“I’ll be back.” Who knew that after 25 years the Terminator franchise would still be trying to live up to those famous words. Terminator Salvation, the fourth of the franchise, explores the life of John Connor post Judgment Day. It’s more of a futuristic war movie then any other Terminator movie to come before, and unfortunately it suffers a bit for it.
Set in 2018, the last desperate remnants of humanity are waging an insurrection against Skynet, the self-aware computer defense system that destroyed most of Earth’s population in 2011, in what’s been dubbed Judgment Day. John Connor, played by Christian Bale, is the leader of a resistance cell who’s been tasked with testing a new weapon that could potentially end the war once and for all, and save humanity from the machines.
Thrown into the mix is a former Death Row inmate, and cadaver volunteer to Cyberdyne, Marcus Wright. Played by Australian actor Sam Worthington, Marcus awakens in 2018 and finds himself in the company of a teenaged Kyle Reese, played by Anton Yelchin. In case you forgot, it’s Kyle Reese who was sent back to protect Sarah Conner, and in turn become the father of John Connor. Also featured is Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams, a fighter pilot and resistance fighter. We also meet Connor’s pregnant wife, Kate, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Unfortunately, Michael Ironside’s role as the leader of the resistance was overshadowed by the B-movie dialogue he was spouting. Rounding out the main cast is hip hop/rapper turned actor Common, as Connor’s sidekick Barnes.
The acting was a mixed bag, Bale did a decent job as the gruff John Connor but at times he came across too brooding. Yelchin and Wright put in the best performances of the bunch, they conveyed the most emotion and made you actually feel and care about their characters. One minor quip about Worthington though was his accent, far too often you could hear his Australian come out over his fake American accent. Easily the worst of the bunch was Common. He should just stick to his hop hop career and stay out of movies, I have yet to see him act well in any role.
The action scenes in Terminator Salvation are without a doubt some of the best you’ll ever see. The chase scene involving the terminator motorcycles, a flying hunter-killer drone and a tow truck is outstanding. Also notable was the full out brawl at the end between Connor, Wright and the T-800. Recognition must be given to the CGI team for all their hard work in putting out an excellent look to the Terminator universe.
Speaking of the look, director McG, went the route of heavily desaturating the color, to give it a hopeless post-apocalyptic aesthetic. Bright colors rarely made appearances, instead we’re inundated with various shades of brown, black and gray. They really tried to stress how bleak the world was through the lens, rather then the story.
Perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most were the numerous easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film by McG. From the music used in the original Terminator to the first words uttered by Kyle Reese, “Come with me if you want to live.” We’re also treated to Linda Hamilton’s vocal work for the scenes where Connor listens to the taped journals she recorded for him. Listen carefully and you’ll also hear the Guns ‘N Roses song “You Could Be Mine”, from Terminator 2. There’s one more easter egg though, and it’s one that will surprise many fans. Keep an eye out for it and you’ll get a bit nostalgic.
Overall, Terminator Salvation isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a very good one. It doesn’t capture the humanity of the characters. It misses the wit that James Cameron was able to inject into the first two films. You’ll be occupied the entire time, but you’ll find yourself feeling unfulfilled when you leave. Still it’s better then the wreck known as Terminator 3.