Synopsis: John Connor (Christian Bale) shoots up robots with the help of a plucky half-robot half-human named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), and attempts to rescue his father Kyle Reese (the Russian guy from Star Trek) from the clutches of Skynet (which seems to be located in Marin County, oddly enough) so that he can later send him to the 1980s, where Reese will knock up Connor’s mother and die heroically fighting the Governator.
Recommended for: People who really want to know what scene they were filming when Christian Bale infamously flipped out on the camera director. Hint: it’s one of the scenes with Bale, and there’s lighting. Also for people who are really curious about CGI Arnold. Rest assured, they will not be disappointed. He is easily the most realistic CGI human I’ve ever seen, and the most realistic CGI product in the entire movie. Which says a lot about the director’s priorities, especially when the CGI human being who appears for about 2 minutes is more realistic than the robots that take up 99.9% of the CGI screen time. Then again, Anthony Hopkins was onscreen for about fifteen minutes in Silence of the Lambs and got an Academy Award for his performance, so I guess screen time isn’t everything? So I guess I can recommend this film for fans of short but impressive performances.
Review: If you are a fan of the “Oh my god, an invincible robot is determined to kill us so we have to run away!” mood of the first three films, I would suggest that you settle down in your seat, take a nap for the first hour and a half or so, then wake up just in time for CGI Arnold to reveal himself in all his glory to show Christian Bale what a real man looks like. Things really get interesting (and a bit medically inaccurate) after that point, and it really starts to feel like a Terminator film. But up till then, it’s not really a Terminator film.
Instead, the story takes place in 2018, where Judgment Day (where Skynet nukes everybody) has already happened, and the machines are trying to wipe out the rest of humanity. The story focuses on two characters, John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance and walking time paradox, and Marcus Wright, a “mysterious” figure who also happened to be on death row in 2003. Now, I say “mysterious” with quotation marks since it should be pretty obvious to anyone who has seen the trailer and is marginally interested in the movie that Marcus is some sort of terminator. Oh, spoiler alert for the clueless. The film tries to drop some not-so-subtle clues that Marcus is not human, but if they really wanted to make it some shocking plot twist, they really shouldn’t have revealed everything in the first 30 seconds of the trailer. Everyone knows that he’s a terminator even before they step into the movie theater.
This is where things start to go wrong for the filmmakers. There is simply no suspense in the movie, considering that suspense usually comes from the fear that the main character may have a chance of getting injured or killed prematurely, but when the main character is an indestructible robot, it’s really hard to care when someone’s shooting anything at him. You could be a little worried for John Connor since he’s actually human, but he doesn’t get shot at quite as often. So it’s not really that exciting.
For those attracted by the gigantic robots and explosions promised by the trailer, you may be disappointed. I know I was. The giant robots didn’t seem to be utilized very much, and they weren’t very realistic. Now, expecting detail from CGI robots might seem ridiculous, but like I said, they did an amazing job recreating the Governator, so you’d expect they could put at least half the effort into the rest of the movie. Maybe not. The explosions were few and far apart. It seems as if they showed every single explosion in the trailer, then decided that people didn’t need more explosions and would appreciate the suspense in the plot. Oh wait, what did I say about suspense?
All in all, Terminator Salvation is a movie that I would watch mindlessly, because if I start thinking about what actually goes on in the movie, my head hurts. So if you have the time, go to the movie theater, get some popcorn and sit back and relax. If you don’t, well, you’re not missing much. Maybe CGI Arnold. But 2 minutes of Arnold isn’t really enough to redeem this movie. Not really.
Alternative movies if you are looking for:
Handicam action scenes: If you’re REALLY into that shaky goodness that the Bourne trilogy popularized, watch those instead. Although the director McG (what a funny name) does a marvelous job of making things as disorienting as possible, he tries to do this when it is completely unnecessary, like when Christian Bale is shooting robots. I paid money to see Christian Bale shoot robots, not to assume that he’s shooting robots because the screen is shaking so much that I can’t tell what’s going on. Plus, it’s always awesome to see Matt Damon.
Handicam action: If you’re the kind of person who likes his/her movies shaken and not filmed on those dollies or whatever they’re called, try the indie music hit Once. It doesn’t have the nauseating shakiness of Cloverfield or the gigantic monster that made me swear I’d never live in New York City, plus you really can’t go wrong with Irish singer-songwriters. I mean, the guy who plays the Irish singer-songwriter is actually an Irish singer-songwriter! Did I mention it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song?
Robots and explosions: Seriously? Transformers 2 is coming out in a couple weeks! I think there were some robots and explosions, but I couldn’t tell cause Megan Fox was straddling a motorcycle and bending over car hoods and doing hot stuff like that. What was that movie about again? If you can’t wait that long, go rent Transformers or something.
A dystopian future with Christian Bale: As tempting as it is to suggest Empire of the Sun, the obvious choice is Equilibrium. I mean, Terminator Salvation does a great job with the whole post-apocalyptic world and I think Christian Bale is in it, but Equilibrium has got the whole 1984-esque future down perfectly. Also, Christian Bale shoots a lot of things. And he uses a sword! Guns and swords! What else could you want?
A romantic comedy: You’re looking for a romantic comedy in the review for Terminator Salvation? Well, you’re just in luck! He’s Just Not That Into You is possibly the next classic romantic comedy, so make sure to watch through it all the way! And try to feel like you are in the characters’ shoes, cause that’s what you do while watching romantic comedies, right?