Terminated – Terminator: Salvation review

Terminator Salvation – Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin. Directed by McG. Rated M. 115 mins.

This is not the future James Cameron told us about. He promised us a sci-fi franchise that was as thoughtful as it was action packed. I’ve seen the new Terminator film, and I no longer think we can win this war … against listless, nonsensical, committee-developed money-generating bland-busters that is. Yep, lower your expectations friends: McG has broken his promise and failed to deliver the goods with Terminator Salvation. Looking back now, I can’t believe I even had high expectations. The director calls himself McG.

The plot of Terminator: Salvation is almost too stupid to recount, and I fear the more I talk about it, the less sense it will make. But for tradition’s sake, I’ll just get on with it, shall I? The year is 2018. John Connor (Christian Bale) is no longer a wiry, sarcastic teenager; he’s evolved into a raspy-voiced and charisma-free GI Joe. He leads a small band of resistance fighters against the machines who annihilated the rest of humanity on Judgment Day. His regiment includes Common, Moon Bloodgood and Bryce Dallas Howard. I wish I could give you their character names, but the film doesn’t go to any efforts to characterise them, so why should I? Howard was quite pregnant during the film’s production, but I feel the credit for that character trait belongs less to the screenwriters and more to her real-life husband.

Anyway, Connor is desperate to locate his teenage father Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) before the machines do, and if that needs to be explained to you, go rent the original Terminator right now. It will be a far more enjoyable experience than seeing Terminator Salvation, and maybe even more enjoyable than reading my eviscerating review. Reese is being hunted by the machines, because they want to kill him before Connor can send him back to the 1980’s to father him, thus negating Connors existence. Have you ever heard of the snake ouroboros? You should google it. Meanwhile, ex-con Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) wakes up naked in the middle of a war-zone (always an ominous sign in the Terminator franchise), unaware of his past and true identity. His last memory was of being executed on death-row, and now he’s alive with super strength and agility. Why, whatever could he be?

Oh man alive, McG really dropped the ball on this one. Once upon a time, the Terminator franchise had a fairly consistent internal logic. Here we see a bunch of confounding and impossible elements clashing heads and raising unanswerable questions. Before you call me a whinging fanboy, I’m always the first to drop questions of logic if I’m being entertained. But Terminator Salvation is too boring to be considered a popcorn film, and too dumb to be considered a thought-provoking one. So if we can’t rely on story, surely the film has strong characters to grab onto? Nuh-uh. Terminator: Salvation doesn’t feature a single interesting character or arc for the audience to connect with.

I will relent (slightly), and admit that a couple of the action sequences are pretty spectacular, including one Children-of-Men-cribbing single take helicopter flight. The robots do move flawlessly, and the explosions look beautiful. Every cent of the film’s $200 million budget appears on the screen. But here’s the thing: no matter how cool an explosion may look, it doesn’t scare me. I’m not afraid of explosions. What I am afraid of are relentless, hulking, robot assassins that disguise themselves as family members, kill anyone that looks at them and literally never stop coming after you. They are called TERMINATORS, and this film doesn’t feature a single one. Sure, there are big, strong robots that get into fistfights (!) with the humans. But at no point during the quiet moments of the film did I think, “You better not get comfortable; the T1000 is right behind you!” That’s because it’s not. It never is.

So what has McG left us with? A Terminator film without many Terminators. A sci-fi film with no internal logic, and no thought-provoking elements. An action film with mostly uninspired action scenes. Completely one-note performances from Christian Bale and Sam Worthington. And he wants to make two more of these? Listen, come over to my place this weekend; we’ll rewatch Terminator 1 and 2; we’ll listen to “You Could Be Mine” by Guns N Roses; we can even discuss Edward Furlong’s “career”. And let’s just pretend Terminator Salvation never happened.

2/5

Check out my other reviews here.

6 Responses to “Terminated – Terminator: Salvation review”

  1. I also saw the film and rather enjoyed it. If you had bothered to take any notice you will know that it is is in the early stages of the Terminators so none very human looking (Marcus {Sam Worthington} was possibly a prototype)You did get to see the Arnie type for a short while (before the skin was burnt off) towards the end. This would be why there are two more as this is the one that just starts to link things with the earlier movies. Can say I like Christian Bale as John Conner too much but then I started hating that character in the second one.

  2. I understand completely that the film is set about 10 years before the future war shown in the opening moments of T2.I probably shouldn't have used the T1000 as an example, as it wouldn't have been invented yet. So fair enough there.But my main point was: "McG swaps genuine tension and menacing villains (like the previous Terminators) with big explosions."Seeing as there is not a single interesting character in T4, I thought we could at least rely on some tense sequences. But explosions aren't scary.

  3. I haven't seen it but surely it must be better than the third movie which broke my heart.I appreciate your comments Simon but I think Jodie has given me enough reason to take a chance.Could we really expect a great movie anyway with James Cameron not involved? I will watch it because even a poorly made tribute to Cameron's vision is better than nothing at all.

  4. Haha, I'm with you Andrew. While the existence of 3 and 4 are depressing enough, I would, without question go and see T5, T6, T7 etc. Because, well, maybe ONE of them will be good.I think Cameron earned soooo much goodwill with T1 and 2, he's basically solidified the franchise's fanbase for another couple of decades.

  5. The director calls him self McG.Reason enough not to see it.Although I am not expecting it to be a great film or even a good film, I will say that my expectations are very low of this film. So strangely enough, I will probably enjoy it.

  6. Ya, the relentless mysterious machine hunt, filled with uncertainty, that made the first film so great was missing,,, But what else could they do? Once it was perfected in the first movie the story is just forced to do something different.

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