to most of the story’s mythology, but honestly, who ever cared much about that? Unstoppable killing machines from the future were the main attraction, not minutiae about what year it is John Connor meets Kyle Reese.

For the record, though, it’s 2018. Skynet, a military defense system, became self-aware some years earlier and instigated nuclear war, wiping out much of humanity and bleaching all the color out of the cinematography. Since the apocalypse, Skynet-powered robots and other machines have been trying to kill the remaining humans, while pockets of resistance fighters—including John Connor (Christian Bale)—fight back.

Connor wants to find and protect Kyle Reese because he knows from the first Terminator that eventually he’s going to send Reese back to 1984 to save Connor’s mother’s life and impregnate her. Reese is John Connor’s father, you see. Or, rather, he will be, once Connor sends him back in time. If he doesn’t do that, then Connor will never be born, the resistance movement will fail, and the machines will win.

At this moment, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) is a teenager hiding in the bombed-out hellhole that used to be Los Angeles. (The only difference, really, is there’s no more smog.) He meets Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a fierce fighter who appears out of nowhere and seems not to know what’s been going on the past decade or so. Marcus repairs a long-broken radio just in time to hear a transmission from John Connor, and they head north to find him and his group.

The crux of the story surrounds the resistance movement’s attempts to destroy Skynet’s headquarters in San Francisco. Hidden radio frequencies are involved somehow (I didn’t quite get that part), and so is a submarine (see previous parenthesis), which John Connor is able to locate simply by leaping from a helicopter into the storm-tossed sea and, I guess, swimming downward until he hits metal. There is also the matter of the mysterious Marcus Wright, and the fondness that resistance fighter Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) has for him, and whether or not that will turn out well for either of them.

McG, the goofy-named director, has taken a lot of heat for daring to take on this project when his Charlie’s Angels movies weren’t exactly the height of serious filmmaking. But he acquits himself very well, actually, with some killer action sequences, a fast pace and an appropriate aesthetic for a summer blockbuster. I have no qualms about the direction.

The screenplay is another matter. Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (the duo behind Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Catwoman), it suffers from pedestrian dialogue and a surfeit of plot devices ranging from the merely too convenient to the laugh-out-loud preposterous. In that latter category are major elements that would comprise spoilers if I named them, so you’ll have to take my word for it. If you see the film, you’ll know the parts I mean, because you’ll be laughing out loud at them.

Ultimately, it’s a gloomy, lifeless story in which, despite the abundant talent on hand, no one ever emerges as a memorable character. Except for the action scenes, it’s a waste of a franchise. The film wants us to consider the question, “What makes us human?” I say the answer is that humans have the ability to separate good stories from bad ones—which goes back to my original theory about Terminator Salvation having been produced by machines.

Christian Bale
Moon Bloodgood
Anton Yelchin
Rated PG-13

Try These:

Cinema_Try_These_090521_a.jpg The Terminator (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Linda Hamilton
Rated R
Cinema_Try_These_090521_b.jpg Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Linda Hamilton
Rated R
Cinema_Try_These_090521_c.jpg Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Rated R
Cinema_Try_These_090521_d.jpg Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)
Lena Headey
Not Rated
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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Post a comment
Posted // May 22,2009 at 21:07

I agree with MattS' comments. Whatever happened to enjoying edge of your seat action packed entertainment rather than tear it down for its script? First off there are plenty - and I mean PLENTY of summer action films that im sure you love that have far less of a solid storyline than this film. And secondly are you serious that you have trouble understanding elements of this storyline? Maybe you're just not a fan of the franchise because it wasnt all rocket science. (As you said mildly preposterous but thats about it). I personally am planning on seeing Star Trek this weekend and I assure you I will be thoroughly lost because I have seen very little Star Trek in any capacity but thats no justification for bashing the plot and belittleing the writer's efforts simple because I dont understand the premise of the film. Get real, Either do your homework or better yet please leave the high profile film reviews to Mr. Renshaw and go back to churning out your second rate hack reviews of Paul Blart Mall Cop and such.


Posted // May 20,2009 at 17:47

For anyone that reads the critics review, and maybe feels that a lousy 2 star rating makes this movie not worth seeing. Let me tell you that this might be the best movie of the year. (I have yet to see Star Trek, which someone in my group says they enjoyed more.)

I recently watched all three of the movies leading up to this one. I have to say that this one by far blows the other ones out of the water. My mom later informed me that I had a smile on my face during the whole movie. This movie keeps you on the edge of your seat and wondering what's going to happen next? Which it is really hard to find a movie anymore that at some point in time you have to look at your watch and wonder how much longer you have to wait for it to be over.

I apologize as well, but I have to make a few comments on what the critic wrote. #1: As far as I know Arnold Schwarzenegger is still in office, which means that he can't be directly in the movie. #2: Because of events that happened in the second movie, anything that was happening in the future that could be unexpainable doesn't need to be explained. (What I mean is: since things were changed from what normally would have happened, it postponed the end of days. By just changing one little thing, it could leave any muber of possibilities for the future.) There is probably more I could say about the above review, but I will leave the rest alone. I just wish that critics would get a realistic view on movies, and give excellent movies the rating they deserve. But I guess when you watch numerous movies all the time, I would guess they get burned out.

Anyway, don't take my word on it. Go out and see it, and be amazed. :)