May 22, 2009
Review - " Terminator Salvation " - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Directed By McG
Starring Christian Bale, Anton Yelchin, Sam Worthington,
Every summer movie season must have its share of
clanging heavy metal, and fitting the bill this year is the
awkwardly titled Terminator Salvation, which has enough
exploding robots, aircraft and artillery to tide us over until
Transformers 2 arrives. Neither bland enough to ignore
nor noteworthy enough to remember, the movie occupies
that crowded middle ground of serviceable sequels that
send you home feeling, if not exactly burned, then certainly
This is the dourest and most humorless of the four
Terminator pictures - I don't think there's a single moment
of comic relief in the whole two hours - and the serious
tone weighs down the film. Sure, those Terminator
motorcycles are way cool, and the Godzilla-sized
Terminator is even cooler. (The noises it makes are pure
movie-geek heaven - the neatest sound effect since the
bombs that went ke-raaang! during the asteroid-belt
sequence in Attack of the Clones.)
But director McG (aka Joseph McGinty Nichol), in a bid to
be taken seriously as an action filmmaker after those two
Charlie's Angels baubles, practically admonishes you for
having any fun. The tone of Terminator Salvation is bleak,
bleak, bleak: The movie is a bum-out disguised as a
popcorn muncher. When McG sneaks in the occasional
visual homage to The Great Escape or a couple of
crowd-pleasing odes to previous Terminators, they almost
feel like accidents. Wipe that smile off your face! This is
a war movie, dammit!
The intensity is just superficial, though: In terms of story, Terminator Salvation is also the most timid in the series.
There's no invention in it, no sense of discovery. Only the impressively orchestrated action sequences feel fresh.
Screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, who previously collaborated on the vastly superior Terminator 3: Rise of
the Machines, finally get the chance to depict the war between man and machine that has been the lynchpin of the
franchise. But that war turns out to be cookie-cutter, Post-Apocalyptic Warfare 101 stuff (think The Matrix sequels).
An hour into Terminator Salvation there's a neat twist that briefly enlivens the scenario, but the script takes it in the least
interesting of all possible directions, and the story flatlines. The plot thickens, then it curdles. Cinematographer Shane
Hurlbut's sepia palette, which renders everything in the hues of desert sand and gray skies, is initially striking. But after a
while, the scheme grows visually dull. You start craving more color than Terminator Salvation is equipped to provide.
The same goes for the performances. As the long-beleaguered John Connor (previously played by Edward Furlong and
Nick Stahl), Christian Bale exudes gruff intensity and stoicism and creates a black hole of charisma on the screen. Rarely
has a big-budget spectacle been graced with a hero this blank.
But Bale isn't really the film's star, anyway. Terminator Salvation belongs to Australian actor Sam Worthington, who gets
more screen time - and more stuff to do - as Marcus Wright, a death-row inmate from our era who awakens in 2018 and
must protect the teenaged Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who will grow up to be Michael Biehn and travel back in time to sire
John Connor, who will eventually save mankind from the machines.
Got that? No worries: You'll have plenty of opportunities during Terminator Salvation to tune out, contemplate the vagaries
of time travel and wonder if you should have stayed home and done the laundry. The answer is a qualified "No." Those
motorbikes really are cool. It took alot of contemplating on the drive home to come up with what was missing from "Salvation"
that all the other Terminator films had in abundance. It's the relentless one-on-one persuit of the Terminator, especially from
movies 1 & 2. Nothing beats the unstopable T800 Swartzenegger from T1 or morphing liquid metal T1000 Robert Patrick
from Judgement Day. No matter what you did to them, how much damage you caused, what obsticles you put in their path,
they kept coming. Nothing detered their single-minded machine persistence to follow their programing. That's what T4
needed for it's salvation.