Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre June 3, 2009
Directed by McG
If there’s anything this movie terminated, it would be my eardrums. Terminator: Salvation is a noisy, ear-splitting science-fiction actioner that’s actually good enough had it not been a Terminator movie.
Set in the year 2018 at the height of the human war versus Skynet’s machines, the meat of Salvation is essentially how John Connor (Christian Bale) emerges as the Resistance’s leader and how Kyle Reese (played by Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin), father of John Connor, is found by the Resistance. The Resistance has developed a weapon to neutralize the machines and begins to prepare an assault on Skynet’s headquarters.
Formerly a death-row criminal who donated his body for Cyberdyne System’s research, Marcus Wright (played by newcomer Sam Worthington) emerges from the ruins of a Skynet base and is saved from a Terminator robot by Kyle. The two develop a friendship, but Kyle gets captured and is brought to the Skynet headquarters along with many other human prisoners.
When Marcus is caught by the Resistance, John discovers that Kyle is a prisoner in Skynet and that Marcus is not human (that’s in the trailers, in case you accuse me of spoiling.) John disobeys central command and uses Marcus to infiltrate machine headquarters in order to save Kyle and the rest of the human prisoners, but surprises await John soon after he enters Skynet’s main base.
Fourth in the Terminator series, Salvation is also the least “Terminaty” of the Terminators, in the sense that it is more a sci-fi war movie than a chase movie which is what the first three movies were.
The first Terminator movie featured the T-800 model (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent back in time by Skynet to kill John Connor’s mother Sarah (played by Linda Hamilton). Kyle Reese is sent back in time by the Resistance to protect her. In T2: Judgment Day, the T-1000 model (played by Robert Patrick) was sent back to kill the young John Connor (played by Edward Furlong), but John Connor of the future sends a reprogrammed T-800 (Schwarzenegger) to protect the young John Connor. In T3: Rise of the Machines, Skynet sends an advanced model, the T-X (Kristanna Loken) to destroy all the leaders of the Resistance, just before Judgment Day happens. In T4, there’s no time travel involved, and it’s John Connor and the humans versus all of Skynet. Supposedly, T5, the next installment of the series, will explain how Kyle Reese goes back in time to meet Sarah.
As a war movie, Salvation has enough set pieces to make it a good enough action movie. One shot, Bale in a helicopter early in the movie, impressed me. But there’s no emotional resonance, except John’s final radio broadcast just before the assault on Skynet. Kudos to Bale, he gets that scene’s gravitas. References to previous Terminator movies abound, especially the final action piece.
The rest of the movie, Bale is as robotic as his enemies as do the rest of the cast – but the problem is in the writing. Marcus gets the better character arch than John’s, and Worthington plays the part so well, the Australian steals the attention away from Bale. Worthington is a new star in the making. For a series that puts so much focus on the character that is supposed to save humankind, Salvation turns around and focuses on another machine to save the savior.
No wonder Bale was very pissed on the set last February.