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This Is not the Terminator: Salvation You're Looking For (But It'll Do)

Terminator_salvation_Christian_Bale When I was a boy, nobody told me that I would one day become an adolescent.  And when I was an adolescent, nobody told me that I would have to grow up and be, yaknow, a man.  Similarly, nobody told me that I would feel such a fierce attachment to the story of a boy, his mother and the Austrian robot from the future who wanted to kill them, and later protect them.  If I’d known then what I know now, I would have written this review of Terminator: Salvation at the age of nine.  It would have been more to the point.  Possible spoilers below.

Terminator: Salvation is the latest installment in the movie franchise that James Cameron launched in 1984 with Terminator, the film that turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into a celebrity.  It was a monster movie with science fiction trappings, which allowed Cameron to twist the premise and present a threat came not from the past but the future.  Monster films usually root their villain in some ancient evil or past misdeed, incurring a cosmic moral debt which must be repaid in blood.  Terminator brought the evil in from the future, which gave the whole affair a sense of terrifying inevitability.  The few scenes of the future, a post-apocalyptic nightmare of skulls and metal in which a computer network called Skynet efficiently exterminates 99% of the human race, carried a horrific charge that made the present-day scenes strangely affecting.

After two movie sequels and an AWESOME television series, director McG (of Charlie’s Angels fame) has come out with Terminator: Salvation, the fourth installment and the first of a McG-minator trilogy.  Salvation is set in 2018, several years after the bombs have fallen.  Skynet is busy mopping up the last remnants of humanity and putting them to good use in unseen but likely grotesque experiments.  Christian Bale is stalking the landscape in grim Bat mode as the gruffest John Connor ever.  The plot is at once overly complicated and half-baked, revolving around Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) a death row convict who dies in the film’s opening but shows up again with a robotic skeleton and a human heart.

If the first Terminator was a monster movie and the second a coming-of-age tale, Salvation is the franchise’s attempt at the war film.  Unfortunately, it’s one of those war movies where people who should know better say ‘Negative!’ instead of ‘no thanks’ and ‘transport bearing 892’ when they mean ‘it’s going that way’.  In this world, you never talk if growling and barking will do the trick.  The film is admirably stripped-down and punched up with a couple of nice-looking action sequences, but McG seems to think that stripping away the characters to their actions will lend the movie a Cormac McCarthyesque edge.  Instead, the characters behave robotically (one of them with good reason), going through their paces as the story requires.  It often feels as if the key scene for each character was cut or forgotten.  If anything, Salvation makes you realize how character-dependent the previous Terminator efforts were.  The only exception to this rule belongs to Anton Yelchin, who plays a young Kyle Reese and steals every scene by virtue of moving his facial muscles around to express at least three different emotions.

I could go on about the many nonsensical moments and logic holes that make Swiss cheese of the plot, or I could talk about the puzzling accent of co-star Sam Worthington, who sounds American one moment and Australian the next, but often opts for a hybrid brogue that makes his lines barely decipherable.  Instead, I will cast aside all complaints and recommend it to everyone who want to see a movie where cool-looking robots shoot at cool-looking people.  For people who are wanted an installment that rescues the Terminator movie franchise from the curse of diminishing returns, I sugget the television show.







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Comments

Jason

Seeing it tonight, with low expectations, although the Terminator Motorcycle Thingies look pretty cool. Will it be as good as the trailer below? I somehow doubt it.

http://ruggerjay.typepad.com/pet_cobra/2009/05/the-transforminators.html

shine

Didn't the show just get canceled?

Backpacking Dad

Anton Yelchin, AKA "Wait, is that Chekov?" was the best part. Dude was straight channeling Michael Biehn in every scene. I don't know if he was any good on his own, but as MB Impersonator he ruled.

Palinode

Yes, but it lives forever on DVD and Blu-Ray. Make it a part of your home entertainment library and whatnot.

Palinode

Agreed. Yelchin did a great job of being both Michael Biehn and a kid at the same time.

savia

Maybe the dismal movie will cause people to lust for the TV show, just in time for a new season to be revived?

If only there were some way to bring someone back from the future to show Fox execs the horrific, dystopian world we will have without the Terminator TV show.




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