Home | Register | Log In

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

'Terminator Salvation': Not feeling it
Terminator Salvation
Running Time: 114 min
Release Date: 2009-05-21
Tags: There are no tags.
The Charlotte Observer

The machines are winning.

That's how I felt after “Terminator Salvation,” the fourth installment in a franchise that used to make us care about the characters but has now – in the hands of director McG (“Charlie's Angels”) – turned into a mechanical exercise in pointless action.

Granted, it's great action. Terrific special effects. Pulse-pounding pacing.

But it's a case of diminishing returns. “Salvation” so keeps its characters at arm's length that after a while it really doesn't matter what happens to them.

Like the recent “Star Trek” movie, this is an attempt to reboot a perennial by approaching it from a different angle. The first three “Terminator” films (released in 1984, 1991 and 2003) were set in the “present” and were about preventing Judgment Day, when the world's computers and machines would turn on their human creators.

“Terminator Salvation,” though, is set after Judgment Day. Earth's cities are smoldering ruins.

The now-adult John Connor (Christian Bale) grew up being told he would lead humanity to triumph over the machines. But at this point Connor is only a regional guerrilla commander whose ideas are overruled by the Resistance's hierarchy.

The screenplay by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris' pivots on two plots. The first is the development of the T-800, the flesh-encased Terminator played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original. Human freedom fighters are accustomed to the more primitive T-600s, which have rubbery faces that don't fool anybody. But the T-800 is so convincing, you'd never suspect it's not human.

Marcus Wright (Aussie actor Sam Worthington) emerges from the wreckage of a bombed-out terminator manufacturing plant with no memories or clothing. He hooks up with a young fugitive named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, “Star Trek's” Chekov) and his mute child companion, Star (Jadagrace), and proves effective at fighting machines.

Actually we've seen Marcus before. In a prologue set in our present, he's a condemned criminal who donates his body to science – or at least to a scientist (Helena Bonham Carter) from some computer company called Cyberdyne Systems. (Gasp!) Once he emerges from the wreckage, he's determined to meet John Connor and, along the way, falls in love with a hotshot jet fighter pilot (Moon Bloodgood).

The other plot is about the efforts of John and Marcus to rescue Kyle, who has been captured by the machines. This is important because at some point in the future Kyle will be sent back in time to protect (and impregnate) John's mother, Sarah.

If Kyle is allowed to die at the hands of the machines, John Connor will never exist. The Resistance will collapse. The machines will win.

Yeah, it gives me a headache, too. And one of “Salvation's” big problems is that the gnarly knotted mythology keeps us from getting into characters who are shallow to begin with.

The original “Terminator” was a love story about time travel. “T2” was a love story about a boy and his pet killer robot… and about time travel.

“Terminator Salvation,” though, has no real relationships and no time travel. It hasn't yet been invented.

Bale's John Connor is a flinty-eyed stoic and about as interesting as a two-by-four (a Batman suit might have helped). He's got a pregnant wife, Kate (the same character that was played by Claire Danes in “T3”), but in this colorless role the usually excellent Bryce Dallas Howard is wasted.

Yelchin is, well, boyish as young Reese, but he's not exactly overflowing with personality. Bloodgood is a bit more intriguing as a gung-ho woman warrior.

The best performance comes from Worthington as the conflicted Marcus, torn between his conviction that he's human and the growing evidence to the contrary.

Frankly, most of these roles could have been played by marionettes with about the same impact.

But the movie looks great, anyway. The production designers have had a field day. They give us flying machines. Riderless motorcycles like machine guns on wheels. Towering machines that look like Transformers. Nasty aquatic sentinels that resemble voracious metallic eels. And, of course, various T-600s and T-800s.

Plus, the flick is jammed with references to earlier “Terminator” movies and shout-outs to the “Mad Max” movies (the mute child Star could be a cousin of the Feral Kid from “The Road Warrior”) and other apocalyptic sci-fi classics.

“Terminator Salvation” dishes plenty of eye candy and thrills. But it has none of the emotion or intellectual resonance of the first two James Cameron-directed installments.

It's basically a cheap thrill. An expensive cheap thrill.

Reviews & Comments
CRITICS REVIEWS
Edit this review Delete this review
May 21, 2009 - The Charlotte Observer

The machines are winning.

(Full review)
USER REVIEWS
May 31, 2009 - CLT4Me on Terminator Salvation
So Bad - You will beg for it to End

What do you get when you spend 100m on special effects and 2 dollars on a script -- Terminator Salvation.

The logic of film leaves the audience wanting as the machines do everything in their power not to kill our hero.

The special effects are top of the line but Chritian Bale needs some help in changing his acting style as he never changes expressions or his tone in the entire film.

Wait for the DVD if you must see it and only then I recommend it only as someone who wants to be up to date in the Terminator series.

May 25, 2009 - deepc185 on Terminator Salvation
Terminator Salvation ROCKS!

I just saw this movie, and I have to say, all of the mediocre to bad reviews it has gotten don't surprise me. In my experience, nearly every movie that critics dog, turn out to be pretty darn good, and in some cases (such as this movie) GREAT! On the other hand, most movies that critics rave about (Sideways, Lost In Translation, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)tend to be rather boring. I attribute this to the fact that, IMHO, movie critics want to be "sophisticated" and tend to think "boring" is equal to "enlightening". Now, Terminator Salvation isn't going to make you think, or make you smarter or a better person for having seen it. What it WILL do, is thoroughly entertain you for two hours. And isn't that what a great movie is really suppposed to do?

May 21, 2009 - juceas on Terminator Salvation
Terminator Salvation: Safe and Action packed

McG directed this film with the idea of just not wanting to mess it up. It played out like patchwork of other great action films..Aliens in particular. He borrowed big time from Cameron just so that this prequel would not suck. I don't know that there is anything wrong with doing that...considering the studios want big bucks off this film. With that in mind...not messing it up is a good model to go by. Also, for the first time we see echos of the Matrix and the Terminator franchises being the same story but told in different ways. I don't know what happened to that law suit, but this film pays tribute to the two films or it may be McG's borrowing of scenes from great action films so as to not mess things up that gives me that feeling. The acting is good. When did Bryce Dallas Howard become such a hottie? If you followed the gaming versions of the Terminator mythology nothing will come as a surprise to you in this film. McG used all the established story lines from his source material and didn't mess the film up, but he didn't make it special either.

Movie Theaters & Showtimes
No nearby showtimes

Zvents - Discover things to do