Movie review: Little redemption in 'Terminator Salvation'
Another week, another prequel. Makes one wonder if Hollywood moguls will soon film one of Adam and Eve. They can call it "The Snake and the Apple: Temptation Day."
Anyway, following in the footsteps of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "Star Trek" and "Angels & Demons," which is technically a prequel but was filmed as a sequel, we have "Terminator Salvation," the fourth film in the "Terminator" franchise and the first not starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is now flexing his political muscles as the governor of California.
As this film is a prequel, "Salvation" takes place before John Connor sends Kyle Reese on a time trip to save his mother, Sarah Connor, from Arnold's Terminator. Yes, film fans, you better have seen the previous three films if you're going to make any sense of this one. Actually, even if you have seen all three films, you're going to have trouble making sense of this one. The best way to enjoy "Salvation" is turn your brain off and watch the explosions. There are lots of them.
While John Connor has Kyle Reese to save his mother, who can save us from McG, the director of "Salvation" and the "Charlie's Angels" films? With his background in music videos and his allegiance to the Michael Bay Church of Noisy Pyrotechnics, McG can certainly film action sequences. He just has a slight problem dealing with humanity.
Ironically, "Salvation" makes a big deal about the importance of the human heart as being its advantage over the machines that now rule the world. Too bad the movie's ticker has so little beat.
As a result, caring for any of the characters becomes a challenge. They seemingly exist only to talk to each other between explosions. And motorcycle crashes. There are lots of them, too.
The film also suffers from having too many heroes and no visible villain. On the protagonist front, there's John Connor (Christian Bale inheriting the role played previously by Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl), leader of the resistance against the machines, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov in "Star Trek"), a resistance member wannabe, and Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), an executed killer who comes back to life in the future.
As for the antagonist, there's Skynet, an artificial intelligence bent on eradicating humanity with the help of its robotic machines. Ever try rooting against an artificial intelligence?
At least give McG credit for creating a seriously bleak atmosphere where Earth has been reduced to rubble. The eel-like Hydrobots are also cool.
The year is 2018 and the machines have done a thorough job of population control. John Connor's mission is not only to defeat these murderous automatons but make sure Reese lives otherwise he'll never be born and mankind will likely not survive, as resistance leaders must be hard to come by.
Enter Wright, who has his own agenda. Anyone looking for an explanation of his back story may have to wait awhile. You may also wonder why Connor's wife, Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Claire Danes), is pregnant. You may have to wait for the two sequels that are planned for the franchise. My goodness, sequels to prequels what a country.
As for acting, Bale does his one-note Batman gruff bit where smiles are verboten. While Yelchin displays some pluck, Worthington makes the strongest impression. At least his character has a dramatic arc.
What this movie really misses is Schwarzenegger who, even as the cyborg assassin in the first "Terminator," displayed a certain flair. The scene where he touches up his hair in the mirror is a perfect example. His robot has more personality than nearly the entire cast of humans in "Salvation."
The first two "Terminator" films, both directed by James Cameron, also showcased a sardonic sense of humor. This film is nearly void of any comic breaks to provide a relief to the violence. Instead, we have a cute deaf waif (Jadagrace) who helps our heroes.
Interestingly, for a franchise that began with a female heroine, the actresses in "Salvation" get very little to do. Howard and Jane Alexander as one of the survivors simply spout a few lines. Only Moon Bloodgood, as resistance member Blair Williams, shows any moxie.
None of this matters, of course. "Terminator Salvation" will be a huge hit at the box office for the same reason that the other aforementioned films were. People like to see familiar characters.
Unlike the infinitely superior "Star Trek," however, "Salvation" forgets that noise, violence and explosions are no substitute for a drop or two of compassion. Otherwise, what else can you say than "Hasta la vista, baby"?
The film opens today.
Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin
Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and language), 114 minutes
Directed by McG