Review: Terminator: Salvation (T4)

T4 poster

Director: McG (Charlie’s Andgels 1&2, We Are Marshall)
Writers: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Producers: Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek, Jeffrey Silver
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Michael Ironside
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 130


Frankly I’m a little bit surprised at the negativity this film has been generating around the web. I see the justifications for some poor marks here, but quotes like “save yourself from T4” and “worst film of the year” and 1/2 star ratings just seem unwarranted to me. For a summer actioner is it really that bad? Not on your life. No this isn’t a masterpiece that will solidify McG’s name in the directing hall of fame; but as balls-to-the-wall action pictures go, I doubt we’ll find anything better to munch on some popcorn with over the next three months.

Fans expecting some sort of a revealing drama within a deep, humanly emotional allegory will surely be let down; but c’mon, this is a Terminator flick. Have any of the films thus far really had anything all that profound to say? I think not. Even James Cameron’s ever so popular Terminator 2 wasn’t really much more than a big budget, effects bonanza – but everyone loved it. So why should we expect part 4 to be any different? This is simply just another part of the skynet story. This is the part I always wanted to see more of when I was a kid and saw Sarah Connor’s premonitions and predictions on screen. So yeah, I enjoyed it. That isn’t to say I didn’t have to overlook a few things to find that enjoyment however.


Christian Bale in Terminator: SalvationTerminator: Salvation takes place 9 years from now. The war between machine and man is in full on rage mode and it’s clear the machines are winning. The pockets of resistance spanning the globe are steadfast however and their loyalty to one man is unwavering: John Connor. As leader and prophet of the resistance, it is of utmost importance for John to find his father (who is still but a teenager) so that he can be sent back in time to protect Sarah and sire a son, John: the future of mankind’s hope.

Throwing a monkey in the wrench is a human/cyborg hybrid from the past who is unwittingly “awoken” during a battle and although seems to be fighting for good, it seems unlikely that he can be trusted. Together, hybrid and man must infiltrate skynet, destroy the machines and save John’s father, thereby saving all of humanity.

By all accounts I should’ve hated this movie. It takes everything I dread in a blockbuster type film and mashes it all into one unabashed paroxysm. Machine fights bigger machine, crappy side characters with no point, obligatory dialogue, lame character decision making and ultimately not much I haven’t seen before. But. When you take all of these things I don’t normally particularly care for but do them well and couple it with pretty low expectations going in, it’s a giant Andrew trap that I somehow managed to fall right into but enjoyed eating all of the cheese even with my leg firmly ensnared.

The visuals and action sequences are unquestionably the finest for what this film has to offer. Explosions are more than just neat looking; they are doomy, dark and menacing. We know the sky is constantly tinted with a sooty orange hue not from a beautiful sunset, but from nuclear holocaust. Robots are not constantly moving at near light speed so that we can’t see them or understand what they’re doing (*cough* Michael Bay *cough*). They are looming and lumbering and constantly have tricks up their titanium sleeves. Weaponry is sheer bad-assery and the set design is never stagy or phony. So if nothing else, the film succeeds simply on this level. Everything looks amazing. Yeah, guess that DP maybe isn’t so unprofessional after all (heh, had to get that in there).

Beyond that, yes we have some pretty big problems when it comes to acting and screen writing. Some of the most unbelievably corny shit comes out of these actors’ mouths it was difficult not to laugh a little bit. Especially considering that most of the time it’s meant to be something completely serious – maybe even ponderous. At the same time, tongue is firmly planted in cheek on several occasions with winks at the audience and nods to the original films. So while maybe something profound is trying to be said at times that just comes out as laughable, it’s easy to overlook when other times it’s played for purposeful laughs.

And hey, thank God for Michael Ironside (and Moon Bloodgood aka hot chicks), because otherwise I admit that this film would be tough to stomach what with all of the plastic, failed attempts at melodramatic acting here. Even big name actors that are supposed to be of the highest caliber are stagnant and in many cases simply irrelevant. Yeah they do their best with what they’re given, but even Christian Bale is barely able to sell me on the importance of his character. And everyone else is pretty much just there to shoot guns or get shot at themselves.

But still, despite the obvious problems – so obvious in fact that they almost become part of the fun – Terminator: Salvation is a whopper of a popcorn movie that finally gives us a look at what the future looks like. I do wish there was a little bit more exploration into the “what-ifs” of the grandfather paradox, but I ended up getting too caught up with the action and A.I. gadgetry to really care. If it’s high octane action with great visuals and sound design you want, you’re probably not going to find much better this summer.

