Review: Terminator Salvation
PLOT: It is 2018 and Judgment Day has come and gone. In the midst of a bloody and vicious battle between man and machine, John Connor is staying the course and working to win the war once and for all. But when he finds out his father, Kyle Reese is being targeted by the metallic marauders, he must stop the machines from erasing his own life from existence. One thing he didnít expect is a new kind of terminator, one made of flesh and metal, and one that he might have to put his faith into to help save mankind.
The summer blockbusters have arrived, and seem to run the gamut from seriously exceeding expectations with STAR TREK, to not living up to a mostly strong franchise, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. TERMINATOR SALVATION falls somewhere in between the two. On one level, McG gives us a fully loaded action flick with some badass terminators fighting the human resistance. With slick motorcycles and some creepy, tentacle sporting, robotic fish, Salvation has a lot of fun with technology. But what made James Cameronís first two features work as well as they did is missing in this explosively loud, fire powered flick. And what is missing is the simplicity and the ability to create something more than just an shoot Ďem up Cineplex experience. The score, the performances including the unbeatable Linda Hamilton and of course Arnold, and the sheer power of an almost undefeatable villain.
While Salvation may have Christian Bale as an older and wiser John Connor, it lacks the focus of the first two films. There is so much going on here, that oftentimes, the sub-plots that are opened up really donít go anywhere. It seems the filmmakers wanted to pay homage to Jim Cameron in more ways than one. McG even brings in a Newt (from ALIENS) like character that really has no place, other than to be cute. Not that Jadagrace as Star isnít good, she is not a bad little actress with what she is given, but she serves almost no purpose. And the problem is, much of what Salvation brings to the forefront has very little to offer for the storyline as a whole. Over half of these characters you couldíve gotten rid of. After all, this is the story of John Connor (Bale), Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and the latest part man, part machine, Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright. It is really their story and didnít need to be much more than that.
The film begins with Marcus who is about to face the severe punishment of lethal injection for crimes that are only hinted at. It is then, a doctor played by Helena Bonham Carter (a nice surprise), persuades him to offer up his body and organs to Cyberdine for research. If you arenít following along at home, it is Cyberdine and Skynet which leads to Judgment Day. And once the new and improved Marcus awakens, it is 2018, and the war of man versus machine is well in place. Thus, Sarah Connorís son is in battle overload trying to protect the human race. And when John Connor learns of a way to possibly destroy the machines on a massive level, he offers himself up to test it. Yet, a small glitch is thrown into the mix when he realizes that the machines have targeted not only Connor, but his future father, Kyle Reese. Donít worry, if you are a fan of this franchise, or have even seen one of them, it isnít all that complicated. But it is terribly cluttered. There are so many moments of promise that are completely disregarded and never fully addressed, as they most definitely should have been.
Such odd little quirks include what seemed like a major plot point involving John Connorís wife, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. While she is clearly pregnant in the film, they did nothing with that storyline aside from one quick moment where he touches her belly. There was so much room for her character to grow but she is simply wasted here, although Ms. Howard manages to give a decent performance in spite of that. I also found myself wondering how Kyle Reese could get out of a small room, past a bad robot that guards the door. The next scene he is suddenly running around another part of the building fighting for his life. Really? Apparently these machines like to play with their prey. I also wondered where the rest of the film was. Some of the cuts seem lazy and make very little sense. Is there something missing? Iím hearing that there is. Which is good, but why not actually release the finished film? Because what they have here is sloppy storytelling, although it is certainly a beautiful mess of action and machine guns blazing.
I will say, most of the cast was very well chosen. And yes, Christian Bale is quite good as a man with a whole lot resting on his shoulders. I also loved the use of Linda Hamilton throughout some of the film. I wonít give it away, but it really made me wish she couldíve been a bigger part of it. And yes, they do have a little fun with ďArnold SchwarzeneggerĒ. This is one of the few sequences that actually felt like a Terminator film, and not just another post-apocalyptic action flick. So if you go in just expecting to be wowed by some strong visual effects that fill up a good chunk of Salvation, you will have a good enough time. But if you go in hoping for another great Terminator film, you are going to be disappointed. While every so often a quick music cue, or a certain shot that involves a burly killer robot, will remind you of Cameronís classic films, they are few and far between. My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO