Posted on: May 24th, 2009 REVIEW: Terminator Salvation

This review contains SPOILERS, though there really isn’t much to spoil if you’ve seen any of the posters and trailers.

terminator_salvation_newThe problem with writing a review of this film is that I really don’t care all that much. I’m definitely a fan of the first and second films, and the lore behind the Terminator story, but I’m by no means a die-hard Terminator fanboy. That being said, I doubt even those impassioned folk would be enraged over this flick as Terminator Salvation is entirely unremarkable. I would go as far as to say that this is a Terminator film by merely superficial means.

I would love to write flowing paragraphs on the intricate plot of Terminator Salvation, but truth is, there isn’t much plot. The year is 2018. John Connor is the leader of the Resistance against the machines… oh… wait… no he isn’t. Michael Ironside is. This is confusing. Anyways, John and some Resistance soldiers uncover Skynet plans to develop a new model of Terminator, one that uses humans as a host, to be the perfect infiltration. The perfect Terminator is one that doesn’t know it is a Terminator? All the while, Connor listens to tapes that his mother Sarah made him and she drops the bomb that he has to ensure Kyle Reese, who is about the age of 15 now, be sent back in time so that they can make the beast with two backs so she can get sperminated. With John. Wait…. what? He has to send someone back to make him so that 30 years in the future he can send someone back to make him? This makes no sense.

As the resistance develops new technology to take down the machines and readies an assault on Skynet, John and Reese, separately meet up with Marcus Wright, a death-row murderer from 2003 who donated his body to science. So after he signs the organ donor slip (subtly wordmarked with CYBERDINE SYSTEMS) and gets the lethal injection, he awakes 15 years later in a post-Judgement Day LA. He becomes one of three poorly developed main characters who’s point in the film I’m not really sure. Apparently, if you sift through the terrible writing and plot-holes, there is a matter of rescuing Kyle Reese from Skynet and that about sums up why we’re watching. I’m still kind of scratching my head.

At no point in the film, does Terminator Salvation have a purpose. The film has no center for us as an audience to cling to; our time is spread thin between not one, but three main characters, John Connor, Marcus Wright and young Kyle Reese. The problem here is that none of these three are developed at all. They are unchanging, one-note characters that are absolutely boring. I had as much connection to John Connor and Marcus Wright as the seat in front of me. We can’t just blame the writing and dialogue for this though, the acting in this movie is pretty piss poor, with the exception of Anton Yelchin channeling his best Michael Beihn. Had the film been centred around young Reese, I think I’d be singing a much better tune. Without a doubt this is Christian Bale’s worst role to date; there was nothing exceptional about his performance at all. There was infinitely more reaction and character in his off-screen meltdown.

“Ohhh goooood for yoooouuuu”.

Technically, the film is kind of a mess. The pacing is way off from the get-go; just horrible. It takes less than two minutes for John Connor to uncover Skynet’s plans, climb hundreds of feet to ground-level, take control of a helicopter, get shot down by a gunship and take a Terminator robot on one-on-one. You get all this attempted action rammed down your throat in the first fifteen minutes, and then the middle drags the life out of you. I was almost nodding off. It seemed as though McG felt the need to prove something right away, thinking we’d buy into it and forgive the rest of the flick. The opposite can be said about Marcus Wright’s arc – it took forever for Wright to be revealed as a Terminator. Painfully long. But we know he’s a terminator before the movie even begins as his character’s crucial awakening is revealed in the full trailer. He’s treated about as subtle as a kick to the head.

Pacing aside, the action in Salvation, though at times a spectacle, is irrelevant and contrived. In T2 the action scenes had a point to the story; we were kept in suspense and they served to push the plot along. In Salvation we were jumping from explosion to explosion, but for what? There is almost no logic at all here, folks. We get one scene where a gas station (the same from then end of the first film?) is surprise attacked by a hundred foot Transformer looking robot; it just kind of creeped up on them, understandably. Yeesh.

