The F*ckin Black Sheep: Terminator Salvation (2009)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Terminator Salvation (2009)
Directed by McG

"It’s as intense as any flick."

So I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ve always respected him in terms of mental and physical strength not to mention the guy has one of the best rags to riches stories…like ever (his dad was a freakin’ Nazi). His comeback since leaving politics behind hasn’t yielded much in terms of box office cash, but here’s hoping the man has a true comeback with TERMINATOR GENISYS (though the trailers haven’t convinced me of shit).

Anyway, the only Terminator film without Arnold, TERMINATOR SALVATION, didn’t do too well and it’s been six years since it came out, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it. If I remember correctly, McG and company had big plans for the franchise, but with an underwhelming box office, those plans obviously went to shit as did most of the careers of the people involved (save for the obvious like Christian Bale and Ron Howard’s kid). I can’t think of the last movie that McG did, and Sam Worthington is no doubt dying for the next 17 Avatars to keep him working.

But is TERMINATOR SALVATION really that bad? 

I can’t claim TERMINATOR SALVATION is the best of the series. That’d be stupid. But I will claim that it was the boldest Terminator flick thus far because the movie gave fans what they thought they wanted. Fans thought they wanted to see that crappy looking post-apocalyptic future, the one where humans run like rats from those glossy killing machines. Fans thought they wanted more of grown-up John Connor, though we realized he just isn’t much fun all war-torn. Fans thought they wanted more machines, less people, but it turns out fans that either don’t know what they wanted or McG just didn’t deliver the goods. I give the guy credit for doing his own thing, for making a movie that didn’t simply copy and paste Cameron’s formula. (Though it had to hurt his ego when reportedly he had to convince a skeptical Bale that he could direct at this level…thank God Warner Bros never allowed him into the DC Comic universe). 

Without Arnold, McG cast the hottest up-and-coming actor in the world at the time, Sam Worthington, as Marcus (who SPOILER…becomes the new T-800). Marcus is so new that he doesn’t even know he’s a machine. His last memory: death row getting all dead and planting a kiss on cameo appearing Helena Bonham Carter. Despite the fact that we’re supposed to root for a guy bad enough who ended up executed (which seems dumb), Worthington is solid here and hard not to like considering the audience experiences this brave, very tan new world with him. Sure, Worthington’s career never accelerated to superstar like many predicted, but he’s perhaps the best thing going in TERMINATOR SALVATION. The guy plays a good hero who redeems his humanity even when he doesn’t have any.

The same can’t be said for proven star Christian Bale, who should’ve been perfect as John Connor, but even I won’t defend him. He’s stiff here, looking a mix between bored and pissed off and really dazzles with deep dialogue after learning all his fellow soldiers are dead: “Here!...Connor!...One.” His and most the actors’ dialogue stinks, which isn’t their fault. For whatever reason, producers keep insisting on giving us the “I’ll be back” or “Come with me if you want to live.” That’s unnecessary. The rest of the cast is fine for the most part. Anton Yelchin as the teen Kyle Reese brings what little humor exists while Bryce Dallas Howard and Moon Bloodgood don’t have a lot to do. 

So what makes TERMINATOR SALVATION worth rewatching?  The effects, especially the Terminators, look freakin’ great and McG delivers some dandy action even if things get a bit overdone at times. Some scenes, like that giant people collector at the 7-Eleven, explode on screen. It’s as intense as any flick in the series. And I dig that digital Arnold kicking Bale’s ass for a minute. Its great bit and looks damn solid as is any time the machines start shooting lots and lots of bullets. Giving fans that future world that Cameron always dick-teased us with is great to see, though the result lacks the fun and overt sentimentality that Terminator movies always squeeze in. But how could they enjoy themselves with the end of the world and all. 

TERMINATOR SALVATION isn’t the best movie ever made. Not even close. The plot is a little confusing, but any film dealing with time travel should be confusing to a point. But it looks great, sounds great, and it attempted to give fans what they wanted. What we all should have realized is that TERMINATOR just isn’t the same with two key people: James Cameron and Arnold. Without them, well, it just can't compete with the first two.





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