Terminator Salvation Review

Posted: June 13, 2009 in Review
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Terminator Salvation Review

The first Terminator is a sci-fi horror classic. The second, Judgement Day, is a sci-fi action masterpiece. Rise of the Machines is little more than a worthless sci-fi spoof of the first two films, saved only by its delightfully dark ending. So, can McG and Christian Bale put their heads together and craft a new chapter of the franchise that both continues the story in a respectful way, while leaving the foundations movies untouched?

In many ways, they can. On the whole, Terminator Salvation more than makes up for 2003’s horrendous drunken mistake and simultaneously manages to lay new foundation for the planned trilogy.

Things get off to a fairly uneasy beginning as, in the months before Judgement Day, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), an inmate on death row, gives his body to Cyberdyne in the guise of Helena Bonham Carter. A quick flash forward to the year 2018 and Marcus suddenly wakes up in a nuclear apocalypse ruled by robots where pockets of humanity are making their desperate stands.

It’s a decent enough set-up, with the character of Marcus playing the role of the confused audience in the future hellscape – even though the glimpses we’ve been shown previously are enough to tell us what to expect. Christian Bale’s John Connor is fairly one-note and a little dull, but he is mercifully not the standard action hero – no quips, no jokes, not even a casual smirk – this dude is hardcore. The rest of the cast are drones with dialogue, unmemorable and unremarkable.

The action is solid and the CGI is very good throughout, with the best being saved for the outstanding digital mapping of Arnie’s head towards the climax, which is so convincing it could well be the movie legend in the flesh. The various robots are quite nicely animated, with the expensive-looking battles genuinely pleasing on the eye and not all at confusing unlike, say, Transformers.

Real surprise of the show is director McG. For a man so venomously hated by the fans, he has pulled out all the stops to create a technically stunning array of well-shot, well-edited and well-paced action scenes that don’t rely on the same tricks being pulled time and time again. Given that he previously directed Charlie’s Angels: full Throttle, this is an accomplishment on par with curing cancer.

But while the action is brisk and fun, the plot is something of a let-down and all spoilt by the various plot holes woven through the script. The magic of the original (two) Terminator films lay in the knowledge that John Connor was so great at being a leader of the people that his death would mean the end of mankind, but also at not really knowing what his role was. Thus, the reveal that Connor has yet to become the symbol of the resistance is utterly disappointing and the fact that the last bastions of humanity listen to and trust him above the actual leaders is very confusing.

The movie’s biggest plot hole goes like this:

John Connor learns that the machines are hunting his father, Kyle Reese, to kill him and thus stop Connor from ever existing. However, Connor is merely a soldier at this point, and not at all a threat to the machines, meaning that Kyle Reese is still an insignificant survivor meaning that the machines would have no reason to be hunting either of them and given that the machines do not yet appear to have technology as advanced as time travel, they wouldn’t even know this. Not only this, but the machines go on to capture Kyle Reese… and not kill him. While a human survivor places her entire race in jeopardy… by trusting a machine.

Couple this to a plot that was mostly spoiled in the trailers with the most obvious twist in cinema this year and you have a humdinger of a bad story.

Biggest offenders are all the references to the previous films. Serving no purpose but to remind the audience just how cool the T-1000 was and how lame the movie’s main enemies (T-600’s and Hunter Killers) are, they stick out as though they were forced in just for the sake of it.

Another point of contention is that John Connor survives a nuclear explosion at the start of the movie. While filmed with a very creative way to show the damage – from inside the helicopter itself – it has nasty connotations with a similar scene in Indiana Jones and the Nuking of the Fridge.

All in all, a healthy reboot for a franchise. For those expecting more Terminator glory – leave your wishes at the door. Enjoy it for what it is – a bold beginning for what could be a very good sci-fi war series. And hats off to McG for pulling it out of the bag.


  1. Jack says:

    No, it was just a massive pile of shit.

    And they ruined Skynet.

  2. ad4m22 says:

    Not much left of Skynet to ruin.

    Besides, you didn’t even watch it.

  3. Alex says:

    I found this instalment of the Terminator series of films was an enjoyable and action packed experience -on the positive side Christian Bale continues to be highly watchable, excellent special effects, a good performance by the kid who played Chekov in JJ Abrams Star Trek and the quite gorgeous Moon Bloodgood who was fun to watch.

    The plot in the abstract was fairly good with the worldwide resistance being coordinatinated from a constantly moving submarine presumably contributed by the Russians as the presence of the conspicuously shabby and bedraggled Russian officer seems to attest. Michael Ironside, who many of us fondly remember as the voice of Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell games was the appropriately arse-clenched Field Marshall Haig type character who descends into nigh-on screaming war maniac reminiscent of Blackadder as his plan to bomb Skynet nears fruition. This is of course not all their is to it, I wont spoil the fairly logical and enjoyable Skynet counter-play but it involves McG seeing an episode of Battlestar Galactica and putting a cylon into play against John Connor who is the leader of a resistance cell Tech Com. Chekov is grabbed by Skynet after a chase across America results in a Great Escape rip off and the conclusion that the A10 Thunderbolt cannot go up against an air superiority hovercraft and win – this for those of you who havent studied modern, medieval and ancient warfare and weapons systems is because it is an air to ground attack system designed to support troops against such things as tanks, fixed emplacements and of course tall pigs. Not really other aircraft and certainly not ones designed by a sentient computer.

    The central moral of the story, the ethos revolves around John Connor and the Cylon and Moon Bloodgood trying to still be in possesion of a modicum of humanity in a post apocalyptic hell hole, which isnt that bad really considering that they have electricity, enough fuel for a fleet of jets, helicopters, cars and the abandoned vehicles take no time to hotwire…after having been nuked a little, loads of food as everyone is very healthy looking, no radiation to speak of from that spot of nuking the world took when skynet first bitchslapped humanity and what must be a considerable gym really seeing as there was serious muscle on the Tech Com Lieutenant noncing about in an armless vest posing like Cmdr Riker on ‘roids.

    The Cylon of course, we could call him Athena, as spoiler – hes a good guy! Saves Moon from being raped – we can call that cliche 452 in this movie, which gave me the impression that McG considers all other visual media to be a kind of animatic for his own movies, a pre-vis he can yoink at will.

    In the end the humanity was fully emergent in the developments that JC, yes thats right JC, embarks on first pleading for humanity to not like bomb skynet cuz it will kill loads of skynets human shields so he sets out on a single suicidal sally forth into the realm of Skynet, which has a city….just like the machines in the matrix… where he battles to save his teenage father from a CGI arnie who could kill him with one punch but decides to pick him up and toss him about.

    Anyways there is great self sacrifice, JC is kinda reborn with a salvation from a terminator – you see the title – it makes sense now! Skynet is of course beaten no real surprise though for its capital city you wonder why it only has like 2 terminators on hand and in totally different wings of the building. John Connor wins by being a good guy rather than any kind of military leader and gets a bit of a scar.

    In all I actually enjoyed it, its stylish and enjoyable and the how did skynet know about JC when there is no evident time travel – good point Adam but the leaders of the resistance seemed to know about all that stuff from John so it could be intelligence related. The acting is quite good and it doesnt try to match the style of the old terminator films but give us something new a thrill ride.

    Obviously i would have loved a horror sci-fi set in the first few minutes of T2 in which as you no doubt recall a night battle was fought between a believable Tech-Com human resistance and a hugely exciting Terminator opposition. But this was good too.

  4. CMrok93 says:

    The film didn’t have the heart, nor the story or excitement that the original’s did. I just wished they did more, instead of just being a typical sci-fi action thriller. Check out my review when you can!

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