The Final Nail in the Coffin
It can be justifiably said that Terminator Salvation bears no prominent resemblance to The Terminator or Terminator 2: Judgment Day , both of which owe their ongoing legacy as two of the best horror/action films of all time to one person, directorial craftsman extraordinaire James Cameron
Terminator Salvation was given birth for one reason, and one reason only: because fans have a deep-seeded love for those aforementioned films (I don’t feel the need to reference Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines here at all). How can anyone forget the moment they first witnessed Arnold Schwarzenegger, naked and stalking abandoned parking lots and bars, that terrifying blank look on his face, with a single mission in mind – kill Sarah Connor. Or the chilling ‘liquid-metal’ T-1000 (played by lean Robert Patrick) sprinting after his targets and shape-shifting with the help of never before seen special effects.
This fourth installment, given an audience-friendly PG-13 rating and directed by a man named McG (Charlie’s Angels , Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Glory Road ), eschews all that in favor of explosions, CGI, a paper-thin script with ear-grating dialogue and no challenging characters, more explosions and trashy CGI. Don’t expect anything that even closely remembers a coherent story. But you will get cartoon-looking T-600 and T-800 Terminators, moto-Terminators, aqua-Terminators, tracker-Terminators, hovercraft-Terminators, 30-foot tall Transformer-looking Terminators, and, for a brief moment, a Terminator who looks surprisingly similar to a current U.S. Governor.
Christian Bale, who plays human Resistance-leader John Connor, should be the film’s most valuable asset, but instead comes across as an actor on autopilot, either scowling, growling, or shouting in every other scene. Yep, despite all Bale’s extremely compelling past roles (and what a streak he’s been on), I am afraid to say he actually dials in his performance on this one, like a desperate man with a low battery and only one bar of service on his cell phone. It’s that bad. Hey, what can you do, every actor finds himself drawn into a catastrophe like this every once in awhile, just don’t let it become a habit Christian.
The other supporting characters can only be described as weak. John Connor’s wife, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village , director Ron Howard’s daughter) is non-existent and looks distractingly pregnant, though they never address it in the movie. Marcus Wright, who has an ambiguous role as a half-human/half machine and has been declared tomorrow’s biggest actor (he will star as the lead in James Cameron’s upcoming and much-much anticipated 3-D pioneering blockbuster Avatar ), turns out to be flavorless and forgettable. You can’t even tell him apart from Bale in most scenes.
The young Kyle Reese (played by a too-young Anton Yelchin) feels insignificant and is played as a shallow joke with tons of throw-back dialogue that failed to hit it’s mark with the audience I was in. The sole survivor of this apocalyptic mess is, strangely, a vibrant young actress named Moon Bloodgood, who plays a Resistance pilot who manages to bring a tangible spark to the few scenes she’s in. Too bad she was too young when they cast the female T-X in the third installment, she would have been perfect.
I realize that no matter how much I trash this film (and believe me, I could go on and on) I’m not really stopping anybody from seeing Terminator Salvation and it’s going to make a boatload of cash over this Memorial Day weekend. I’m just hoping that the bad word spreads like wildfire and second weekend sales drop like the Titanic (no pun intended). If McG recognizes that he has no chance of making another Terminator film and Christian Bale appreciates that he can’t resurrect every franchise he’s in, I think justice will have been served and the balance of good and evil in the world restored.