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32 Comments on "Review: Terminator: Salvation (T4)"

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Magnetic Cash Giftin
Guest

Looking forward to it. The series may hurt in Arnold's absence but Sale should be able to carry it. His intensity fits John Connor perfectly.

Kurt
Guest

All hail the Ironside.

Instead of a Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash movie, I'd like to see a Campbell vs. Walken vs. Ironside movie. I'd be gold, I tell you, GOLD.

Matt Gamble
Guest

The D-bag chairs will not fail me. Though I've already told James that if they suck I'm going to punch him in the gut until he throws up so we can get our money back.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

"a giant Andrew trap"

I love that. 🙂 That's how I am with films set in Paris. Doesn't matter how crappy they are, I still love them.

Thanks for the reassurance about Terminator – I think I'll try to catch it this weekend, especially since it's a long weekend. Maybe I could see more than one movie! Shocking, I know.

Chris Ronk
Guest

I've seen a lot of mixed reviews. I'm still going to go see it. I'm so glad they decided to make this movie more serious. I could never understand the desire to "lighten up" these types of movies.

I say devastate me.

Marina
Guest

And our love affair continues. I liked it too. Laughed a lot, shook my head a lot, laughed some more. Ironside greatness. YES.

Moon Bloodgood = hubby's new crush. Sam Worthington looked great but had very little acting to do (I expect we'll be seeing *much* more of this guy – he has talent, just not so much on display here), Bale needs to lose the raspy voice thing – it's starting to wear thin on my nerves – but can we talk about Anton Yelchin for a sec? This kid is going places. He was easily the best actor in the movie; I'd love to see more of him in new installments into the franchise.

And let me just say, time travel still fucking sucks. Threw the entire story line into a bloody mess.

Andy
Guest

They should get JJ Abrams to direct the next Terminator film. I didn't think Ironside was that great. His character didn't do much and they could've gotten any schmo to do what he did. And I definitely agree that someone needs to get Bale a Ricola for that voice. I thought it was INSANE how much Yelchin reminded me of Kyle Reese, from the way he looked and the way he sounded. Overall though, this movie didn't do anything more than the 'Star Trek' flick for me. I'd say two stars and call it a day.

Rusty James
Guest

The negative reception to this film has been ridiculous and out of all proportion. It probably has the best action sequence we'll see this year. I thought Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin and the little girl worked very well together. Yet, if you look at RT or MC you'd think every scene is an unmitigated disaster.

If Mike Bay makes a film anywhere near this good then he wins the most improved award.

Matt Gamble
Guest

This is a pretty easy film to nit pick to death. The acting is almost universally terrible, the makeup is embarrassingly bad, and the plot is a disaster. But damn if the action sequences aren't stellar and easy to get lost in.

$5 Kurt shits all over it.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Like watching the film has ever prevented Kurt from offering up his opinion.

The $5 will be mine. Mark my words.

Goon
Guest

"This movie is starting to make a little bit of a comeback. Sort of an anti-backlash if you will. It’s gone from 22% to 34% at Rotten Tomatoes."

Man, I already thought you put way too much stock in RT reviews, but wow 🙂

entertainmenttodayan
Guest

I totally agree with you as I also gave this film 3.5 out of 5. Yes its flawed (the script need a rewrite or two) but its still pretty good. The action set pieces are awesome and I got into the Worthington character. Bale is not the John Conner I would have gone with but he's OK and the cameo towards the end was great. I was grinning from ear to ear at that moment. Movies can be flawed but still good. This is an example of that.

chuck

Jonathan
Admin

3.5/5 sounds about right.

Positives

Sam Worthington – thought his character was a great addition to the franchise and he definitely was far more interesting on screen than Bale. Can't wait to see him in Avatar.

The thrilling action scenes where I actually could see what was going on. I really liked the camera work, especially when it was John Conner on the ground running, or the first helicopter crash. Excellent and, I thought I'd never say this, but I commend McG. Excellent job there.

The grittiness of the post-apocalyptic world.

Yelchin – love this kid.

Anything, really, is a step up from T3.

Negatives

"What makes us human?" – Yeah, we got it, be a little more subtle about it a la Blade Runner. No unnecessary voiceover needed.

The very end in general. Eh.

Would have liked a little more character here… almost all of the characters, save Marcus Wright, were completely two-dimensional. Why is John Connor written so uninteresting?

Many of the character interactions.

Marina Antunes
Admin

Can we agree now that the action here is more interesting and more fun to watch than anything Transformers 2 will offer up? I'm not holding my breath for the second instalment to be any better than the first (which even hubby doesn't want to rewatch though he bought the DVD and loved the movie initially) and even the trailer hints at the headache.

