Hey welcome to another edition of the REVIEW VAULT, where I tell it like it is good or bad.
This is the moment many sci-fi fans have been waiting for and it has finally gotten back to terminated the competition for the movie is known as Terminator Salvation. Now this is the fourth film within the on going stories of John Connor and the band of resistance continuing war against the machines which started with the release of The Terminator back in Halloween of 1984. You wouldn't call the first film a sci-fi film if it didn't have the future war scenes in the film since it played more like a horror film than an action film which the sequel T2 became when it came out in 1991. We are treated to scenes in the beginning of T2: Judgment Day set in the future and it was a grand scale battle of man against machine that truly made wanting a film set in the future ever so desirable. Now we have been always interested with how the future war from the Terminator films would play out with a feature length film and now that we had gotten our wish, is it as good as the original two films directed by James Cameron or is it like T3: Rise of The Machines where it was all flash but no substance with the characters or story, well let start by looking at the story of Terminator Salvation.
The Story of Terminator Salvation is set within 2018 about 15 years after the events of T3 and yes I said it since Catherine Brewster is married to John Connor and is about to have his child along with John being looked upon as a messiah among the exhausted people of the future. Essentially, the main focus is Marcus Wright who is a death row prisoner whom participate in an experiment that involve the lovely creators of Skynet called Cyberdyne whom we understand now from the third film that they were bought out by the U.S. government. After the years have passed and Judgment Day had occurred, John Connor fights the machine with his unit TECH-COM and hasn't become the leader of the resistance but is being look upon as the leader to lead them into victory. Meanwhile, Marcus Wright awakens to a destroyed L.A. where he tries to take on Skynet while running across Kyle Reese whom would become the focal point of the plot with Skynet and John Connor trying to reach him before the other one does. I found the plot to be like the other films which may be okay on a Nostalgic tone but I found the main problem with the plot for Terminator Salvation was the narrative nature of the film may not have the same awe-inspiring or emotional tones of the first two films but it still makes for a good popcorn flick and it gives a reason for S*** to blow up.
The acting for Terminator Salvation is actually interesting to discuss cause it has relative newcomers with Sam Worthington and Moon Bloodgood but also has serious actor Christian Bale as the charismatic, hardened soldier John Connor I mean how can you go wrong with a cast like this. Well Christian Bale is good but not really great as the enigmatic leader of the resistance since he still does that goddamn lung cancer voice that I wouldn't be surprised if people were annoyed by it but he did a decent job as John but the real star here is Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright. Sam is just wonderful as Marcus whom plays (MINOR SPOILER) a terminator with a heart of gold whom actually has some subtlety to the character while being tough makes me wonder why wasn't this guy chosen to play John Connor. Actually another worthwhile mention is Anton Yelchin as a young Kyle Reese whom is really a rising young actor portraying a misguided youth trying to find a purpose to fight in this future not knowing that he would really play a big part within John's future. Everyone else like Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor, Common as Barnes, and (this really seems random) Helena Botham Carter as Dr. Serena Kogan / Skynet (Terminator) were a mix of good emotional intense acting but it also has some really cheesy and hammy tone to some of the actor / actress which may make you laugh at inappropriate moments in the film.
Now the real star of the film to mention is of course the production of the film from special fx to musical score and then the action sequences and I got to say whoa. The special fx are a tribute to the old and the new ways with some truly magnificent explosion like in the gas station sequences and some truly cool terminator design like the motorcycle models that chase humans that escaped from the gas station so all around it was absolutely awesome. Every terminator model from the rubber skin T-600 to the Harvester and finally the T-800 near the end of the film look astonishing with the early designs done by Stan Winston (R.I.P.) and finished up by Martin Laing (a crew member of James Cameron's previous works). Now the original score for the film was done by Danny Elfman (yes the guy who did the Batman theme back in '89) whom does a decent job of conveying tension in the action scenes but doesn't have one great theme to make it as memorable as Brad Fidel's amazing theme to the first two terminator films and even the third one. Even if the story is above average at best, it is still an amazing film to look at with some amazing designs and also some truly spectacular special fx even if the score is really forgettable.
It is time to get to the meat of the film and I am talking of course the action scenes of Terminator Salvation which are going to excite and disappoint some action fans going into this expecting expertly crafted action film. There are some truly exciting moments from the beginning with John being attacked by a broken T-600 and the whole Gas Station sequences along with the fight/shootout scenes near the end of the film which make you really believe that this is going to be awesome. However, all of these action sequences never truly make you feel like you are truly within a war being fought in the future and it doesn't help when it starts off great with a decent pacing to the film and it completely falls flat on the floor in the final act literally. I guess it is the best time to mention it near the end of the film, the T-800 is built and (SPOILER ALERT) all those rumors of Arnie being back were true but not in the way I thought it up in my mind and trust me people both clapped and laughed at this moment because it was so badly done with some crappy CGI (computer graphics imaging) that I couldn't help but feel like it was out of place amid the chaos. For what it was worth, I felt the action scenes were both amazing and badly done at the same time.
Well to be truly honest, I didn't expect Terminator Salvation to have so many cheesy and horribly hammy moments that made me wonder in my mind was this a good movie that I felt satisfied or was it just a popcorn flick with the sole purpose to excite the audience for one weekend and afterward would be pretty bland to watch on DVD. I thought about for about 15 minutes and realized that it did have some good moments in the film with Sam Worthington being phenomenal as Marcus and some great action sequences along with some of the best special fx to boot. However, I couldn't help but think about how synthetic the CGI was in Terminator Salvation that it reminded me of what I thought about T3: Rise of The Machines which was it have CGI in its film to make the action scenes more exciting but I missed the organic and naturalistic feel in terms of the special fx and puppeteer in the other terminator films done by James Cameron. Also on a side note, I thought the tapes involving John's Mother were kinda force in the film to give it credibility within the series and (SPOILER ALERT) yes it is voiced by yours truly Linda Hamilton. Overall, Terminator Salvation does one up T3 in some regards in acting and story execution but it still suffer from some unnaturalness dialogue along with having a pretty contrived synthetic feel to the CGI in the film and the last act of Terminator Salvation was very anti-climatic which made me feel overall that it was a good popcorn film but as for lasting valve, it has none whatsoever.
For all intents and purposes, MCG's attempt to bring the future war of the Terminator to life in Salvation is both a success and failure with some moments being great while other aspects made me scratch my head and made me ask that main question, why?
For Die Hard Fans of the Terminator Series, a solid MATINEE!
For actions fans in general, you don't need to rush out to see this film so a very high RENTAL!
On a side note, I really did dig this movie but I am just giving my opinion about how I felt about this film in general so please have some restrains when it comes to a fans perspective on the film as a whole. I am a huge hardcore fan of the Terminator series hell I was pissed when the show, The Sarah Connor Chronicles was canceled by the ever so center of gayest 20th Century Fox. So try to have a open-mind about what goes into a review because I know I won't please everyone with this review but as long as people read and have something say on their behalf whether it be positive or negative, I did my part by starting dialogue among people who love films in general.
Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this review and until then HASTA LA VISTA, BABY!