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Theatrical Review: Terminator Salvation

As Terminator Salvation opens, we’re first introduced to Marcus Wright, a death row prisoner who has signed an agreement with Cyberdyne Systems before his execution in the year 2004- then we fast forward to 2018 and center in on John Connor and the Resistance after a disastrous confrontation with Connor the only one left standing. But after Connor is taken away, we soon see that one other has also survived- Marcus Wright! Connor’s taken to other Resistance leaders and a plan is revealed that they hope will stop the machines once and for all, with eventually both paths crossing and along the way, the search for Connor’s father, a teenaged Kyle Reese, also takes place.

That’s a very brief synopsis for Terminator Salvation the fourth movie in the Terminator franchise, and the start of a new direction for the franchise while trying to maintain some of the same elements that have kept this venerable series strong- and I think it’s just a terrifically fun movie…

The director who goes by the name McG is responsible for this, and I know that name didn’t exactly give me the greatest confidence in the world going in, but I have to say, I think he’s made a hell of a piece here- a great action ride with an emotional center that to me is reminiscent in a way of the original James Cameron films, but also moving in some new directions, though it’s ultimate resolution (in future movies) should just be in one direction.

This is a terrific looking movie, with some solid action set pieces (a couple of which puts me in the mind of George Miller’s Mad Max films and a nice weaving of both Connor’s and Wright’s story’s, though Wright’s story is the bigger deal. Everything works really well on a technical level and that of course is really cool to see. McG is well aided with a nice score from Danny Elfman that certainly knows it’s part of a bigger story, and uses Brad Fiedel’s original Terminator music as well.

There’s certainly been a lot of press lip service about Christian Bale, mostly around his now infamous confrontation with a crew member on the set, which really meant a whole lot of nothing to me, as just a point used by the press and the internet community to bring this big star down a peg or two. What really matters is what’s on-screen, and while this may not rack up to what Bale has accomplished with the Batman movies, what he does here is set a solid foundation for (hopefully) what’s to come in future movies. Bale’s outshone in this movie, by actor Sam Worthington who plays Marcus Wright, and Worthington is just solid gold here, as both an action presence and being the real emotional center of the film. Anton Yelchin, who’s really having a good summer with this and the Star Trek movie, plays the young Kyle Reese, and he’s obviously looked at what Michael Biehn has done with the original, and does a great job with the part. There’s solid support work from Bryce Dallas Howard (playing Connor’s wife Kate), Michael Ironside, Common and Moon Bloodgood (what a name). Helena Bonham Carter and Jane Alexander are also in the movie, in real glorified cameos, though Carter’s is the bigger part and the more meaningful one here- Alexander’s is more a walkthrough, but I see it as a set-up again for future installments. Still, this is a solid cast…

… and as I said at the top of this, a really fun movie with a lot of very cool nods to the other films (mostly the first), lots of great action bits and a new direction to take this in to what should be it’s ultimate resolution once all is said and done. I’ve heard that it’s getting all sorts of bad reviews, but I just don’t get it, I was solidly entertained by this new direction and think the set-up is there for more cool stuff in the future and of course this is, from me anyway, a highly recommended film…

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

0 replies on “Theatrical Review: Terminator Salvation”

I agree–this was a great film. And I don’t know why the reviews are bad, but the overwhelming tone of the reviews is “too cold” and “not enough character development.” Are we supposed to not know John Connor? He’s been in two films as a character. Secondly, the main character of the film isn’t really John Connor, hence he doesn’t go through the process of character development that the protagonist does.

I think it’s the best film I’ve seen this year: even better perhaps than the Watchmen, which is no small feat.

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