Man, I canít believe itís been 25 years since THE TERMINATOR
. Unlike many reading this review I suspect, I actually saw that film in the theater way back in the Fall of 1984 when I was a freshman in college. In fact, THE TERMINATOR
is one of my favorite action/sci-fi films of all-time. I happened to come across it the other night while flipping channels and decided to watch a bit. Even though itís a quarter of a century old, I believe it holds up very well. Anyway, enough with the nostalgia.
After seemly being left for dead after 2003ís TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, the franchise gets a new lease on life this Summer with the release of the fourth film in the series, TERMINATOR SALVATION.
Darker and grittier than the last two sequels, SALVATION is more akin to the original in tone -- albeit even grimmer. While it does contain a beginning, middle, and end, itís fairly obvious that this film is meant to kick off a brand new run of TERMINATOR movies. It both begins and ends with humans at war with the machines, leaving all of us -- Warner Bros. hopes -- clamoring for more.
TERMINATOR SALVATION is directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, AKA "McG." Yes, the McG of CHARLIEíS ANGELS movie fame. If youíre like me, itís those two not-so-good films that come to mind upon hearing the manís name. Frankly, I was quite unimpressed when I found out that he had been chosen to jumpstart the TERMINATOR franchise.
I was wrong.
McG delivers here in terms of both action and story. The director gives us a TERMINATOR film that makes us believe that this is what our world would be like if our own machines and computers somehow took over.
Christian Bale (BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT) stars as John Connor -- who in TERMINATOR lore is the leader of The Resistance and the one who will eventually lead mankind in taking down Skynet.
Sam Worthington is Marcus Wright -- former death row inmate in 2003, the new ďSix Million Dollar Man,Ē c. 2018.
Bale gets top billing, but itís Worthingtonís Marcus Wright who comes off as the main character in TERMINATOR SALVATION as the filmís story arc belongs to him.
Speaking of which, I didnít get why Bale didnít want to play Wright after seeing the film and was the part that was originally offered to him. To be perfectly honest, Write was more interesting than Connor -- in this film at least. (Ultimately, itís fairly obvious why, but Iíll let you all figure that one out on your own.)
In short, hereís the plotÖ
Itís 2018 -- or 14 some-odd years after the events of JUDGEMENT DAY. We now see armies of Skynet terminators patrolling what remains of the United States (or California in the case of this film), searching for humans who managed to survive the nuclear holocaust that they of course brought upon mankind.
Among those still alive and fighting Skynet is John Connor (Bale) -- who is yet to be the official leader of The Resistance, but already is for all intents and purposes.
When Connor comes across this Marcus Wright (Worthington), he thinks of him as nothing more than an enemy operative -- until he realizes that Wright might be the only way to save his teenage father Kyle Reese (Aton Yelchin) from the clutches of Skynet.
Yes, John Connor is in his 30s and his father is several years his junior in this movie and most of us know already that, right?
However, I canít imagine the confusion that many folks will have -- young or old -- if they possess little or no knowledge of the events of the previous three films. Even though TERMINATOR SALVATION isnít a reboot ala STAR TREK, BATMAN BEGINS, and CASINO ROYALE, it sorta wants to be -- but canít. And thatís one of itís few faults -- itís a straight-up sequel thatís going to be hard for people oblivious to the TERMINATOR mythos to jump aboard and enjoy. If you havenít seen the previous three TERMINATOR films going in, you are going to be absolutely lost.
Regardless, thereís some really nice stuff here. The cinematography and special effects are particularly topnotch. Itís also an incredibly action-packed film that rarely has moments of down time. All of the actors deliver good, solid performances -- though it is hard to muster up a good care for any of them outside of Worthingtonís Wright to be honest.
Thereís also a ďspecial guest appearanceĒ by a character from the first film thatís done quite well and will likely make everyone happy.
When it comes down to the bottom line here, I enjoyed TERMINATOR SALVATION and had a good time viewing it. I didnít think it was a waste of two hours of my life and in fact, I found it to be an entertaining scifi/action vehicle. But to be perfectly honest, it didnít blow me away like I was hoping it would. Itís better than T3: RISE OF THE MACHINES but not on the same level as the first two TERMINATOR films. In other words, it's a bit above average.
The ďYou probably should watch the previous three films firstĒ atmosphere -- as well as a lack of character development outside of Wright (that's the only character you really care about) -- casts a pretty large shadow over this movie.
In the end, it comes off more as a big setup for the next film(s) rather than a movie that stands totally on its own.