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Overall Rating
2.51

Awesome: 8.54%
Worth A Look: 13.41%
Average: 26.83%
Pretty Bad: 23.17%
Total Crap28.05%

6 reviews, 46 user ratings


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Terminator Salvation
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Come With Me If You Want To Avoid Another Needless Sequel!!"
1 stars

As I suspect will be the case with many people, I walked into the screening of “Terminator Salvation,” the latest entry in the jumbo-sized action film franchise that has thus far spawned two genre masterpieces (1984’s “Terminator” and 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) and one film that was just good enough to almost make you forget that it had no real reason to exist (2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”), not to mention a short-lived TV spin-off that we shall not speak of any more (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”), with more than a few trepidations about what I was going to see. For starters, this is the first one in the series to score a PG-13 rating, a cynical ploy no doubt inspired by the success of the last “Die Hard” film that is designed to pave the way for toy and fast-food promotions at the expense of the brutal intensity that fans of the series have come to expect over the course of the previous three films. Then there is the fact that this is the first in the series not to star Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role that pretty much solidified his stature as an international movie star 25 years ago. Lastly, there is the fact that this entry was directed by none other than McG, a filmmaker whose oeuvre to date includes one slightly passable bit of mindless eye candy (“Charlie’s Angels”), one fairly dreadful attempt at tackling a serious subject (“We Are Marshall”) and the single worst film that I have ever seen in my entire life (“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”). However, the shocking thing about the film is not that it suffers from these problems--it does--but the fact that it is so bad, so noisy and so completely devoid of any point or purpose, outside of squeezing a few more dollars out of a property that should have ended two entries earlier, that they turn out to be among the least of its sins.

As you may or may not recall, “Terminator 3” climaxed as the massive Skynet computer system went online, became self-aware and began its campaign to destroy all of mankind with a nuclear strike dubbed “Judgment Day.” (If none of this sentence makes any sense to you, it probably means that you haven’t seen any of the previous “Terminator” films before and believe me, this isn’t the place to start.) “Terminator Salvation” picks up the action in 2018, fifteen years after those cataclysmic events, with Skynet still hunting the few humans living in the bombed-out remains of civilization with the aid of a vast array of killer robots both ginormous and normal-sized. However, mankind isn’t going down without a fight and one of the rising leaders of the resistance movement is John Connor (Christian Bale), the man who is fated to save mankind and whom the machines have been unsuccessfully trying to wipe out since before he was even born. While in the midst of yet another battle against the Skynet robots, John makes a series of potentially shocking discoveries. He learns that Skynet now appears to be grabbing humans and taking them prisoner for some unexplained purpose. He also uncovers a mysterious sound signal that could hold the key to shutting down the robots and allowing the humans to defeat them once and for all. Finally, he receives word that there is one human out there that Skynet wants to kill more than him--an unknown and unassuming resistance member named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), whose importance to the entire saga cannot be underestimated. (Seriously--you not only have to have seen all the “Terminator” films if you want to make any sense out of this one, you need to have seen all of them approximately four minutes before watching this one.)

Meanwhile, in another part of the apocalypse, we are introduced to the mysterious Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington). Actually, we first meet Marcus in a prologue set in 2003, where he is a death row convict who agrees to donate his body to a scientist (Helena Bonham Carter in what may be the biggest WTF? cameo of the season) for some kind of mysterious experiment. Now in 2018, he emerges without explanation and while journeying across the post-apocalyptic wasteland, he stumbles across Reese as he valiantly defends the ruins of L.A. aided only by an adorable mute moppet (Jadagrace). After surviving one attack, the trio take refuge with some other survivors (including Jane Alexander, of all people), they are attacked again and all but Reese are captured by one of the Skynet robots. While pursuing them, Marcus comes across resistance hottie Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood)--the type of feisty femme who looks salon-perfect despite the apocalypse, can beat the crap out of everyone she encounters and is still willing to playfully snuggle mere moments after nearly being gang-raped by a bunch of slack-jawed survivalists--and the two of them set off for the resistance headquarters. However, Marcus has a secret--a secret so big that even he doesn’t know it at first and so important that the producers couldn’t help but reveal it in the trailers--and while Connor doesn’t trust him at first as a result, the two are forced into an uneasy alliance in order to rescue Reese and thereby save humanity for good (or at least until the next sequel comes along).