Matt Gamble
Guest

You're welcome!

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Rusty James
Guest

I'm surprised by Terminators low box office. It's a flop. Weird.

Jonathan
Admin

I assumed it would pull in a cool $70 million over the weekend. Then again, T3 only opened with $44 million and both of these had a budget of $200 million.

Marina Antunes
Admin

Matt – the fact that the two trailers can blend in so seamlessly is a bit sad. Still, I'd rather see T4 again than Transformers 2. Sadly, hubby has different plans.

Goon
Guest

I'm not surprised. This was not seen enough as a 'reboot' so the dissatisfaction with T3 and the general publics love for the first Night at the Museum killed it. So much of box office is based on trust of what came before.

This is why I dont think Transformers 2 will open as big as the first one. There's enough people like me out there who just dont trust it.

entertainmenttodayan
Guest

As you can see in my above post I liked Terminator Salvation 3.5 out of 5.(review on my site) Im not surprised it underperformed. Unlike the first three films which were primarily chase movies that took place in the present day, Salvation takes place in 2018 when the world has been blown up and everything is rumbble with no sunlight to be found. This is much bleaker. Many Women had no interest in seeing this story this time around and some fans of the Arnold days didn't care anymore.

chuck

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

It's still predominantly a chase film though. Caught it tonite. It's got no passion or soul in the story (any and all emotional beats were flatter than an X-axis, but the technical skill that went into making this one was pretty top shelf. Particularly the models and most of the sets.

I don't know if too many 'dark sci-fi' movies have been made at this point but this story simply couldn't find anything original to do. Long takes from Children of Men, Harvesters from War of the Worlds (Spielberg's) machine nasties from Screamers or Minority Report, a shit tone of Verhoeven Cribs (including the Ironside casting which was largely wasted here). Feral kid from Mad Max. Heck If I'm not mistaken they were cribbing from the Resident Evil franchise (which should be a stoning offense) And holy crap the ending 'spark factory' was clearly out of the Cameron (Terminator, Aliens, T2) playbook. I was more or less with the movie until the last 20 minutes which sucked (despite a fun digital walk-on from a well known fellow) the life out of the picture. The killing of the big-boss terminator villain felt more like a video game than even the 3rd entry into the series.

The Moon Bloodgold or whatever her name is character felt lazy, and Bryce Howard was painfully useless other than a symbol that people still have children in the future.

I wish the kept Connor out of the film and simply focused on Kyle Reese who was pretty good, although he had a penchant for saying his name dramatically ever 5 minutes he was on screen, which was awkward and wierd. Was there not a dialogue editor for this. COuldn't they have hired David Mamet or Shane Black or even Jonathon Nolan to punch up the people speak which felt more robotic than normal. Like Star Wars Prequel robotic.

Also, much like the new Trek film, everything plot wise just sort of happened quickly and awkwardly screenplay. No decisions or actions seemed organic, rather they were dictated (and telegraphed badly) by the screenplay, which seems to be a recently dire illness in the blockbuster world, one that is getting worse….

I guess the $200 Million was clearly up on screen, but not an ounce of it went into the screenplay.

kurt
Guest

Ironically my Jonathan Nolan comments may actually be true, and responsible for the 'weaker elements of the film, namely anything to do with John Connor himself, this from CHUD:

"You may remember in late 2007 when the rumor that Bale was signing on to Terminator 4 surfaced there were two competing reports: while Aint It Cool had Bale tipped to play Connor, we had him tipped to play a Terminator. As you can see both are correct; for a little while people involved in the film were assuming that Bale was going to let go of the Connor idea and move over to the Marcus role, but he had something else up his sleeve: massive rewrites to beef up the John Connor role.

Watching Terminator Salvation as it exists in theaters it's easy to see that this was a bad idea. The script that ended up getting shot never quite finds anything for John Connor to do. If you were to remove Connor from the film, relegating him once again to radio voice over, almost none of the film's plot would be changed. It's likely that the new Connor scenes were the work of Jonathan Nolan, who did do a lot of writing on the film, but who was denied credit by the WGA. The reason would be that all of the work Nolan did was cosmetic – adding Connor scenes that had no bearing on the film's structure or plot."

need coffee
Guest

after Terminator Salvation, i count a total of three choices in the Christian Bale voice arsenal: his normal voice (with a lisp), Broadway singer (Newsies) and hoarse tough guy (Batman and Terminator)

McG Junior
Guest

Salvation is boring and worst of all Terminator movies. It breaks the original spirit and style of Terminator. Shit.

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