â€œIt can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.â€ â€“ Kyle Reese
In retrospect, it sounds like Kyle Reese was delivering a commentary on the current state of the film industry, which in many ways is very similar to a Terminator. Both entities are cold and robotic and inhumanly efficient. Hollywood canâ€™t be bargained with. It canâ€™t be reasoned with â€“ especially if a profit is to be made.
The programming of Hollywood dictates the following protocol: Take something that was successful and innovative in the past and suck the life out of it until it’s dead and empty inside. And then, wait a few years and reboot the whole damn franchise.
Back in 2003 writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, along with director Jonathan Mostow, did just that. They took James Cameronâ€™s landmark science-fiction series and buried it in an underground bunker with â€œTerminator 3: Rise of the Machines.â€
Brancato and Ferris must have sold their soul to the Devil, because itâ€™s 2009 and somehow theyâ€™re writing another â€œTerminatorâ€ picture and this time theyâ€™ve traded out Mostow for the guy who directed those â€œCharlieâ€™s Angelsâ€ movies.
The McG-directed â€œTerminator: Salvationâ€ takes place in 2018, long after Judgment Day and the nuclear holocaust that obliterated much of humanity. In the bleak, nuclear wasteland of California, pockets of resistance led by John Connor (Christian Bale) struggle to delay their extinction from Skynetâ€™s murderous machines.
First thingâ€™s first. â€œTerminator: Salvationâ€ is not an atrocious, blasphemous film. Itâ€™s a competent action movie and vast improvement from â€œRise of the Machines,â€ and at this point â€“ thatâ€™s all a Terminator fan can ask for. With that being said, â€œTerminator: Salvationâ€ has a few things going for it, but in the end the big mistakes hold it back from being what it should have been â€“ a return to form for the franchise.
The dialogue throughout is utterly generic and poorly delivered. In the opening sequence, the discourse between actors Sam Worthington and Helena Bonham Carter is downright dreadful. Iâ€™d rather watch Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman stumble of George Lucasâ€™s schmaltzy sweet talk than have to hear the line, â€œSo thatâ€™s what death tastes likeâ€ again.
The cast of â€œTerminator: Salvationâ€ is riddled with hits and misses. Sam Worthington is great as Marcus Wright, but Anton Yelchin (â€œStar Trekâ€) steals the show as a young Kyle Reese â€“ who later travels back in time and becomes John Connorâ€™s father. Bryce Dallas Howard takes over for Claire Danes in the role of Kate Connor, though her part is so minimal one has to wonder if the only reason sheâ€™s in the film is because T3 put her into the Terminator canon.
The biggest question Iâ€™ve been mulling over in my mind is simply, â€œWas Christian Bale the right choice for John Connor?â€ At the end of the day, Iâ€™m still not sure. Baleâ€™s a great actor, but his portrayal of Connor is nothing but your standard action hero with one hell of a headache screaming into every radio he can find.
Thereâ€™s only one moment in this film where I felt I was watching John Connor â€“ thanks to some cues from â€œTerminator 2: Judgment Day.â€ In one sequence, Connor puts on some Guns N Roses and goes into hacker mode with his handheld terminal, overriding a robotic motorcycle.
â€œTerminator: Salvationâ€ has all the grandeur of a video game cut scene. The story progresses through a series of well-choreographed action sequences that dazzle the eyes and ears. While the sound design on the film is crisp and engaging, Danny Elfmanâ€™s score is distracting and out of place. Danny Elfmanâ€™s score does little to recapture the horror and foreboding nature of the original Terminator films, and the signature sound of Brad Fiedelâ€™s theme is only tossed in as homage to the T-800â€™s appearance.
McGâ€™s film is filled with a vast vocabulary of sounds and images that will satiate any moviegoerâ€™s urges for entertainment, but for those looking for a more intelligent continuation of James Cameronâ€™s beloved franchise, â€œTerminator: Salvationâ€ is a little underwhelming. But hey, at least itâ€™s better than â€œRise of the Machines.â€
“The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.â€ If McG is brought back to direct the next inevitable Terminator film, we can only hope that he learns from his mistakes here and makes a truly memorable movie. Oh, and McG â€“ if youâ€™re reading this â€“ youâ€™ve got to get some better writers for this film. Why not give Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci a call?
* This is either the most negative â€œpositiveâ€ review Iâ€™ve ever written, or the most positive â€œnegativeâ€ review ever. Take your pick, either way this film is decent so if you like the franchise then give this one a look.
** See this film for Anton Yelchin – the guy practically channels Michael Biehn in his portrayal as Kyle Reese. After “Charlie Bartlett” and “Star Trek,” Yelchin is on the brink of blowing up.