After a riveting trailer and much hype, Terminator: Salvation opened on the 21st of May, 2009. The film did not exactly have a great opening, being beaten out of the number one spot quite handily by the ridiculous sequel to Night at the Museum. The terrible reviews and word of mouth certainly did not help Terminator: Salvation. Is the movie very good? Not really. Is the movie a complete and utter waste? Not really.
Terminator: Salvation tries so hard to reach the milestone set by Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The movie tries so hard to be… important. Director McG (yes, the name is silly) has yet to produce something I’ve found truly compelling. Charlies Angels was god-awful in my opinion. I didn’t really expect a whole lot from him when I found out he was going to be bringing us the war on SkyNet the first three Terminator films kept mentioning or showing in various contexts. This should be an interesting story, this should be something that engages and compels. After all, the Terminator faithful have had twenty some years of hearing about this John Connor fellow and how his leadership allows mankind to overcome a deadly sentient machine named SkyNet.
Yet this film, slated to be the first in a new trilogy (if that is still going to be the case is very much up in the air) shows us no real reason Connor is a leader. Sure, he talks into a radio and people listen. Sure, he leads some men and women rebel soldiers by pointing and doing hand signals like a soldier would. Yet none of these actions really prove he is the sole source of mankind’s victory. Christian Bale takes his roles very seriously, but his John Connor seems… empty.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I felt this way. Bale’s character isn’t the only shell the audience is introduced to. Every character with the exception of Sam Worthington’s Marcus Wright and Anton Yeltchin’s Kyle Reese are just bodies with horrible dialogue and silly decision making skills I felt nothing for the people on screen, as if I were SkyNet itself. That wasn’t the case even in the poorly received Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
The film is barely centered on the rise of Connor in the human resistance. Rather, the plot (or what one can divulge of it) is centered on Kyle Reese and Marcus Wright. Why Reese is so important at this time is really not that clear. Many other film reviews point out the gaping plot hole of the film which those who have seen previous Terminator films will know. It is never explained how SkyNet discovered that Kyle Reese would birth John Connor.
It is also never explained that why, if SkyNet knows his role is to be sent into the past to protect Sarah Connor, that the robots that discover his identity simply off him right out. SkyNet’s elaborate ruse to draw in John Connor is contrived and unbelieveable. It’s very hard to believe that a machine with so many advanced killing devices at its disposable would go to such great lengths to trick one man when it seems clear that humanity can be wiped out by a few motorcycle bots and a Transformer.
All in all, the film is a bit of a letdown. However, the visual spectacle is great. The various killing machines of SkyNet are finely detailed. Respect must be paid to McG and crew for utilizing animatronics as much as possible instead of relying solely on CGI and green screens. The movie can be entertaining if you turn off your brain and forget the Terminator canon. I’ll be renting the Blu Ray to see the director’s cut which I hope will be better than the mess Warner Brothers put out.
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