By Dave Campbell | May 20, 2009
Writer(s): John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Helena Bonham Carter
Terminator Salvation takes place post Judgment Day in the apocalyptic landscape of 2018. An army of Terminator machines roam the land, air, and water seeking out humans who are hunkered down in the underground remains of cities and in remote desert hideaways. Skynet controls the vast force of machines and resources that greatly outnumber the remaining humans. Fourteen years prior the artificial intelligence network Skynet became self-aware and turned on its creators igniting nuclear annihilation onto the world. Small populations of survivors have organized together to create the Resistance as an effort to unite together and fight Skynet for human survival.
The world is on the brink of a future in which John Connor (Christian Bale) has been preparing for his entire life. Though not yet in control of the Resistance, Connor is on the path to follow his destiny in leading the fight for human existence, but something has changed. The appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger with a memory that ended 15 years ago on death row, forces Connor to rethink what he thinks he knows and decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. Connor then learns that Marcus was rescued by a teenage boy named Kyle Reese who was captured and taken to Skynet
At the same time, Skynet has become aware that Kyle Reese is the father of John Connor and it prepares it’s final onslaught. Connor and Marcus now must find common ground to take a stand and infiltrate Skynet head-on before the commanders of the Resistance unload every nuke they have on the center of Skynet operations.
Terminator Salvation has a really corroded gritty texture that comes through nicely. The camera placement, film stock, set and prop design really give us the sense that Judgment Day has changed modern civilization as we know it. The action scenes all look terrific with director McG’s talents really shining through in this element of the film. The special effects by ILM are superb and blend very nicely with the high level of practical effects shots that were done in the film. The helicopter scene in the first act and the Harvester/Cycles getaway later in the film, are some of the most notable accomplishments.
The problem with Terminator Salvation is the human aspect of the film. The characters we are introduced to are almost as robotic as their machine enemies. The dramatic aspect suffers throughout the film with human emotion missing from the dialog and its delivery. Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) and Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) are the only characters that feel partially developed with John Connor (Christian Bale), Kate Connor (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Barnes (Common) presented as hollow and one dimensional.
Regardless of how this film is being marketed, John Connor is not the main character of this film. Connor is a major supporting role but his lines are limited and he’s used more for action sequences and as a Christ-like symbol. The John Connor we are given in Terminator Salvation is a dry character lacking depth and full range expression. Christian Bale seems to play the part he was given with the faults coming from the script and direction of McG.
Terminator Salvation is reliant on the pacing of action rather than plot development, which it so eagerly needed. I hate to say it but without Arnold Schwarzenegger’s presence, Terminator Salvation also lacked the charm, humor, and heart of the previous 3 films. This was the big 2009 Summer movie I had the highest hopes for, but in the end the absence of drama and human passion left this one in the hands of the machines.
“There is no fate but what we make”