Although too often lumped in with the brainless action blockbusters that they shared marquee space back in the day, the first two “Terminator” films had a lot more going on for them than elaborate action set-pieces and over-the-top violence. Instead, they actually had screenplays that took the time to include storylines that were complex but cleanly told and deftly crafted characters that gave the actors playing them something to do other than dodge bullets and fireballs and as a result, those action set-pieces actually made an impact on viewers because they were genuinely caught up in both the stories and the characters and developed a rooting interest in what happened next. (You may not have actually shed a tear when the now-good Terminator sacrificing himself at the end of “T2,” but I’ll bet that some of you at least thought about it.) Though “Terminator 3” was clearly a long step down from the previous films, due almost entirely to the absence of creator James Cameron, it nevertheless hewed to the traditions of its predecessors to such an extent that when its wildly apocalyptic ending kicked in, it didn’t come across merely as an excuse for the effects department to kick out the jams. Unfortunately, this installment contains none of those elements and suffers mightily as a result. Unlike the previous films, which all attempted to elaborate on the mythology of the previous installments in order to give viewers new things to watch and contemplate, the screenplay for “Terminator Salvation” feels less like an organic continuation of the saga and more like an especially uninspired piece of fan-fiction written by someone who is determined to shoehorn in their own allegedly brilliant ideas into an already existing narrative universe at the expense of the existing characters and situations. In this story, for example, the character of John Connor should finally be the front-and-center character but it instead spends so much time with this new Marcus character that he almost feels like a bystander at times in his own saga. Perhaps realizing that this approach might annoy longtime fans of the series, screenwriters John Brancato & Michael Ferris have attempted to placate them by throwing in numerous references to the earlier films throughout their story--having people say “Come with me if you want to live” and “I’ll be back” and the like. The only trouble is that for the most part, these shout-outs feel forced and take viewers out of the story by reminding them of the good old days--one involving someone playing a cassette of “You Will Be Mine,” the Guns & Roses tune that was featured in “T2,” is so aggressively stupid that if the film still had any life in it by the time it appeared, it would have single-handedly brought the entire thing to a screeching halt.

Then again, Cameron himself could have somehow emerged with a brilliant screenplay that took the story in fascinating new directions while still adhering to its previously established mythology and it still wouldn’t have helped matters much thanks to the efforts of McG, a filmmaker woefully unsuited to the demands of the particular material. Having failed to demonstrate to moviegoers that he was more than just the answer to the question “What would Michael Bay be like sans the gravitas?” with his previous effort, the drab melodrama “We Are Marshall,” he seems hell-bent on proving here that he is perfectly capable of creating dark and brooding works a million miles removed from the candy-coated fantasies of the “Charlie’s Angels” films or “The O.C.” Alas, there really isn’t much of a difference between this film and his earlier works. He has no interest in his characters other than as things to play around with in the editing room--even the non-lethal machinery on display here show more personality than any of the actors--even such normally reliable players as Christian Bale and Bryce Dallas Howard (whose role as John Connor’s wife is almost insultingly thin) are unable to pass themselves off as anything other than a pair of talented actors stuck in a project that offers them no benefits other than the obvious financial ones. He has no real sense of the requirements of narrative storytelling and while the big action sequences are okay on a technical level, there is no real tension or excitement to be had in any of them. The one major difference between this film and his previous works is that “Terminator Salvation,” unlike his earlier efforts, is a relentlessly grim slog with nary a moment of humor or lightness and even that is kind of a stupid idea because the previous “Terminator” movies always found time to lighten things up with bit of humor amidst the carnage. By comparison, McG treats this film with an absurd sense of solemnity that seems completely at odds with a story that is, when you sit right down and think about it, absolutely absurd, and as a result, it comes across as even more ridiculous than usual.

That said, the real problem with “Terminator Salvation,” when all is said and done, is that it never for a single moment makes a convincing argument for its own existence. This is a story that came to an entirely satisfying conclusion nearly 18 years ago and there is nothing in this loud, dumb, brutish, ugly and mechanical mess that suggests otherwise. Lacking all the things that made the “Terminator” films so notable--stunning action, dark humor, compelling characters and, oh yeah, Terminators--this is a heartless bit of mayhem that feels as if it was produced by Skynet itself rather than by actual human beings. In the current issue of “Entertainment Weekly,” McG talks about a meeting that he had with James Cameron in order to receive his blessing before embarking on this project--while he didn’t get that blessing, according to McG, “He did tell me ‘I know how you feel. When I directed “Aliens,” I was following “Alien” and the mighty Ridley Scott, and people thoughts ‘Who is this James Cameron? All he’s made is “Piranha 2?,” the implication being that his earlier crap was his “Piranha 2” and that this would be his “Aliens.” Well, McG, I’ve got news for you--not only is “Terminator Salvation” no “Terminator” or “Aliens,” it isn’t even “Piranha 2.”

