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Overall Rating

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

6 reviews, 46 user ratings

Terminator Salvation
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by brianorndorf

"The very reason James Cameron commands the big bucks"
2 stars

2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” was a frivolous entry in this brutal saga of man vs. machine, but it retained a suitably metallic scent of James Cameron’s original creation, and offered audiences a sucker punch of a doomsday ending, placing a respectable capper on a franchise that never bothered to plan too far ahead. We’re now confronted with “Terminator Salvation” because Hollywood is stuck in the “rebooting” phase of its history, scouring the vaults for once high-profile material it can reshape and resell to a public hungry for familiarity. Not unexpectedly, the Cameron-less “Salvation” is another trembling step backwards for this once persuasive series of time-traveling adventures, crafted by a filmmaker I was hoping could lead the charge and take the franchise in a whole new direction.

The year is 2018, and John Connor (Christian Bale) is an exhausted soldier in the war against Skynet and their army of killing machines. Using tapes from his dead mother (Linda Hamilton, in a vocal cameo) as his guide, Connor attempts to piece together his future, which is tied directly to his past. The clue in play here is Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), John’s father, who’s now a feisty teenager looking to assist the Resistance movement stationed clandestinely across the globe. Freed from captivity is Marcus (Sam Worthington), a ruthless killer from 2003 who has now regained consciousness, unaware that machines have corrupted his body through devious experimentation. Finding his way across the wasteland to Los Angeles, Marcus befriends Kyle, who takes him to the core of the Resistance, finally meeting with John Connor when Kyle is taken by the enemy, marked for termination, thus threatening any hope for the future.

As expected, “Terminator Salvation” is not a simple to film to summarize. By now, the mind-bending John Connor legacy has been pulled apart like taffy left out in the sun, messily reconfigured to meet the standards of the various directors who have suited up for the sci-fi cause. The latest mind to tackle “Terminator” is McG. An unlikely choice, I know, yet McG has made quite an impression over the years with his cherry bomb “Charlie’s Angels” pictures and his detour into Oscar bait with the football drama “We Are Marshall.” We’re not talking a razor-sharp cinematic mind here, but McG has an intricate vision for action set pieces, making him comfy with the demands of the tangled “Terminator” world. However, to put it bluntly: McG botches the whole venture. Where exactly does this picture go wrong? Well, the shining moments of “Salvation” are the sequences that reference the past “Terminator” features. That’s not how a reboot should score heart-stopping highlights.

With his monochromatic, gritty cinematography, McG is gunning to manufacture a forbidding futureworld environment for “Salvation” that reworks previously established visions of Connor’s combat years. What Cameron imagined as a cold, murky war of the night is now a sun-dried barren wasteland of grimy survivors and numerous Terminators stationed out in the unknown to hunt them down. The screenplay by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris is an unsurprisingly dim-witted affair (the men previously teamed on “Catwoman”), downplaying the time-twisting mania of prior films to baste in the post-apocalyptic gloom. The change in atmosphere isn’t appealing and the screenwriting does nothing to inspire, gifting the cast miserable exchanges of Sci-Fi Original dialogue and narrow characterization that intensifies McG’s cluelessness with the property. While I trust the director was eagerly committed to the story, there are sections of “Salvation” that reek of a man who mentally wandered off, trusting a steady diet of fireballs and city-block-sized explosions would cover any his blunders.

Promoted as the rise of John Connor from grunt to rebel leader, “Salvation” is actually more consumed with the story of Marcus, a machine/man hybrid who’s here to supply the brawn and a dollop of crude thematic substance the rest of the picture can’t be bothered with. It’s a complicated role that McG is most intent on exploring, leaving Connor and Bale’s one-note performance of raspy howling absent the gravity to believably plug into established myth, making Bale’s appearance seem more like a stunt-casting cameo. “Salvation” is left to Worthington, and his combination of bland charisma and wobbly accent control renders the character a complete blank; a hero not worth the emotional investment, reduced to screams and grunts to lure a reaction out of the viewer. Marcus is intended to represent the next stage of Terminator violation, yet McG never sells the combustibility of the conflicted man and his psychological processing of dual purpose. It’s a curiously ineffective character, and he’s the linchpin for the whole story.

While I wasn’t thrilled with Worthington’s monotonous reading of Marcus, it’s impossible to lay all the blame on the actor. “Salvation” was clearly trimmed heavily before release, as sloppy stitchwork is perceptible throughout the entire film, felt most directly in the soldier character of Blair (played tepidly by Moon Bloodgood), who nonsensically torches her steadfast allegiances to the Resistance to protect Marcus from justifiable execution after one single day spent together. It’s a subplot that was clearly neutered before release, and it creates a frustrating black hole of logic and motivational buffoonery the rest of the film can’t avoid being sucked into.

I don’t doubt McG’s enthusiasm for the “Terminator” universe. The highlights of this disappointing picture tend to ape previous achievements, be it a recognizable line or two, a specific Guns N’ Roses anthem blasting away from a boombox, or a showdown between Connor and a freshly produced T-800. This lethargy extends to Danny Elfman’s score, which only jolts awake when reminding the audience how terrific Brad Fiedel’s original percussive compositions were. McG loves to pepper in the references and tributes, but he’s aware of invention, focused primarily on the machine army, which moves from Cameron’s handful of killer robots and wobbly airships to a plethora of sleek tanks, glossy motorcycles, and CG-rich metal grunts all poised to slaughter our heroes. Obviously more time was spent on designing “Salvation” than editing “Salvation.”

The “Terminator” world is a place where up is down and left is right. While “Salvation” makes a game attempt to rile up the screwball continuity of this franchise to introduce a new wellspring of adventure for John Connor, the choices made by McG and his crew smother the nuances James Cameron worked diligently to generate. Instead, “Terminator Salvation” is a cold, blunt summer movie misfire, infatuated with mindless explosions like an infant with fecal matter. The last picture featured Arnold Schwarzenegger exclaiming “Talk to the hand!” for goodness sake. Clearly there was room for improvement. Still, I’d take a brief franchise humiliation over this lumbering, joyless detour into unappetizing Hollywood recycling.

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originally posted: 05/23/09 03:38:46
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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 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
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  21-May-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Dec-2009


  DVD: 01-Dec-2009

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