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.
Terminator: 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.