Ashley’s Review : Terminator Salvation

Ashley here,

If you’d prefer not to know anything about the fourth installment in the money-spinning “Terminator” franchise, you need not read anything below the next line :

”Terminator Salvation” is “Fanboys” without the cancer-subplot.

Okay, maybe not that’s too harsh – a Steven Brill-directed “Terminator” is nothing I’d wish on anyone – but what I’m saying there is that it [considerably] lacks heart.

Look, “Terminator Salvation” isn’t James Cameron’s “Terminator”, but it was never going to be. Does that mean it’s as terrible as some of the reviews have been making it out to be? God no, in fact it’s quite a serviceable Summer blockbuster (and just seeing Schwarzenegger on the big screen – if even fleetingly – is worth the price of admission alone). And if you can forget how friggin’ great the first two “Terminator” movies were, you’ll enjoy it even more.

Set in the grim, post-apocalyptic future Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton provides brief opening narration for the film, which is a nice touch) hinted of in the previous films, “Salvation” sees the new grown John Connor (Christian Bale), and his wife, Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard reprising the character initiated by Claire Danes in “Terminator 3 : Rise of the Machines”), continuing the fight against those ‘machines’.

Nowadays, the machines are killing and harvesting humans – as Connor discovers when he meets Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington).

Assuming ‘Robo-Marcus’ (Wright was turned into a cyborg – by Dr. Serena Kogan, played Helena Bonham Carter – after donating his body to science after receiving the death penalty) is as threatening as Swine-Flu, Connor tries to kill it, but ultimately doesn’t.

Over time, Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

First things first, the cast is terrific. Bale, as great as always, lends credibility to an otherwise vanilla plot, and the intensity the “Batman” star possesses in his own skin really works for the role of Connor.
And with Australian newcomer Sam Worthington, who gives a remarkable performance as the mysterious Marcus, Bale’s offered weighty support.

The supporting cast – Dallas-Howard as Kate Connor nee Brewster, Anton Yelchin as a young Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn in the original film) Jadagrace Smith as mute child ‘Star’, Moon Bloodgood as resistance fighter Blair Williams, rapper Common as a sensitive tough-guy ally of Bale’s – are also top-notch.

Oh, and yes, big Arnold does makes a brief cameo – well his head does, the body belongs to another actor (Roland Kickinger) – and as much as it would’ve been nice to have had him on the screen longer, it’s cool to have him ‘back’ all the same. It’s one of the film’s few highlights.

Still, good actors, and good effects, do not always make a movie – as anyone whose seen a Jerry Bruckheimer production can attest to – and this is sadly a Wikipedia-fit example.

The main problem with director McG’s film is that it noticeably lacks the heart and humanity of the original trilogy. This is an action movie that doesn’t stop to… well, think or reflect – and since we’ve been accustomed to as much brain-power as fire-power in these films, that’s a bit of a bummer. After a while, you stop caring.

Next to the cast, McG is actually one of the movie’s best assets (I know, I was surprised too) – despite the script, he’s done a good job, proving he is capable of helming films of a more serious ilk.
Unfortunately, his writers have left him down – big time. Screenwriters Michael Ferris and John Brancato (”Catwoman” ”Terminator 3” should be spanked; they’ve done a huge disservice to this project by not further developing the characters – not even Bale’s Connor is that interesting – or giving us something to clinch to. As fun as it is watching giant robots and gun-fights for a couple of hours, there comes a point when an audience needs to be reminded why they’re supposedly rooting for so-and-so or this-team-as-opposed-to-that-team; and that’s not found here. ‘What’s funny is that “Dark Knight” scribe Jonathan Nolan was reported to have lent a hand on the script – and yet you can’t spot his handiwork anywhere.

A solid, more emotionally-driven story could have made this good action film into a great action film. The only way to guarantee yourself the best time possible here is to go in expecting “Terminator 3 : Rise of the Machines” and you’ll likely feel like you got your money’s worth.

Here’s hoping this is merely “The Phantom Menace” to “Terminator 5″‘s “Attack of the Clones”. My hard-wired adamantum-clogged fingers are crossed.