Review: Terminator Salvation (2009)

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m on 11/06/09.

Terminator Salvation

The fourth instalment of the Terminator franchise sets us directly in the post Judgment Day world of tomorrow (2018 to be exact), where John Connor (Christian Bale) is forging on as the destined leader of  the human resistance against Skynet’s robotic army of Terminators. The appearance of the mysterious Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) seemingly alters the future in which Connor was lead to believe, an uncertain outlook which leads both Connor and Wright into the heart of Skynet to save a vulnerable Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and uncover Skynet’s secrets to take them down permanently.

Off the bat, let it be known that I am a massive fan of this franchise. Hell, I even think Terminator 3 had some strong points (some). With that being said, I found the above synopsis incredibly hard to write. Why? Well, there isn’t that much of a story to write about. Don’t think I’m saying that as a bad thing though. On the contrary, I walked into the theatre to see pretty much one thing, robots getting blown the shit up.

I got my wish. Although the ‘family friendly’ rating severely limits the amount of violence shown, especially against humans, an ‘M’ rating apparently allows to let rip on cybernetic humanoids to no end. So I guess ratings are based on violent behaviour against living creatures and not kick ass robots.

In many ways, this movie could not possibly fail. How the hell can you fail an epic war of man versus machine? There is a rule of cool that renders that impossible. With that being said, all we have with this movie is one action packed scene jumping to another with minimal cohesion. The sets pieces are amazing, powerfully gritty and yet frustratingly stupid when you think about it. These Terminators, these ‘killing machines’, sure do have a hard time doing the one thing that they are programmed to do. It almost seems that whenever they have a chance to actually terminate, they will instead play with their food, throw it around a bit, and basically stall until our indestructible heroes can find a way through.

For the first time in memory, Christian Bale seems to be half-assing this one, with this version of John Connor, although thouroughly intense, painfully one-dimensional and overshadowed (two times running now, thank you Heath Ledger) by Worthington’s mysterious Wright (slipping accent aside) and an amazing performance by Yelchin, who channels Michael Biehn’s Reese to the last mannerism.  The rest of the cast is decent if forgettable, with Bloodgood’s Blair Williams getting the most, dubious though it may be, character development, and a role for personal favourite Michael Ironside.

Fans of the franchise, die-hard or casual, are sure to pick up on the many throwbacks to the previous films, from catchphrases, to full lines of dialogue, to John Connor receiving his facial scars that we have seen in the previous incarnations’ flashbacks. As you would expect the sound is pumping, with shrapnel flying all round through the adequately plotted pacing and extraordinary action sequences.  The one place where this movie fails on a tremendous scale for me was the cheesy and lame (yes, simultaneously) epilogue, which features a baffling and unnecessary sacrifice on behalf of one of our major characters.

As far as summer blockbusters are concerned, this could be a lot worse. There’s enough excitement on show for the average punter as well as enough references to the previous films for fans to sink their Uzi’s into. Only an insane person would watch this expecting anything more than just a dumb, loud ride which ditches the story of this war to actually just show it. It’s not so much of ruining the franchise, as I have read, but more a continuation of a story spawned from far superior origins. At least no one said ‘Talk to the hand’.

And McG is still a douche.

Fully flawed, yet utterly entertaining. Nowhere near the perfection that is the magnificent original two, but it’s an easy, yet frustrating, couple of hours of robot carnage. Enjoyable, brainless fun.

– Michael Ironside. Yeah.
– Anton Yelchin’s Kyle Reese. It’s like he in possession of Micheal Biehn’s soul, ala Cartman with Kenny’s onSouth Park. Amazing.
– Lots of big fucking robots with the intent to kill.
– Plenty of throwbacks to previous films to appease the fanboys, if that is possible. Including an epic cameo during the film’s climax.

– Hair-pullingly stupid character motivations. She sure did go against the Resistance to help a relative stranger quickly, didn’t she?
– ‘M’ rating leaves much of the harshness of previous installments to rest.
– Dude, what happened to Terry Crews? Terry Crews is badass!
– The director calls himself McG. Nothing to do with the movie, but just thought it needs to be said.

– The Terminator
– Terminator 2: Judgment Day
– Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
– Mad Max 2

Directed by: McG
Written by:
 John Brancato, Michael Ferris
Based on characters created by:
 James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Produced by
: Derek Anderson, Victor Kubicek, Jeffrey Silver, Moritz Borman
 Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Ironside
Distributed by:
 Warner Bros / Columbia Pictures
 $200 million
Run length:
 115 minutes
Australian Release:
 4 June 2009


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