Terminator Salvation (Movie Review)

Note: Another week, another summer blockbuster...

Terminator Salvation

I have fond memories of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Even though Iron Man has recently supplanted it as the film by which I measure summer blockbusters, it is without question one of the best movies I have ever seen. This isn't the place to explain why (perhaps I'll review T2 retrospectively one day), but I must confess that I went into Terminator Salvation with amorous thoughts of Judgment Day in my head. Mainly, I hoped that Salvation would do for the post-apocalypse what Judgment Day did for the pre-apocalypse, and that the series would be on the same level again after the slight dip in quality resulting from 2003's Rise of the Machines. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. If Rise of the Machines got the snowball rolling, then Salvation has turned it into an avalanche.

Salvation takes place in the year 2018, some 15 years after Judgment Day. The machines have completely taken over, and decided to redecorate Earth (or at least the western seaboard) by shrouding the landscape in dirt, dust, and grey decaying ruins. The human population has been decimated by the change in management, and as such are unable to protest the machines aesthetic desires. What's left of humanity is looking to John Connor (Christian Bale) and a handful of stuffy warmongers hiding in a submarine for primary colours and salvation. A discrete frequency used to control all machines may hold the key necessary for the humans to win the war, and humanity is looking to Connor and a mysterious cyborg (Sam Worthington) for liberation.

It's not the most inspired plot ever, but this isn't my main problem. My frustration with Terminator Salvation is with its disinterest in the story it tells. Questions about humanity and ethics are prominently raised and then unabashedly left dangling in the wind the very next scene. The moments in the previews where an android in human skin is chained over a pit and interrogated by John Connor is the exact subject matter I was praying this film would deal with. The fact that no one on the narrative side of Salvation made any attempt at exploring these matters is rather reprehensible. Why bother including nods to such material if you're only going to do so on sufferance? There's nothing wrong with Salvation being a gritty high-octane action flick, especially when it is very effective in being such a film, but don't tease the audience with matters you have absolutely no intention on exploring.

image

One of the better action sequences in recent memory.

To be fair, Sam Worthington's "machine with the human condition/man made of metal" is a key element of Salvation, but the character is explained and not explored. Marcus Wright was a man on death row who donated his body to SkyNet, and you can probably figure out the rest. Thanks, McG, since I often have trouble being fascinated by enigmatic and mysterious characters. Marcus is a textbook example of a character that everyone involved is better off knowing nothing about, yet the film feels obliged to turn him into something dishwater dull from minute one.

Since I'm on the stupid character sketch tangent, let's talk about Kate Brewster, post-apocalyptic sweetheart/wife of John Connor. She was first introduced in 2003's Rise of the Machines as Connor's (very vocal) future wife which neither she nor Connor would accept. In Salvation, she's a meek and soft-spoken physician who is also pregnant, but that last bit doesn't seem to matter that much. Part of this could just be the superfluous darkness and grit which means there are only a few scenes where you can actually tell that Kate is indeed pregnant, but still the question must be made of what the point of it all is. Pregnancy in the post apocalyptic world would likely be a big deal, especially when it's the child of a prophesized resistance leader of all people. This is the type of plot point that demands exploration, or at the very least some attention.

In general the characters are very poorly handled across the board. There's hardly any dialogue for one thing. John Connor communicates either through whispers or through various volumes of yelling, and this seems to be a common theme with the actor's action roles. Much like in The Dark Knight, it doesn't take very long for Bale's growls and snarls to become exhausting and then laughable. The only likable person, aside from the botched Marcus Wright, is Blair Williams, which is a stark contrast to the actress' grating turn in the Street Fighter debacle from a few months ago. She's the only character that actually embarks on a path somewhat resembling a development arc, which should be a quest primarily designated for the protagonist. Sadly, the only path Connor wants to tread is the one strewn with bullet casings and machine scraps.

image

Schwarzenegger makes an appearance.

