Movie Reviews

Terminator Salvation

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Christian Bale as John Connor
Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright
Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams
Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Serena Kogan
Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese
Jadagrace as Star
Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor
Common as Barnes
Jane Alexander as Virginia
Michael Ironside as General Ashdown
Ivan G'Vera as General Losenko
Chris Browning as Morrison
Dorian Nkono as David
Beth Bailey as Lisa
Victor J. Ho as Mark

Summary:
New characters, new robots, and lots of action make "Terminator Salvation" a film well worth checking out. A weak ending definitely leaves audiences on a sour note, but ties to the original films add some fun touches.

Story:
In the year 2018, humanity finds itself in the inevitable fight for survival against Skynet. And while John Connor was predicted to lead mankind to salvation, he's not quite there yet. He's a low ranking officer in the human resistance forced to carry out orders that he doesn't entirely believe in. This is underlined by a disastrous raid on a Skynet communications base that hides a secret something even John's mother didn't know about.

Following this raid, a lone man emerges from the ruins - Marcus Wright. Marcus was a prisoner executed in 2003, yet he finds himself inexplicably dumped in the middle of the post-Judgment Day world. As he wanders into the ruins of Los Angeles, he meets his first Terminator and his first fellow human survivor Kyle Reese. Marcus soon finds his fate intertwined with that of Kyle and John, but can this former death row inmate find a second chance among the remnants of civilization?

"Terminator Salvation" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.

What Worked:
Im a big "Terminator" fan, so I was very anxious to see how this movie turned out. While it does have a number of problems, it's overall a movie worth seeing. There were several big questions going into this film. The first was whether or not McG could pull off a dark, gritty, action adventure. I think the answer is yes. I don't think he has to worry about "Charlie's Angels" hanging around his neck anymore. The other question was whether or not a "Terminator" movie could be any good without Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think again the answer is yes, but Arnie certainly does help. (More on that later.)

They did a lot right with this movie. First of all, setting it post-Judgment Day was a good move. It got away from the overused time travel plot and took the movie into new territory. I really enjoyed the post-apocalyptic setting. The destroyed cities, car littered highways, and rag-tag survivors gave the movie a look and feel you don't see in too many films.

The other advantage of putting it in the future is that it gives you a chance to meet a whole new batch of robots. You see the Frankenstein-like T-600, the Transformer-like Harvester, the hydrobots, the Moto-Terminators, and more. This gives the movie a whole new batch of baddies and things to run away from. I particularly liked the unsettling, robotic base note emitted by the Harvester and the robots. It was reminiscent of the scary sound made by the Tripods in Spielberg's "War of the Worlds." But the thing I really liked was how they took full advantage of CG technology to animate the T-700's and T-800's. When a T-700 robot cut in half attacks John Connor, it's very disconcerting. It also emphasizes the fact that a Terminator will never stop trying to kill you. By the time you get to the big finale, you're treated to a lot of great CG T-800 action.

Another good thing about putting it in the future is that you open up the story to a whole new cast of characters. Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright is a great new addition. We are introduced to this new world through his eyes. He has a good mix of darkness and nobility. And when he eventually has to face off with Christian Bale, they're on equal ground. He can grimace with the best of them. I also liked new 'tough chick' Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams. She's capable of playing with the boys while still being feminine. And while they play returning characters, Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese and Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor are very good in their respective roles. Then you have Christian Bale as John Connor. He's certainly a worthy Connor and handles himself well in the action scenes and dramatic scenes. While his gravely Batman voice does annoyingly kick in on occasion, overall he delivers a solid performance.

While I give them credit for taking the series in a new direction, some of the tips of the hat to the previous films are the most memorable of the movie. Moments where John listens to audiotapes of Sarah Connor (which she recorded in the first movie) are a fantastic connection with her character. A moment when a character says, "I'll be back" gets cheers from the audience. Brief moments in Elfman's score when he plays the "Terminator" theme are quite cool. And I don't think it's any secret that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a brief cameo in the movie. When he does appear on screen, it's an awesome moment. The audience cheers and it's then that this really starts feeling like a "Terminator" movie. As I said, you don't need Arnold to make a "Terminator" film, but he helps.

What Didn't Work:
On the down side, my biggest gripe is the ending. It simply did not work at all and ended up ruining a lot of what I enjoyed in the rest of the movie. In the original ending leaked online, John Connor died, Marcus' flesh was replaced with Connor's, and Marcus took over as leader of the Resistance. That's not what happens in the theatrical version, but I have to say that was a better ending than what they went with. I won't spoil it here, but in a movie with killer robots and time travel, what they did was quite implausible.

I also felt there were some big inconsistencies in this world. In one scene, a blaring radio can attract a Terminator. In another scene, setting off napalm doesn't bring Skynet down on our heroes. In one scene humans are doing everything they can to hide from Skynet. In another scene they are out in the open staging a major military offensive with dozens of people running around, big jet fighters on runways, and lots of noise. It made Skynet feel like a major looming threat in some scenes and some distant, fallible foe in others. It took away from the sense of desperation and ever-looming threat you expect in the post-Judgment Day world.

The movie also feels quite rushed in a few scenes. For example, John Connor zips from one location to another very quickly and very easily. It seemed more for the sake of running time than flow of the story. In another scene Blair is shooting would-be attackers, then immediately afterwards she's flirting and cuddling up with Marcus. It felt rushed. (And I have to say that if McG had kept in the topless scene with Bloodgood, it would have been gratuitous the way it was set up here.) The rushed pacing was especially apparent as John Connor rather easily infiltrates Skynet in the final act. He gets in so easily that it makes Skynet seem like less of an omnipotent threat than it had been billed as. Part of this may have been by design (I don't want to ruin plot points here), but it didn't work well.

I hate to single out one actor as a weak point, but Common as Barnes definitely didn't work. His line delivery in scenes was so wooden that it made Schwarzenegger in the previous movies look downright animated. Just because someone can rap doesn't mean they can act.

I'm also a huge Danny Elfman fan, but I didn't think his soundtrack worked here. There were some moments where it shined, but overall it was quite generic. Some of the best moments were where he revisited the original "Terminator" theme.

I should also add that my enjoyment of this movie might have been taken down a notch because I knew the whole plot going in. I visited the set last year and had the entire plot laid out for me when there, which was unusual. So I knew every twist, turn, and surprise in advance. I wonder if I had experienced it first on the big screen if I would have bumped up my rating a notch... or bumped it down. I'm sure you guys will tell me if I was being too hard or too soft on it.

The Bottom Line:
I feel like this movie was significantly better than "Terminator 3," but still well below the quality of "Terminator 2." That being said, I'd definitely want to see more adventures with these characters in a sequel. Bring on "Terminator 5"!

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