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Terminator Salvation Review

Terminator Salvation
Samrat Sharma /
Can watch again
Good for kids
Good for dates
Wait to rent it
By this, the fourth film in a franchise that was just two fantastic bookended action films to begin with, the Terminator series is beleaguered by the last two films' curiously opposing thematic overtones and what they stood for. While T2 had the humans taking free will in their hands and shaping an uncertain future with their actions, the 3rd film just slapped everyone on the face and told them that Judgement Day cannot be avoided, no matter what they do.

The problem with such a troubled series, then, is that the latest film that takes everything forward does not know what to do - should it show humans eventually win over the dastardly machines or does it maintain that the impending future cannot be changed? Top it with the fact that the film was never meant to be John Connor's story. Christian Bale was contacted to do the role Sam Worthington portrays, and he was more interested in being Connor, which meant months of rewrites and a film that never finds its emotional core.

Of course, the writing would have still been questionable, given the quality seen here. Strained and ham-fisted humour with cheesy dialogue and a plot that threatens to unravel at the touch of a trigger all compound the miseries of this poor film. I never thought I'd say this, but the only thing that stops this movie from being utterly trash is McG, the much maligned director and ender of franchises past.

While his film struggles to find its emotional core and dramatic tone throughout, McG is thoroughly adept at mounting his action sequences. He puts in equal amount of derring and do in his action, and the way he sets each piece up, he is treating it like a proper adventure film with one fantastic action set piece after another, buckling a lot of swashes in the process.

His eye for thrilling action permeates his shot selection in the quiet moments, too - despite looking all brown and murky, the movie often looks stunning. The imagination at work here is immensely gratifying for any long time fan, with some fantastic machine design that lends itself to innovative action. Clean, clear-cut and well-defined, Terminator Salvation basks in the brilliance of the action direction McG employs. McG also never uses the same trope twice, creating a kinetic, always changing battlefield and action palette.

Starting with a prologue in 2003, the film tells of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a prisoner about to be executed who agrees to let his body be used for “science". (While on this topic, what the hell is Helena Bonham Carter doing in the doctor's role? Isn't she bigger than this?) Skip forward to 2018, and the Skynet system of computers and fighting machines have become self-aware and violent, while mankind has now banded together to fight them in guerilla undertakings under John Connor, come to known as the man who will one day win the war.

After a bravura action sequence, we see Marcus emerge from the debris, now the latest in Terminator technology, the model that will eventually become Arnold Schwarzenegger and go back in time to be the Governor of California.

Marcus eventually meets the local militia, including Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), a young man who will also go back in time by John Connor to save John's mother, and as a result father John. (Heh, I know. Let it be.) Eventually Connor's mission also becomes to find and save Kyle, a name he only knows from the audio cassettes his mother left him.

So yeah, the plot isn't the strong point of the film. The actors do what they can with the limiting scope of the writing on offer here. Anton Yelchin delivers a real character in the small screen time he has, and so does Sam Worthington. Bale, tasked by being the emotional anchor of the film and the motivational lead, needs better lines than he has to be convincing, and as a result the film takes a major hit.

With such terrible writing and muddled mythology as this movie, it is no surprise that they ended up making less of a sequel to the earlier films, and more of a James Bond type flick, with frequent nods and winks to the source material and enough friendly names, but nothing else to do with the actual franchise. Sure, it's got machines and cyborgs and guns, but this ain't Terminator, not really.

Still, it is a half-decent actioner, and McG shows enough variety and imagination in his direction to make it interesting to watch. Outside of Bale and the other side roles (like the clueless Bryce Dallas Howard), the acting is also better than I would have expected. This is actually what I would say of Terminator Salvation - it's remarkably better than I expected, but not as good as to satisfy us as action film buffs.
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Terminator Salvation (english) reviews
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  • Cast
    Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Jadagrace Berry, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Michael Ironside
  • Music
    Danny Elfman
  • Director
  • Theatres
    Not screening currently in any theatres in Hyderabad.
Can watch again - No
Good for kids - Yes
Good for dates - Yes
Wait to rent it - No
Krishna on 29th Jun 2009, 10:13am | Permalink
This installment manages to salvage some pride for Terminator fans after the 3rd film. Watch it for the action rather than the acting.

Pros: Action set-pieces
Cons: The pace
AamchiHyd on 28th Jun 2009, 9:58am | Permalink
The death of Sarah Connor - They brought in Jonathan Nolan and Paul Haggis to do the re-writes, and ended up rejecting a kick-ass ending that was suggested by them. Having said that, what's surprising is that the maker of crap-fests like the 2 Charlie's angels movies, and a self-indulgent weepie, We are Marshall, has managed to deliver a good Termiantor movie, definitely an improvement over the last instalment, and by far the only one with the best special effects and set-pieces in the entire series, though T2 and T1 still remain the best. My main problem was the elimination of Sarah Connor, which happened in T3, removing a very strong character from the series, almost the fulcrum (much more than John) of the series. Add to that the time-travel conundrum, about Kyle Reese, and adding a new character, and one-of-its-kind type, and having that played by Sam Worthington, instead of Bale, takes the thunder away from Bale, though we have to appreciate Bale's generosity in allowing another actor to shine, like he did in 'The Dark Knight', in which Ledger reaped the honors. This is definitely a well-made movie, though the performances, esp. from Bryce Dallas Howard, could have been better. Common and the other supporting big-name characters are wasted, or ended up in the editing room trash can. An IMAX treatment would also have benefited the movie.

Pros: Action set-pieces, Sam Worthington, Special effects, Some twists in the storyline, Anton Yelchin
Cons: Bryce Dallas Howard, absence of Sarah Connor, audio tapes, absence of time travel, simple plotting
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