Like many kids that grew up in the go-go nineties I was a big Terminator fan, well more specifically Terminator 2. Recently, I watched the first three films again to prep for Terminator Salvation. In my reevaluation of the series, I’ve come to respect the first one even more (though the effects are dated), I still love the second and I find the third one to be stupid but a good popcorn flick. How does this one rank? Probably similar to how I felt about T3 but T3 had one thing this didn’t and that’s Arnold.
Set in 2018 (not too far off), we follow a grizzled John Connor (Christian Bale) as part of a resistance fighting against Skynet in a post-apocalyptic war-zone. The Machines are killing and capturing people for experiments and becoming more advanced as John tries to fulfill his prophecy. Meanwhile, a convict named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) put to death years ago, has awoken to discover he is no longer human but a machine. Eventually, these characters join forces to fight Skynet, save a kidnapped Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) aka the good guy that traveled back in the first one and blow up a lot of shit.
Obviously, Terminator Salvation is meant to entertain as an effect’s laden summer blockbuster, which it does on occasion. Digging deeper, I’m sad to say there isn’t much to keep me invested. Then again, what can you expect from a movie that went through seven writers and was directed by a man known only as “McG”? Sounds like it was doomed from the beginning.
It’s tough sitting through a new installment without Arnold, but I did like some of the cast. Sam Worthington was serviceable as the conflicted Marcus and Anton Yelchin is a young talent that’s fun to watch. Christian Bale’s raspy John Connor didn’t have much depth but I’d lay most of that blame on the writing. As for Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Michael Ironside and everyone else, they as well had to deal with playing hollow characters in a hollow movie.
One thing that made me happy was seeing James Cameron’s metallic creations on screen again. They look great with the advances in technology and CGI and some of the new designs are a nice addition. The look of the film has a gritty feel to it and I like the action sequences. The film has been criticized for an overabundance of action scenes but I found it balanced. If anything the weakness of the plot is film’s biggest downfall.
Compared to the original films this doesn’t feel much like a Terminator movie. If you can’t have Arnold than why even bother? He’s what made the films popular and without him or Cameron, it’s not the same. Frankly, I don’t think they should have made a third one. To me Terminator Salvation felt like more of an attempt to capitalize on an established brand than tell a good story. Perhaps I should have listened to the critics but as a fan, I felt like seeing this was my duty. I just hope this is one series that “won’t be back” for another installment. Though I know we’ll get another. Maybe sometime in the distant year of 2018.