Terminator Salvation (2009)






THE SCOOP

Director:  McG
Cast:  
Christian BaleSam WorthingtonMoon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard

Plot:  After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, a group of survivors led by John Connor struggles to keep the machines from finishing the job.

Genre:
  Action / Sci-Fi 
Awards:  -
Runtime:
  115min
Rating:  NC16 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.


IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
What could be worse than Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)?  A sequel to it!  Terminator Salvation should be renamed as ‘Terminator Damnation’.  It is a stain in the popular franchise that started more than two decades ago, created by a filmmaking visionary called James Cameron.

Cameron’s original sci-fi concept is superbly handled in the first two instalments, which are masterpieces when viewed either individually or collectively.  They represent a milestone in sci-fi filmmaking and are, without question, modern classics.

Terminator Salvation does more harm to its franchise than what Jean-Pierre Jeunet did for the Alien series with Alien Resurrection (1997).  At least Jeunet’s film was still visually unique.  Directed by McG, Salvation caters to the MTV generation of fans who grew up expecting their films to be high on octane with loads of CGI and look cool, whatever.

It does not cater to die-hard fans who demand more than superficial entertainment.  For most summer blockbusters, action is first, story is last. But was The Terminator (1984) or Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) like that?  No.  Cameron told his story through action.  He makes the action integral but secondary to storytelling. 

In McG’s film, action constitutes more than four-fifths of the runtime.  And more than four-fifths of the action sequences are messy, ill-paced, and pretentious.  Blame this on McG’s inability to film action proper.  Couple this with a screenplay that has gone through extensive rewrites by different writers each time and the result is crystal clear.  A potentially great post-apocalyptic story turns into a nightmare of the wrong proportions.

Too many ideas mean that characterization is compromised.  Despite adequate performances by Christian Bale (John Connor) and Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright), their characters remain paper-thin portrayals.  It is the first time in a Terminator movie that whether Connor lives or dies becomes immaterial because McG does not make us care for his characters.

If there is any consolation, Worthington’s display shows immense promise and is a future star to look out for.  Anton Yelchin does not nail the important character of Kyle Reeves but it is safe to say that he does not nail himself in the foot.

McG’s attempts to bring back nostalgia by adopting some of Cameron’s past influences are at best unintentionally humorous.  “I’ll be back”, “Come with me if you want to live” make awkwardly funny verbal cameos amongst others.  But the mother of all cameos is the digital reconstruction of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face, reprising the role as the T-800 late in the film.

Now that is the first time in Terminator Salvation which we feel there is a real villain and someone to identify with.  And this makes for quite a tense finale after spending the last ninety minutes wondering if McG is directing Transformers (2007) or War of the Worlds (2005).

For true Terminator fans, whatever McG does after this debacle, be it another sequel or (do not gasp!) a remake, we know that in our telepathic minds, the series will and forever shall live and die with James Cameron.

GRADE: F (4.5/10 or 2 stars)





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