Terminator: Salvation

Theatrical poster for Terminator: Salvation

Originally posted at http://slangards.i.ph/ on 05/28/09

When I heard about another Terminator film being done I was apprehensive. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines wasn’t worthy of the the series, which started with the original in 1984 and continued with Judgement Day in 1991. Considering how director James Cameron pushed the envelope on both of those movies in terms of action, drama, and special effects, the third installment was a poor substitute. I mean why would Skynet go from a hulk like Arnold, to a bad-ass metamorph like Robert Patrick, to a crappy girl Terminator who can remote control cars? I fail to see the logic in that progression.

Likewise, while I watch Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it’s not wowing me. All melodrama, very little action, and if you watch The Big Bang Theory, you’re probably familiar with Sheldon and Leonard’s debate about Summer Glau’s character. “T-800 > T-1000 > Nubile Teenage Killer Robot” does not really compute. Hmm… Nubile Teenage Killer Robot. NTKR? The only thing the series really has going for it are Glau, Headey, and Jacobsen. And their hotness is overpowered by the suck of that 90210 guy and Shirley Manson.

In addition to the crappy stuff that the franchise has been putting out, Hollywood decided to put the cleverly named “McG” at the helm of the fourth film in the series. While I will admit that I thouroughly enjoyed the Charlie’s Angels movies, the annoucement painted pictures of Brett Ratner’s X-men. Could this guy who’s known for his fun-filled comedies give something so dark as a Terminator movie? Could he keep it straight and give us something that didn’t result in a Dis Continuity and make us want to ret con the entire story out of canon?

Well the answer is “yes”. While Salvation is by no means a Terminator 2, “McG” reins in his funny bone and gives us something that sounds and looks like it belongs in the franchise. It has the action that you’ve come to expect from one of these flicks and a few nods to the films that came before. The atmosphere of 2018 Earth is appropriately dark, dirty, and filled with nasty robots waiting to crush pink, squishy humans.

Theatrical poster for Terminator: Salvation

The best part about part 4 of the series is that we finally get a look at the post-Judgement Day Earth. Pos-apocalyptic landscapes make for damned entertaining movies. Judge Dredd, Twelve Monkeys, The Road Warrior, the entire zombie genre. They’re are alot of them in my collection that I enjoy watching. Ever seen Red Dawn? Patrick Swayze as a resistance commando. Ever seen Steel Dawn? Patrick Swayze as a desert road warrior, with swords. Dirty Dancing? Patrick Swayze as a dance instructor in a post-apocalyptic Catskills Mountain Resort.

The man is a CHAMELEON!

But I digress. We only ever got to see the the scorched Earth in little flashbacks and dream sequences, so getting a look at how the people of the Terminator future-verse live is pretty cool. It’s sort of like a low-tech Matrix setting. You’ll see alot of wrecked cars and rubble. Smoke, and fire. Dust. Debris. Skulls being stepped on. Robots being smashed. The usual.

We also get a few new Terminator models. By now you’ve probably seen the trailer and seen the different Hunter/Killer models. There’s a cool new gimick for a bunch of them where they “volt-in” for easy transport. Or more like those Russian Matryoshka dolls; big one, little one, litter one.

We also get a look at some of the older models, before Cyberdyne got it’s fingers into cybernetics. The T-600 looks kind of silly with it’s little bandana and torn coat, but the T-800 still rocks. There is also a new Terminator infiltrator, but if I go too much into it people will start screaming SPOILER! Honestly, the twist isn’t that much of a shock as McG and friends aren’t making Dark City or Soylent Green here.

My favorite by far is the new road Hunter/Killer. I think Ducati had something to do with it’s construction, which is why it looks so great, but the real reason I like it is due to a nice little nod to T2. Connor sets up a trap for one of them by turning up an old school boom box playing “You Could Be Mine” by Guns ‘n’ Roses. This is almost as cool as Karl Urban calling Spock a “Green-blooded Hobgoblin”

Speaking of Star Trek, I think Abrams successful relaunch of a franchise has left me spoiled. Though T4 is a fun romp, there are parts where it drags. It’s mostly parts where they need to develop character, blah blah blah, but I would have preferred some extended guerilla fighting since the writing isn’t all that great.

What action scenes there are are fun though, and the effects team seems to know what they’re doing. There aren’t any cheesy frame animated sequences here. According to “McG”, he wanted a real actor or animatronic on stage with the actors as much as possible which really does get a much nicer result.

Casting is another thing that is pretty good. Bale is a good Connor, though I think he may be channeling a little to much Dark Knight leftovers. There are times when he starts using that weird voice and your totally taking out of the picture. I like Sam Worthington’s Marcus. Though he’s a new character, you really begin to cheer for him more and more as the story progresses. Helena Bonham Carter is pretty good as a Cyberdyne doctor early on in the film, and she looks great as when she reappears as one of the bad guys.

The standout is Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese. I swear as soon as he came on screen and opened his mouth I could just see him as a young Michael Biehn. Having just seen him as Chekov in Star Trek made it twice as nice. I really want to see more of this guy.

Another person I want to see more of is Moon Bloodgood. “McG” sure knows how to pick his eye candy. She is like a hotter, taller version of Kristin Kreuk, but she knows how to act. And despite being in full flight gear for most of the picture, she still looks unbeliably sexy. Here’s hoping that topless scene is featured as an extra when the 2 disc set comes along!

I was hoping to see more from Bryce Dallas Howard as Connor’s girlfriend (wife?). I think it’s a nod to the third movie since I remember there were lines in there that said that he had a wife who fought with him. Howard is a welcome improvement over Claire Danes, but she really doesn’t have all that much to do other than look worried.

Theatrical poster for Terminator: Salvation

Which brings me the real reason that this isn’t a great movie. It feels more like an introduction to a new trilogy. You know the old tag line, “the beginning of the end”? Well this is it. It feels like we’re watching a TV pilot with a big budget rather than a stand alone movie. It doesn’t help that the lame ending tries to milk a few tears out of the audience by giving us a half-assed redux of Arnold’s sacrifice at the end of T2.

I’m really hoping that it does well enough to give us a few more.

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