There’s a reason the ‘Terminator’ franchise has been so successful over its 25-year-history – in addition to all the cool robots and great action, there’s been a strong sci-fi base underneath that gives you something to think about after the excitement of the explosions has worn off. Without that, you’d just have another action movie. And when you replace the “great action” with “mediocre action,” you get Terminator Salvation.
The movie starts in 2018, when the world is fine because all traces of the Terminators that would or could lead to the creation of Skynet have been destroyed. [Watches Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines] Oohhhhhhh, okay, so that’s why everything’s gone to shit. I guess I should just totally forget I ever watched Judgement Day.
So as we begin in the newly re-doomed future Los Angeles, the few freedom fighters of mankind have discovered a, uh, sound that kills any machine? Wait, really? The machines were dumb enough to create a sound that kills themselves? All right, whatever.
So as the humans prepare to use this new weapon, a newly recast John Connor (Christian Bale, the fourth person to play the character) finds a mysterious, wayward soul named Marcus who is probably a terminator (he is,) despite the fact that he thinks he’s human (nope, he’s still a machine.)
Fans from all across the webs have been calling “Bullshit” ever since they found out that the man known as McG, he of both Charlie’s Angels movies fame, was gifted with directing duties on the fourth Terminator film. I didn’t go for it though – the one McG movie I’d seen wasn’t that bad, and I’d read interviews that, if nothing else, made clear his devotion to the franchise, and his dedication to making a great film that would carry on the hights of the series.
It’s only now that I realize how very stupid and stupidly trusting man I was.
Everyone’s going to blame McG for this mess, and there’s little question that he’s certainly responsible for a lot of what’s wrong here.
His biggest fault is that he gets almost nothing out of his cast. Sure, he’s got Bale as Connor. But all McG can get out of the man is just a loud, screaming angry soldier, never handing Bale an opportunity to display an emotion besides utter loudness. The one character that feels decently realized is that of Marcus (played by next-big-thing Sam Worthington), but he serves the same essential purpose of Arnie’s T-800 from T2.
I might be in the minority on this one, but I’ll also knock on McG for what I thought to be a pretty boring action movie. It’s over-edited sequence on top of over-edited sequence for the whole running time, too busy cutting from one shot to the next to ever build much tension.
McG does deserve some credit – the machines are pretty badass, and I like that he tried to give us a gritty take on this war that’s been teased over the first three movies in the series. The movie does look good.
But as easy as it is to blame McG, the real reason Terminator Salvation fails is its script. Where the first movie wrapped your head around time-traveling paradoxes, where the second movie questioned destiny while flawlessly mixing man and machine in its characters, where the third movie at least managed to bring up destiny in new, kind of interesting ways – the fourth movie does nothing.
There’s no purpose to this film – it doesn’t advance overall story of the series, except that Connor finally meets Kyle Reese, and that doesn’t even happen until the last ten minutes of the movie. Thematically, it’s all a weak rehash of machine becoming man from T2 – and that was just one of the themes that T2 had to offer.
It’s just a pointless action movie, and not a very exciting one at that.