starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Common, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Ironside
Let’s start with a quote from Terminator Salvation director “McG.” (Dare I devote a paragraph to the kind of douchenozzle that would use such a name in a professional capacity? Nah, too easy. I think you can all just assume his douche-like nature based on that nom de plume.):
McG (born Joseph McGinty Nichol, though known by his nickname since childhood) said if he was going to take on another sequel in the internationally successful “Terminator” franchise, then he had better have a good reason to do it.
“Action for action’s sake just becomes noisy. You’ve got to have great characters. You’ve got to have a great story,” he said. “We wanted it to be very compelling and we did it in a way that is great.” [CNN]
What a load of crap.
That most clearly must a torrent of BS, as that is exactly what McG doesn’t do in the 4th entry of the Terminator franchise, a dead-on-arrival borefest that spends most of its time delivering action sequence after action sequence while giving nothing more than lip service to the stories of what could have been some great characters. The acting talent is all but wasted in Bale, Worthington and Howard. Maybe they should’ve just showed the third theatrical trailer repeatedly in theaters; it’s infinitely more watchable than this extravagant mess of a movie.
A big part of the problem, as I said, is that the characters are all so one-dimensional. They’re spared a few minutes to utter some expository dialogue before we can back to the action and visual effects. Some more attention paid to the characters could’ve dramatically improved the movie as a whole. As it stands, though, there’s no emotional investment in the story.
Some spoiler territory ahead.
I do wonder, however, if some of the character moments were lost in the editing room. It’s clear there were sequences cut throughout the film, because it often feels completely disjointed, jumping from one plotline to the next. And the final scene is even more baffling, killing the best character in the movie (Marcus Wright) to save a wounded John Connor. Uh, okay. I’d heard rumors of the original script’s ending having Connor killed but resurrected as a Wright-like terminator. That would’ve been a vastly superior conclusion and much more interesting plot development in my eyes. Anyway, with all the (assumed) deleted scenes, perhaps Salvation will become an infinitely better film on the inevitable 8-disc collector’s edition director’s cut DVD.
One cannot review a “summer blockbuster” without mentioning the visual, special and sound effects, and they were all great, aside from the spotty work on the “CG Arnold’s” cameo as a T-800 terminator. The various terminator forms have a dirtier look than we’ve seen in the past, and that felt right. It’s hard to for a terminator to get all polished up to a mirror-like sheen out on the battlefield. And the sound effects were even better; I loved the turbine-like powerhouse sounds of the terminators–it gave them an additional menacing quality they didn’t have in the previous three films.
The music is good, but it’s not Terminator music. Brad Fiedel’s iconic synth-score from T1 and T2 briefly shines through in the opening title sequence (which started things off poorly with a non-Terminator font — yes, I care very much about credit font in my blockbuster film franchises), but it’s definitely missing throughout the rest of the film. Some of the old music might’ve helped fill in the emotional and nostalgic gaps the poorly-executed characters create.
The direction and photography is actually quite decent; I fault McG for a poorly executed plot, but I think he’s got the chops to shoot a movie. Visually, it’s engaging. But again, it’s all meaningless if you don’t have a good story and characters. Because of that, it doesn’t feel like there’s as much at stake as there should be in a movie about the remnants of humanity on earth struggle to resist a seemingly invincible enemy bent on their eradication. Thus, I hold out hope for a much better film on DVD. This could have been so much better.