And where’s the score in Salvation? Danny Elfman’s touch is virtually non-existent, thus poor. The soundtrack played such a huge part in the first two, but not in Salvation. We get the iconic theme for the brief Ahnold scene near the end which ends as abruptly as it begins. So much atmosphere is lost with the lack of any kind of captivating score. It’s not just music, folks, it’s what sells us, keeps us going, and guides us through the narrative. I’m surprised and equally disappointed to give the film an F in that area.

The film attempts to swerve us at the end, but instead of coming off as smart, it plays out more like a smug little asshole who thinks he’s smart. If anything the idea of using Marcus and Reese to bait John Connor to Skynet to kill him isn’t clever at all. It makes Skynet look like an idiot. Though I knew something was up when Connor infiltrates the Skynet headquarters which is apparently guarded only by one sentry machine. Once Connor is inside the building, we see about 6  terminator robots (including a pointless Ahnold, fresh off the Polar Express CG train). Seriously… where were all the fucking terminators? I doubt there was more than a baker’s dozen in the entire film.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I nearly erupt in laughter at the climax of the film. Before escaping the Skynet complex, Connor rigs up explosives on some terminator power cells, which he informs us are nuclear. Well, the helicopter he flew off in must have been made out of old refrigerators from the 50’s, because he’s no more than 50 feet above when he sets that bad boy off. Now, I’m no physicist, but isn’t that impossible to escape from? Oh honey, look at that mushroom cloud… it’s beautiful… viva la resistance!

I never really made the Terminator connection while watching the film. It captures none of the thrill or interest of the previous entries, nor does it fit in the series tonally or even logistically. There’s just too much wrong with it to give it a meager pass. But did we really expect greatness? Did we even really care what happened after the events of T2? Our amount of interest notwithstanding, Terminator Salvation is just a hot mess that could have surprised us.

Filed under: Movies, Review

8 Responses to “REVIEW: Terminator Salvation”

  1. chaosmomm Says:
    May 24th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    I agree. totally. the only other thing that pissed me off that you never mentioned was sam worthington’s here-and-then-gone-again australian accent. did they run out of americans to cast in american roles? i’m just sayin.

  2. Jon Stephens Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    All in all a very disappointing film. But that’s what I expected when the keys to the franchise were handed over to McNuggets. That guy can suck my B*lls!!!

  3. need coffee Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Terminator Salvation might have made Christian Bale a lot more money, but it definitely did not help to establish his reputation as a dependably good actor

  4. Ryan Ferrier Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for your comment, Coffee… though I must disagree in a way; Christian Bale has already established a reputation for being a dependably GREAT actor. Terminator was the shits no doubt, and it’s easily his worst role/performance, but c’mon… Bale can act like a mother 99.9% of the time.

  5. Richard Christensen Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    to add a bit more to the Bale debate going on here, Every actor regardless of how great an actor they are, will make a bad movie, its the way it goes. Examples Tom Hanks- Lady Killers, Johnny Depp- Cry Baby, Robin Williams- Popeye, Will Smith- Wild Wild West.
    Furthermore, some actors need to take the shit movies roles, in order to hopefully attain better scripts.

    On a side note, I personally beleive that the script,story and other stuff changed during production (as it always does) to the extent that it did not resemble anything like the orginal script that Bale read when he initially signed on star, leading to his tirade last year. Bale is notrious for being very selctive on the scripts and roles he accepts, he won’t just up and decide to star in just anything, like, say, Eddie Murphy. But alas that is just my opinion and take on the whole Bale T4 thing.

  6. Ryan Ferrier Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Dude… Cry Baby was fucking great.

    And as for the original script… it did change. The original ending, if you’ve heard or read it, would’ve started a riot had it been filmed.

  7. Richard Christensen Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I will confess that i actaully do own Cry Baby, its one of those “Its so dumb, its great” flicks

  8. Richard Christensen Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    IS that the ending where Conor ends up being a Terminator himself?

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