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18111&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/21/09 13:59:49
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell crap moving on 1 stars
10/04/14 chuck SHOULD BE NO STARS-----WTF IS THIS CRAP 1 stars
4/16/14 Charles Tatum Not terrible, but you didn't see it, so we suffer ANOTHER reboot 4 stars
1/07/14 bored mom Drop the repeated one-liners, and add more T-600s. The big robot HK mech was funny, though. 3 stars
10/01/13 Jeff Wilder Bleh 2 stars
1/18/12 Marc DC Makes T3 look like oscar material. Enough said. 2 stars
11/27/11 AEB Nothing new but exciting and worth the ticket price. 3 stars
8/08/11 Chris F Crap without Arnie 1 stars
6/27/11 DR Much better than many would have you believe. However, some plot points fall short. 4 stars
2/20/11 Richard79 Put it in the boxset with AvP and Live Free or Dire Hard. 1 stars
9/30/10 Aaron Smith Good to see post-JD, and cool new machines, but characters underdeveloped. 4 stars
8/24/10 Total Crap Better than T3 at least, but they re-use and recycle so many damn scenes from the first 2. 3 stars
5/01/10 mr.mike Better than I expected - plus Bale's not in it that much 4 stars
4/30/10 Jerome Cook wow that looked just like young Arnold! thats incredible and nobody even mentioned it!!!!!! 3 stars
1/06/10 KingNeutron Nice to see Ironside, but definitely could have been done better. Meh. 3 stars
12/27/09 randy todger dumbed down shite.McG stick to producing supernatural on tv.you are shit 2 stars
11/14/09 Meep Started out well enough but quickly degenerated into franchise disrespecting crap, T3>T4 2 stars
7/28/09 damalc should've stuck to my guns when i swore off Terminator movies after T3 2 stars
7/14/09 Linda The Image of the Terminator's have no effect on me like the first one, not scary or thirill 3 stars
7/03/09 roger federer This is a film that should have never been made 1 stars
6/17/09 JR Wow. What a piece of garbage. 1 stars
6/10/09 Koitus I thought it was okay - if you're a fan of the first 3. "R" rating probably wld hv bn btr. 3 stars
6/09/09 kerry i personally loved it - Bale's voice got on my nerves, but Yelchin was awesome as usual!!!! 5 stars
6/09/09 Kitana37 Remarkably decent...much better than I thought it was gonna be 4 stars
6/09/09 Abhishek Chakraborty Enjoyed it. Explosions with a purpose. makes more sense than Star trek 5 stars
6/06/09 Vince Best movie so far this year 4 stars
6/05/09 sumixam Loved it 5 stars
6/05/09 gc Plot tied in the other movies perfectly, good fx too 4 stars
6/04/09 owen fantastic movie well done mcg loved it 5 stars
6/01/09 K. Sear A serious improvement over part 3. 4 stars
5/30/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Blair Witch and Cloverfield meet the T-600. The future will be very, very loud. 1 stars
5/29/09 D McG is an amateurish hack and this movie falls in line with the rest of his hackwork 1 stars
5/29/09 daisysalter Sam Worthington carries the film, which is not great, but a good summer action film. 4 stars
5/27/09 Kyle Reese Knew we'd be in trouble when it was announced it would rate PG-13 2 stars
5/26/09 Ole Man Bourbon Reminded me of Uve Boll a little bit 1 stars
5/25/09 Lemoine Soundly kicked Wolverine & Star Trek's rear. 5 stars
5/25/09 travis Very disappointing, hell, the series on FOX was far more impressive 2 stars
5/25/09 jon robinson i think the movie just was hollow. it felt like they made this one JUST to make another 3 stars
5/25/09 Brandon Allin Visually spectacular, but lacking elsewhere. 3 stars
5/24/09 g. not terrible but could have been better 3 stars
5/24/09 Matt pretty great, not flawless, but well done. 4 stars
5/24/09 Jeff Teixeira Totally inconsistent with the Terminator series. 1 stars
5/24/09 Darkstar Much better than T3, good action, still think McG sucks donkey balls 4 stars
5/24/09 Greg No way. Terrible. I'm still upset. Not worth the wait (And I even liked T3!) 1 stars
5/22/09 Dan Johnson Good movie 5 stars
5/21/09 luke Ummm.....I thought it was good and not derserving more than 1 star, dont shoot me 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-May-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Dec-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  21-May-2009
  DVD: 01-Dec-2009



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