Terminator Salvation

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Terminator Salvation
Directed by McG

This review contains Terminator series spoilers.

terminator_salvation__the_future_beWith Charlie’s Angels helmer McG becoming the third director to tackle the once-venerable sci-fi-action series concocted by James Cameron, we can at least be thankful that he’s found an original way to screw up a franchise. Where most series end up with an entry lacking in drive or vision, we find Terminator Salvation seems to lack neither; it has a unified visual style, a ridiculous number of action sequences, and even a high-powered prestige star calling the shots. The truly fatal flaw here is that McG, through omission, has discovered the series’ most important theme; its unflappable femininity.

That’s a problem that rears its head early on in this fourth entry, when it becomes clear that Helena Bonham Carter (as Sam Worthington’s amorous doctor) and Bryce Dallas Howard (as John Connor squeeze Kate Brewster, replacing Claire Danes, who wisely opted out), both strong screen presences, are going to be relegated to ephemeral roles in favor of the script’s bland twin behemoths, Connor (Christian Bale) and murderer-turned-savior Marcus Wright (Worthington). And while one might think that fulfilling the three-film promise of the post-“Judgement Day” man vs. machine war is a logical step for the series to take, the post-apocalyptic setting actually makes for a less unsettling experience than the banal 80s America of Cameron’s films; when we set eyes upon McG’s meticulously color-drained landscapes, we might appreciate the follow-through from the eerie flash-forwards of the first two films, but we find ourselves with no reason to care about who’ll end up the last men (or machines) on the cinder.

terminator-salvation-stillSalvation also suffers from a distinct lack of wit; where scribes John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris at least threw in some broad humor in T3 (check the Verhoeven-worthy deleted scene on that film’s deluxe DVD), here they opt for glum heroism and empty stabs at meaning, most glaringly in the form of Wright’s am-I-or-ain’t-I-a-man nonsense. Compared to T3‘s (admittedly flimsy) nods towards Connor’s existential anxiety at knowing his ultimate destiny hinges upon global genocide, it’s not very compelling material. It’s still more interesting that the film’s other main plot thread, however, which involves Connor having to find and rescue the teenaged version of the original Terminator‘s protagonist, Kyle Reese (here played by Anton Yelchin); if you find yourself waiting for a cutting reminder that Reese will have to eventually face a guresome death after being sent back to the Reagan years, you’ve already put more thought into the film than those actually involved.

Moreso than McG or his screenwriters, however, it might actually be the meticulous Bale who is to blame for the film’s shortcomings. He publicly slammed the (superior) third entry in the series, telling his handlers that its approach would have to be thrown by the wayside if he was going to be involved. As such, that film’s attempts at maintaining the female agression and existential doom of the previous films – however occasionally misguided, are shucked away in favor of all war, all the time. It’s telling that the only real moment of terror to be found in the film (besides the kind of “gotcha” scares that startle thirteen-year-olds) comes courtesy of a ghostly late-film appearance from Bonham-Carter, who effortlessly throws in more menace than the army of Terminators at Skynet’s disposal. Try as she might, she can’t salvage the least ambitious, least imaginative, and least necessary entry in a franchise ready to be decommissioned.

Simon Howell


19 Comments
  1. Introspective says

    Terminator Salvation is a very good movie. It is obvious that even without Schwarzenegger the movie can be good. The action scenes are top-notch.

  2. Anonymous says

    Simon you have a spelling mistake in this review…

    I believe it is decommissioned and not decomissioned. I could be wrong but I am not wrong in saying that Terminator 2 and 3 lacked a true heroine. Linda Hamilton not only did not save the day in Terminator 2, but she was pretty much useless. Aside from nearly killing an innocent man, and acting completely insane, she also showed us what a horrible mother she had become. Terminator 2 worked more as a film following the relationship between a father and son (as lame as that seems). In Terminator 3 we the audience are subjected to a miscast Claire Danes and a completely insulting sex-bot.
    So did you really expect Hollywood producers and director MCG to actually use the female cast in any interesting ways? Perhaps you have more faith in Hollywood than most people?

    p.s.

    Feel free to correct my horrible grammar.

    1. Simon H. says

      Thanks for spotting that.

      Linda Hamilton is great in T2, and acts about as sanely as one could expect given the circumstances. I actually like Claire Danes in T3, if only because there’s a weird glee in seeing a usually-austere actress shoot big guns and scream. Anyway, the issue of assertive female characters is part of the movie’s greater lack of humanity – I just thought given the series’ pedigree it was worth singling out.

  3. James My Ass You Suck lynch says

    This is the best movie ever made. I loved every second of it. Good review.

  4. Doo-Wop says

    The reviewer’s name was Ricky when I posted my first comment.
    Swear to God.
    Why the hell else would I throw that random name out there?

    1. Al says

      Because you couldn’t figure out a way to feminize the name ‘Simon,’ and were worried your comment would no longer make 14-year-old Howard Stern fans giggle?

    2. Ricky says

      The problem was when Simon posted the review, he clicked on my name and not his. It was later changed.

  5. Rafik says

    Dude. DUDE. Anyone reviewing a terminator movie who uses the word femininity in the first paragraph needs to eat some creatine and buy a muscle car with manual transmission. man up. it’s fucking robots shooting shit

    1. lebron jamez says

      You’re an idiot, Rafik. Or possibly joking.

      1. Ricky says

        I hope everyone on this post is joking. Also not everyone will agree with a film review, but I think it is nice to hear other people’s opinions. We never agree on the show but we all still get along. Can’t we all just get along. It’s just a MCG film after all.

  6. Simon H. says

    If you’re throwing around “feminist” like something to be offended by, I suspect you’ve got far greater issues to sort out than I do.

  7. Ricky says

    Why do I keep getting getting attacked for everything I did not write?

  8. Ricky says

    I am sorry but why is my name mentioned in a review that I did not write. How does one mistake the name Simon to Ricky?

  9. VLaks says

    Wow, this reviewer is absolutely terrible…

    1. James B. says

      Why? Because he didn’t like a movie that you did?

  10. Doo-Wop says

    Is your name Ricky or Vicky?
    You come off as a pissed-off feminist.
    What a twat.

    1. Al says

      I believe it’s ‘Simon.’ Don’t worry, though. There are a lot of words in the review. Easy to get confused.

      1. Anonymous says

        Yer all a bunch of dickheads.

        1. Anonymous says

          Correction, Yer a bunch of dickless morans!

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