With a bad enough screenplay, anything is possible. Keep in mind this film comes from the minds behind Catwoman, the movie that gave a Razzie to Academy Award winner Halle Berry. Would you believe that this movie is directed by the man responsible for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle? Can they work their magic again? You bet.
From the start, you can feel the bait and switch. We see Marcus (Sam Worthington), a convict on death row who is being propositioned to donate his body to science. When we next see him, he’s a lifeless body in a Skynet controlled facility, discovered by series protagonist John Connor (Christian Bale). Connor, whose existence has focused on a future war against machines, has taken on the role of savior, though he has skeptics. Despite his attempts to stop Judgment Day, the seemingly inevitable event has given him knowledge of the enemy. However, Marcus is something very different. When the time traveling conundrum of the past films is jeopardized, John and Marcus are forced into setting things right.
The world of 2018 is rugged, but unexplored. One of the better sets is a nuclear submarine, which would be a great place for the resistance base of operations. Much of the rest is unclear. Those of you looking for a full movie devoted to those future scenes from the other films, you won’t be satisfied. Not only is there little in the way of war—A-10 Warthogs shoot at Transformers, that’s about it— but the geography and human side of the conflict is totally lost. A short scene in The Terminator in which Kyle Reese navigates a corridor where ragged children and elderly surround a TV only because it is on fire, is far more profound. Terminator Salvation raises no questions on the human condition. Marcus and John are the only characters to develop, and that’s if you allow a few minutes of the opening sequence and previous films to account for a starting point.
Skynet is lacking in motives. It seems the goal is to defeat humans, but holding some captives works into that plan in some manner. To the credit of this film, and more credit to myself for attempting to decipher meaning, I believe that the captured humans are hostages used to discouraged the use of large scale explosives and promote certain empathic responses from the human resistance.
Terminator Salvation presents a story more different from the original’s core than any sequel I can name. Put it this way, a Terminator is all about… killing. Take a guess as to what doesn’t happen in this movie? Suppose if the next season of 24 took place while Jack Bauer was quarantined with swine flu. Would that be compelling to fans of the series? This is reality in today’s PG-13ing of R rated franchises. More offensive is a lack of original ideas. Nearly everything is lifted from the first two Terminator flicks, or the ’07 version of Transformers. I kid you not, if you haven’t seen those then this was not aimed at you. Giant robots, far more advanced than those, which are being “developed”, are on full display. Every other line is a reference. A certain Guns N’ Roses song even surfaces.
When a film is so over handed with a serious tone, where not a joke can be heard, it’s interesting that the decision was made to shotgun the audience with exposition all at once. I’m not simply talking about the old school Bond villain bit, this is so much more and done at a point in time where the propositioned character has full control over the outcome. It’s a shame that what was the intellect’s choice for action, has become the baby food equivalent; devoid of taste and artistry, ready for mass consumption. *½