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Terminator: Salvation (2009)

R 130 minutes

Directed by McG
Written by John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris

 · Christian Bale
 · Sam Worthington
 · Anton Yelchin
 · Bryce Dallas Howard
 · Common
 · Moon Bloodgod
 · Helena Bonham Carter

Review by Reel American Hero (Mike Keskeys)

 McG (Charlie's Angels, We Are Marshall) gets a bad rap amongst the film community in my opinion.  Does he make high art, no.  But what he does do are entertaining movies and produces a few of my favorite shows (namely Chuck, and Supernatural).     And the moment he was attached to direct the latest film in the Terminator franchise, fans all across the net roared in uproar.  'How dare that hack ruin our beloved franchise!'   And I admit, at first I was skeptical, yeah he can do entertaining, but the Terminator movies usually try to convey more than just cheesy fun.  


My fears were quieted when it was announced that Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) had signed on to play John Connor.  I figured he'd had to have read the script at first, so at the least the script had to be good for him to be interested in such a movie, right?  But then since then, aside from Bale's infamous blowup on set, all there has been was negative press and reviews about the movie, which did nothing but lower my expectations.  But now,  I've seen the movie  and I can assure you, it's not as bad as you've heard.  In fact, it's actually pretty cool.




Terminator: Salvation opens up in the same year we left off, 2003, in a prison cell.  Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington-Rogue) is on death row, about to be executed, when a cancer stricken Cyberdyne scientist played by Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) offers him a chance at redemption through donating his body to science.  

He is executed, and then we flash forward to 15 years later, and we're right in the middle of the war against the machines, long talked about and seen briefly in the first two Terminator movies.  John Connor is not yet the leader of the resistance yet, but a high ranking soldier, who still has to answer to the chain of command, played in part by Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers), who does not believe in the talk of prophecy surrounding Connor as humanity's savior.

  After a battle against the Terminators, John's team is killed in a nuclear explosion, and Marcus awakens in this strange new world.  He soon after meets up with a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin-Star Trek, Alpha Dog) the boy who will later become the man who will be John Connor's father. (Time travel is confusing).   As well as Kyle's partner, a young mute girl  named Star (Jadagrace).  After a thrilling action/chase sequence  with a giant robot called a Harvester, Kyle and Star are captured by Skynet in an effort to kill Kyle before he can grow to go back in time to save Sarah Connor and father John in the first movie.  (Like I said, Time travel is confusing).


 That's the basic set-up for the latest part of the Terminator franchise, which appears to be the start of a new franchise of sorts set in the world of the future war that's long been talked about in the previous movies.  It was really the only place the story could go at the conlusion of three, which showed that despite all the Connor's efforts, Judgment Day can not be stopped, only delayed.  And the future it seems is a lot of fun, to watch at least.

Script writers John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines), have upped their script writing game here, with a movie that is far superior to the last film.  The only real flaw with the script is that some characters are in the movie, but don't really have a lot to do here, like Bryce Dallas Howard's Kate Connor.  Perhaps in a future film her involvement could be more, but here she's only given a few scenes, and not a whole lot to work with.  If you haven't watched the third one recently you might have forgotten that her character was introduced in the last film played by Claire Danes as a younger woman.     But in that I'm getting to the major flaw of the script, for casual film goers, is that it relies heavily on what's come before.  Myself I don't mind continuity in my media, as a matter of fact I love it when stories get all complicated and you have to remember things that happened in previous stories from years ago to fully get things, but I know that continuity can be a big turn off to a lot of people.   There's a lot of nods, both in lines of dialogue, characters and events that refer to previous films, so if you haven't watched any of the other Terminator movies recently you might be a little lost at times.  


There are two other  major flaws to the movie was the inclusion of the mute girl who just happens to have the right prop at the right time for whoever needs it.  There was no arc to her character, no reason for her being mute, she was just there.  They should have named her Exposition rather than Star, she served no purpose and was a distraction throughout the movie.  I would not wish harm upon a child, but when it looked like she was killed early on in the movie I actually cheered.  But alas, she sticks around, ready with whatever anyone might need like a human version of Felix the Cat's bag...or Silent Bob's coat depending on how old you are. 

The other thing that really bugged me about the movie was the relationship between resistance fighter Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgod-tv's Journeyman) and Marcus.  They have just a handful of scenes together, but we're supposed to buy that she loves him.  There's no weight or reason to the relationship at all, it just comes out of nowhere, like lazy screenwriting.  They could have just cut that whole subplot out and it wouldn't have hurt the movie any.  If anything, it would have helped it.

 But on to other things, Christian Bale's John Connor isn't one of his better performances, but he still manages through the material, playing a man struggling with the knowledge he knows of the future, and his past, which are almost the same thing.   He does have a flaw in his work here, in that more than a few times I heard him resorting to almost the growly Batman voice,  which left me thinking wrong movie there, buddy.  But that did leave me thinking, I know they're all about combining things these days....Warner Brothers owns both....hmm..Batman Vs. Terminator?  Something to think about.


 Sam Worthington is primed to be a major action star here in the near future, with roles in Terminator creator James Cameron's latest movie, as well as a remake of Clash of the Titans.  Here he does a great job playing a man out of time, and he proves he can handle some exciting action sequences as well,.  I just hope for future roles he can learn to keep whatever accent he's trying to do the entire movie.  He's an Australian actor playing an American character, and I heard the Aussie in him come out at least twice during the movie. 

Anton Yelchin is on a roll here after his role in the latest Star Trek film.  His Kyle Reese isn't the hardened soldier we meet in the first film, but there are shades of it throughout.  He never comes off as annoying, which very well could have been the case.  Even his throwback lines to the previous movies never feel forced here.  Who knows, this kid could be the next Shia Lebouf. 


Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers) does what he does best here, yell a lot as a person in charge.  Thankfully he's not in the movie too much because a little Ironside in your movie goes a long way.  


 Danny Elfman handles the score duty this time, and he dropped the ball with this jambled mess of a score, he doesn't even use the Terminator theme properly  (the only good thing that Brad Fiedel created for the first movie) and the rest of the score is just this mess of noise and fury that have no real theme, which Elfman is normally good at creating.   No idea what he was trying to do here. 


 Shane Hurlbut (We Are Marshall) creates a believable world with his cinematography, staying away from the dark blues of the previous visions of the future, this world is one shrouded perenially in greys and whites, and it looked spectacular.  











  If there's one thing that McG knows how to do, it's direct a thrilling action sequence, and he does that plenty here.  From the opening battle with an early model Terminator (which curiously looks tougher than the later Terminators of the previous movies, another minor flaw of the film) to the climactic fight scene against one of the first T-800 (read cgi Schwarzenegger) models the man can direct some great action scenes. 






  I honestly had a lot of fun with this movie, is it as good as Terminator 2?  Oh god no...not even close.  But this movie is still loads of fun, and way better than the last one.  My ranking goes from Terminator 2, 4, 1, 3.  It's a little continuity heavy, so  you might need to refresh yourself before seeing this one, but it'll be worth it though.   I'm really excited to see where they go next in this franchise.  

1593 Words Published: 25 May 2009

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