Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

By Tom Houseman

May 26, 2009

Someone's compensating.

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Sequels, prequels, franchise reboots. Epic battles, explosions, robots in disguise and otherwise. I have only one question: is summer over yet? Somehow, every summer, despite my thorough skepticism of these blockbuster extravaganzas, my hopes are tricked into rising for at least one movie that I am somehow convinced will be good. This summer, for whatever reason, that film was Terminator Salvation. Because of a combination of my love for Terminator 2 and a trailer that actually looked entertaining, I was fooled into thinking that I would enjoy a film directed by McG, AKA America's Uwe Boll. I beg of you, do not make the same mistake that I did.

To be fair, Terminator Salvation seems like a good idea on paper. After the disaster that was Rise of the Machines, the present was clearly tapped out for the once illustrious franchise. The series needed a new direction, and where better to go than to the future, where the battle between Skynet and humanity is not a hypothetical but a reality? There is so much back story to fill in before Kyle Reese goes back to the future (I kept on expecting, nay, hoping, that Marty McFly would pop up). Salvation fills us in on how John Connor (Christian Bale) finds Reese, already knowing, of course, that Reese will be his father, which surprisingly brings up no Oedipal issues whatsoever. There is also the issue of a former death row inmate (Sam Worthington) who teams up with Connor to save Reese before it's too late.

Shot as if it were some combination of Black Hawk Down and Children of Men, McG makes his film much darker and grittier than previous installments, which makes sense considering the dark tone of the world. McG deserves credit for trying to create something more substantial than the nauseating fluff that was the Charlie's Angels films, but that is the only thing for which anyone working on Terminator Salvation deserves credit. This film goes beyond the normal awful blockbuster (see Transformers) and is a complete mess the likes of which is rarely documented on cellulose. An orgy of chaos, Terminator Salvation is completely nonsensical and convoluted. There is so much going on, and the film is so sloppily edited, that it is utterly impossible to follow. Very loud, very dark, and so densely packed that discerning the plot feels like walking through a maze covered in landmines.


To comment upon the writing or the acting in Terminator Salvation would be an exercise in futility, as every actor and line of dialogue in the film seems to be merely filling space between explosions. There are no performances, only a combination of blank stares, glowers, and lots and lots of shouting. Christian Bale seems to have finally gotten some throat lozenges since The Dark Knight, as his voice is significantly less gravelly, but his performance is far more wooden than anything he did in the batsuit. Not that one can blame Bale entirely, as his part is so undeveloped, and as depressing as this is to say, he does a better job than anyone else. The universally terrible acting makes me long for the days of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at least looked cool while speaking in monotone. Why talented actresses Helena Bonham Carter and Bryce Dallas Howard agreed to take such useless parts (you have to be paying very close attention to even realize that Howard is in the film) is a complete mystery.

And for those of you curious, yes, both "come with me if you want to live" and "I'll be back" are said during the film, which will undoubtedly elicit a combination of laughter and groans from you and your friends depending on how fed up you are with the battle scenes, which quickly devolve from exciting to monotonous. Unfortunately, none of the rest of the dialogue is any better, but you likely won't even notice, what with trying to keep up with the increasingly complicated plot and keeping track of the countless bit characters that drift in and out, few of them particularly relevant. For a movie about the importance of humanity, few films have been more emotionless and robotic. I can only hope that the Terminator series will not continue to move in this direction, and that if there is a fifth film, nobody who was responsible for this piece of garbage will be back.



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