Depending on your tolerance for mechanical mayhem, you may appreciate the fact that Terminator Salvation mostly occupies itself with guns and explosions and not petty pop philosophy. Action amounts for at least three quarters of the film's running time, and it's quite impressive when it isn't straying dangerously close to the line of tedium. The sequence where Marcus chauffeurs a young Kyle Reese and his little friend on a massive death truck stands out as being grand and exciting, even though it unfortunately decides to compare itself to the similar iconic sequence in 1991's Judgment Day. Actually, many action scenes are modelled a little too closely on scenes from past movies which gives the feeling that Salvation isn't breaking any new ground. Certainly the aforementioned death truck evolves into something that might rightly be considered epic, but the final game of cat and mouse between Connor and a T-800 (a.k.a the Schwarzenegger model) isn't trying anything new and drags on for far too long.

Speaking of The Governator, Schwarzenegger does indeed make a show-stopping appearance of sorts. His likeness was grafted to a T-800 that tries to kill John Connor in the SkyNet labs through computer effects wizardry, but its novelty is tragically short-lived as it doesn't take very long for Connor to burn away the flesh to reveal yet another boring and generic machine. Linda Hamilton also lends her voice as the deceased Sarah Connor who left behind a collection of audio tapes to help baby her son through the future, though frankly I would've preferred it if she just narrated the film's prologue and epilogue instead. These inclusions are a bit gimmicky, but entertaining for what they're worth.

Considering the franchise's pedigree, Terminator Salvation had a lot to live up. It's certainly more action heavy and explosive than the other films in the series and you'll be delighted if that's all you expect. However the complete abandonment of a good story and strong characterization coupled with an ending that shamelessly begs for a sequel ultimately prevents myself from mentioning this film in the same breath as Judgment Day.

I'll read more than the last paragraph once I've seen the movie =p
But yeah, as the premise is certainly different to all the other movies, I wouldn't expect something on the scale of Judgement Day, due to Skynet already being in action, rather than Connor and co. trying to prevent Judgement Day.

This was one of the greatest movies I have seen in a very long time. I just went to see it, in fact. I think everyone in the theater did a collective "Holy shit!" when Schwarzenegger came out. He looked like a beast. The plot was good, but having not seen the original ones, I was left trying to figure everything out at the beginning. Amazing movie though. I love movies with the bleak, post apocalyptic feel about them.

I was left somewhat disappointed myself. The visual effects were nice, but some things are a bit "Why the hell are they doing that?!" to me. I won't post any spoilers but some things don't really make sense.

Anyways it's definitely the weakest of the four movies.

i been playing the game and that looks so strapped together its Sad..

Well, this review has put me off big-time. Why do older films seem to be the best?

SuperFriendBFG:
I was left somewhat disappointed myself. The visual effects were nice, but some things are a bit "Why the hell are they doing that?!" to me. I won't post any spoilers but some things don't really make sense.

Anyways it's definitely the weakest of the four movies.

I was actually too put off by the atrocious characterization to even be bothered by continuity issues. What Noah Antwiler (aka: The Spoony One) says basically sums up my feelings regarding plot and story.

To be honest, I feel that this is a rather poor review because I don't feel like I said enough with what I wrote. Frustrating movies are frustrating to review, I suppose.

The ending was absolutely baffling in that it made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I completely agree with what Noah (spoony) said about the movie.

It was like you could hear the sound of Skynet's plan breaking apart.

I was let down. Intense special effects and fast-paced camerawork don't bring life to a movie that feels stiffer than a three-week-old cadaver.

Hmmm well I'll be seeing it in a few days. My major problem with the movie (as much as I can have one) is one of the recurring problems I have with the entire Terminator storyline.

See, the premise of the entire series is that John Connor does such a job wiping the floor with Skynet that the only way it can conceive of beating him is to send a robot assasin back in time to try and prevent him from ever existing.

Now every single time they show the future, whether it's in the original terminator, or the TV series, or whatever you have to ask yourself "WTF is up with this" given the fact that the humans are supposed to be winning, especially in the time periods they show (ie Temporal assasination being an act of desperation).

