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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Terminator Salvation

MOVIE REVIEWS

TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009)

Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jadagrace berry, Common, Helena Bonham Carter, Jane Alexander, Michael Ironside, Ivan G'Vera, Chris Browning, Terry Crews and the voice of Linda Hamilton.

Written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris.

Directed by McG.

Distributed by Warner Bros.  130 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

 

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Terminator Salvation 

We are now 25 years and four films into the Terminator series, and Terminator Salvation (isn’t that title sort of an oxymoron?) is the chapter where the series completely divorces itself from any true world reality and becomes absolute science fantasy. 

I’m not necessarily saying that as a knock on the film – this was obviously what director McG and his crew were attempting to do – however, personally I missed the human touch. 

Previous Terminator films, even the last one about the rise of the machines, were about the evil technology thrusting itself into the everyday world.  Somehow it seems more gripping to see evil cyborgs from the future attacking a world that you know rather than a desolate wasteland which is mostly alien. 

Terminator Salvation has somewhat buried itself in its own mythology. 

The everyday world is long gone – well at least several years, since this film supposedly takes place in 2018 – leaving little Mad Max-ian outposts of human survivors desperately clinging to their lives. 

Okay, full disclosure here; I’m not a huge fan of the series.  I only once saw the original 1984 film and thought it was pretty good but a little overrated and I saw the final “twist” coming from a mile away – as should anyone who has seen even a few time travel films.  I have never seen Terminator 2.  I felt Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines was a kind of fun but ridiculously over-the-top action film. 

Maybe if I had more invested into the extended storyline, I would care more about where the series is currently, because Terminator Salvation is essentially a complicated and slightly self-obsessed back story. 

However, unless you have been hanging on to every bit of minutiae of the series – and let’s face it, with a new movie released on an average of every eight years or so, how many people could be? – the plot of Terminator Salvation may be a little overly dense and a little dull. 

Also, with the first PG-13 rating in the series, hardcore Terminator fans will probably think it is not action-packed and violent enough.

Part of the problem is that John Connor – the universal savior now played by Christian Bale – is a rather tedious character here.  Plus, probably a good 50% of his screen time – at least – has him hiding in rebel strongholds.  He has very little action before the finale. 

Much more interesting is the other main character Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) – a convicted death row prisoner who is to be executed in 2003 and fifteen years later finds himself somehow stranded in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with no idea how he got there. 

The answer to the question should be one of the main mysteries of the film – and it is meant to be – only it for some reason was ruined by a coming attractions teaser campaign which readily divulged the answer.  I won’t let on here, in case you actually were able to avoid seeing the trailer – however, I was watching the film throughout thinking, “but isn’t he…???” – a distraction which undercut the most interesting plot developments in which he was involved. 

Director McG – a former commercial director best known for the stop and start dancing Dockers commercials of the later 90s – displays a real sense of style and mood, but a bit of an inability to tell a complicated story.  Of course, that is no real surprise; it has been the filmmaker’s history in a series of slight but stylish films like Charlie’s Angels, We Are Marshall and TV series like The O.C and Supernatural. 

Terminator Salvation looks great and it does have a moodily downbeat worldview – however with this film the Terminator series has forgotten how to have fun. 

The closest thing to the playful cleverness of the first film was a brief moment when – through digital magic – Connor is attacked by a Terminator which looks exactly like the original 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger robot. 

If more of Terminator Salvation could have embraced the series’ pulpy roots like that scene – rather than trying to treat the whole John Connor tale like a sacred text – the movie would have been much more effective and enjoyable. 

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 25, 2009.

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 Copyright ©2009   PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 25, 2009.