- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
fter making such mindless summer fare as “Charlie’s Angels” and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” it seems the director known only as McG is finally ready to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t quite ready to return the favor. A poor man’s Michael Bay whose best asset is his ability to make his movies look better than they really are, McG may bring a certain visual flair to “Terminator Salvation” that the previous three films were lacking, but in doing so, he fails to construct a story that’s worthy of an entire movie – let alone one with the potential to become a proposed trilogy. If there’s one thing the film does do right, however, it’s in introducing the world to Australian actor Sam Worthington, a star in the making who steals the show from co-star Christian Bale without even breaking a sweat.
The film opens in 2003, where death row inmate Marcus Wright (Worthington) has agreed to donate his body to science following his impending execution. Fifteen years later, Marcus awakens to a post-apocalyptic world where machines rule and a small group of human survivors have begun to fight back. When he’s rescued by a young man named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), only to see him captured by a Terminator moments later, Marcus tracks down Resistance leader John Connor (Bale) for help. The Resistance has recently come into possession of a weapon they believe will destroy Skynet for good, but when Connor discovers that Marcus has a dangerous secret of his own, he must learn to trust him in order to save the man destined to become his father.
Also on Connor’s mind is the discovery of a new model of Terminator called the T-800, a cybernetic organism that combines living tissue with the standard exoskeleton, making it capable of disguising itself as a human and infiltrating the Resistance. Of course, a T-800 should be the least of their worries when there are Transformer-sized war machines harvesting humans and leveling entire cities. And therein lies one of the major problems with “Terminator Salvation,” because in setting the story after the events of Judgment Day, McG was forced to introduce bigger and better technology that makes the threat of a single Terminator seem less dangerous than in the other films.
The inclusion of the Marcus Wright character certainly helps in that regard, as he’s both his own worst enemy and a surprising ally to the Resistance (to say any more would be to spoil the big twist, but if you’ve seen the trailers, you probably already figured it out). Of course, those very trailers also made it seem like John Connor was the film’s protagonist, but that simply isn’t the case. Both men get a relatively equal amount of screen time, but Marcus Wright is the only interesting character of the two. Bale’s Connor is too gruff and one-note to make him even the least bit appealing (the fact that he speaks in that same guttural growl from the Batman films doesn’t help), and it feels like his part has been beefed up for the sole purpose of the actor being cast in the role.
Sam Worthington, meanwhile, is one of the few actors in the film who actually delivers a good performance (Anton Yelchin is promising as the young Kyle Reese, but he’s given very little to do beyond the one-hour mark), and to say that he stands out would be a serious understatement. You might not know anything about the Aussie actor going in to “Terminator Salvation,” but you’ll definitely want to know more coming out. He has a movie star presence to him that’s absolutely captivating, and it doesn’t take long to realize why he’s quickly become one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood. As if we needed another reason to get excited for James Cameron’s upcoming sci-fi epic, “Avatar,” the fact that Worthington is the leading man should more than seal the deal.
It’s frightening to think how bad the movie might have been without Worthington there to save the day, because while McG clearly understands the basic mechanics of the Terminator series (the action is big, the setting is bleak, and the story features plenty of winks and nods to diehard fans), he hasn’t really made a Terminator film. Instead, “Terminator Salvation” plays like a sci-fi war movie that has been fashioned to fit into the expansive mythology, and though it’s definitely entertaining on a guilty pleasure level, it’s far from the reboot that Warner Bros. and fans of the franchise were hoping for.