Now I guess this movie takes place when things are supposed to just be getting moving with the resistance, but even what I've seen from spoilers and such of the action scenes doesn't seem to quite capture the storyline of the original premise.

But then again I'll also go so far as to say that while Terminator 2 *was* a good movie, it started a trend that I didn't like: John Connor as a bloody dishrag. Now granted he's supposed to be over that in this movie (to the umpteenth degree from what I've seen) but even so how he goes from being dweeb to Christian Bale kicking everyone's butt... I don't know.

Well, enough rambling. I'll judge it on it's own merits when I see it. I didn't rush right out because I've been a bit wary.

>>>----Therumancer--->

While I think that Terminator 2 was the best in the series, that Salvation was a good deal stronger than T3.

It's a solid action movie, even if it's not particularly memorable.

Meh. I think that you're a little too harsh on this. Has everyone forgotten the crud-covered flick that was Terminator 3?

Yeah, I thought so. This movie was far greater than T3, though you don't rip on it unjustly. I have a few criticisms that I think are far more important though. For instance, while the plot is okay thematics-wise, it's filled with all sorts of holes. A. LOT. OF. HOLES.

In fact, I was thinking of doing a review for it, since I saw it yesterday. But that all depends... I don't know if I can do a movie review, and I'm working on a few things as it is.

But in case I don't, I think that this was a decent addition to the Terminator franchise.

StarStruckStrumpets:
Well, this review has put me off big-time. Why do older films seem to be the best?

Rubbish, he didn't give it a bad review. Plus, would you rather see an old Simbad movie with clay monsters or a Terminator movie full of explosive action and special effects?

Bad ass film. Have to say it's my favorite Terminator by far. Was pretty cool to see Arnold near the end. Epic! Marcus Wright was awesome too. I guess Connor has the heart of a Terminator now. Ah...how touching.

Voodoopigs:

StarStruckStrumpets:
Well, this review has put me off big-time. Why do older films seem to be the best?

Rubbish, he didn't give it a bad review. Plus, would you rather see an old Simbad movie with clay monsters or a Terminator movie full of explosive action and special effects?

That must be a trick question. Those Ray Harryhausen epics are awesome.

Quickening666:

Voodoopigs:

StarStruckStrumpets:
Well, this review has put me off big-time. Why do older films seem to be the best?

Rubbish, he didn't give it a bad review. Plus, would you rather see an old Simbad movie with clay monsters or a Terminator movie full of explosive action and special effects?

That must be a trick question. Those Ray Harryhausen epics are awesome.

Yes they are! On a completely related note. The guy who played Marcus Wright in Terminator Salvation is set to play Perseus in the Clash of the Titans remake. That movie will be badass!

I found it a big disappointment. Too many holes. Too frustrating. Just so we are all clear Arnold wasn't in the movie, his computer animated look a like was. :P

I would say of the things wrong with this film, I was most bothered by the decisions made about John Conner. Personally,I liked John Conner as a scrawny smart-ass; it's what made him such a cool hero! He was cool because he wasn't the typical eat-robots-for-breakfast hero we would expect from such a story. Then Terminator: Salvation comes along and turns John Conner into a grizzled, angry bore-fest who had NO sense of humor, and focused more on grunting manly one-liners and killing shit. While this works for some leading men--say, for example, Every character Arnold schwarzenegger has ever played-- it's not what i had in mind for John Conner. While a great deal of this can be attributed to the writing, I feel it could have been made to work better if a better actor had been chosen. Saying this hurts me somewhat, because I've seen Bale do some great movies (equilibrium is seriously one of my favorite sci-fi films), but this performance was absolutely awful. I mean honestly, did he have to growl every line? One instance stands out in particular, towards the beginning of the film. If you've seen the film, you should know which part I'm talking about. His voice was so ridiculously bad I actually laughed aloud.

Wall of text summary: John Conner sucked, Bale was a bad actor.

To quote a random guy that left the theater before me; "That was moderately disappointing." I was expecting so much more. Granted it was better than T3, but that isn't saying much.

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked