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The Fraze’s Review : Terminator Salvation

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“It 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.” – 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 can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with – 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 Cameron’s landmark science-fiction series and buried it in an underground bunker with “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”

Brancato and Ferris must have sold their soul to the Devil, because it’s 2009 and somehow they’re writing another “Terminator” picture and this time they’ve traded out Mostow for the guy who directed those “Charlie’s Angels” movies.

The McG-directed “Terminator: Salvation” 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 Skynet’s murderous machines.

First thing’s first. “Terminator: Salvation” is not an atrocious, blasphemous film. It’s a competent action movie and vast improvement from “Rise of the Machines,” and at this point – that’s all a Terminator fan can ask for. With that being said, “Terminator: Salvation” has a few things going for it, but in the end the big mistakes hold it back from being what it should have been – 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. I’d rather watch Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman stumble of George Lucas’s schmaltzy sweet talk than have to hear the line, “So that’s what death tastes like” again.

The cast of “Terminator: Salvation” is riddled with hits and misses. Sam Worthington is great as Marcus Wright, but Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”) steals the show as a young Kyle Reese – who later travels back in time and becomes John Connor’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 she’s in the film is because T3 put her into the Terminator canon.

The biggest question I’ve been mulling over in my mind is simply, “Was Christian Bale the right choice for John Connor?” At the end of the day, I’m still not sure. Bale’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.

There’s only one moment in this film where I felt I was watching John Connor – thanks to some cues from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” In one sequence, Connor puts on some Guns N Roses and goes into hacker mode with his handheld terminal, overriding a robotic motorcycle.

“Terminator: Salvation” 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 Elfman’s score is distracting and out of place. Danny Elfman’s score does little to recapture the horror and foreboding nature of the original Terminator films, and the signature sound of Brad Fiedel’s theme is only tossed in as homage to the T-800’s appearance.

McG’s film is filled with a vast vocabulary of sounds and images that will satiate any moviegoer’s urges for entertainment, but for those looking for a more intelligent continuation of James Cameron’s beloved franchise, “Terminator: Salvation” is a little underwhelming. But hey, at least it’s better than “Rise of the Machines.”

“The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” 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 – if you’re reading this – you’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 “positive” review I’ve ever written, or the most positive “negative” 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.

Read Ashley’s Review of “Terminator Salvation”

Read Brian’s Review of “Terminator Salvation”

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Author: Adam Frazier
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