Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Terminator: Salvation ***

Terminator: Salvation
*** out of ****

"I'll be back."
This immortal line is sadly, very true for the Terminator franchise, which, like the evil machines themselves, just won't die. Salvation is the fourth movie in the series, although this one is very different from the original trilogy. For starters, it's the only one without Arnold Schwarzenegger, or any other cast member from the earlier films.
The movie opens in 2003, where a death row inmate signs his body over to science right before being executed. Fast forward to the year 2018, years after Judgment Day, when the machines launched nuclear bombs on humans. Now people are scattered and hiding in the shadows, while the machines grow stronger and the human Resistance is the only hope for mankind. Christian Bale plays John Connor, a high-ranking member of the Resistance that is either looked at as a prophet or as a joke. After a mission that ended badly and left Connor as the only survivor, they discover a radio signal that can turn the machines off, the perfect weapon the humans have been looking for. They devise a plan to use it to cripple the enemy.
Meanwhile, the death row inmate comes out of nowhere, not looking a day older and not knowing what year it is or what has happened in the time since he died. Newcomer Sam Worthington is this inmate, Marcus Wright, the new badass and true hero of the movie. Wright's body was taken by Skynet and he is now a hybrid Terminator, with a human brain and heart, but with a metal skeleton and a computer chip. He has no idea of this and thinks he is simply a human, and tries to help with the Resistance. Wright meets up with a teenage boy, who turns out to be Kyle Reese, and a young, mute girl they call Star. Anton Yelchin (man, what a summer he's had!) plays Reese with determination and a steady head, clearly meant to grow up to be a great warrior. Star is awesome, always knowing when a machine is nearby, and always handy with exactly the right tool needed for a particular job. After a Terminator attack, Reese and Star are taken prisoner, and Marcus meets up with a gorgeous woman from the Resistance, Blair, who leads him to Connor. But when Connor sees what Marcus actually is, he has him chained up even though he just wants to help. Connor decides to enlist Marcus to find Reese, because as anyone familiar with the franchise knows, Reese is actually his father and his survival is vital to the future and the human race.
The extension of the franchise beyond its expiration date was a bad idea to start with, and it made the story less than exceptional. The film has a poor opening, but it eventually gets going and starts loading on the action sequences with several gasp-inducing moments. Its main flaw is supposed to be its greatest asset- Bale plays Connor in much the same way he plays Batman, with a gravelly voice and a reluctant heroism. The film gives us no reason to care about our main character, and he seems to have no layers other than what he yells at his superiors. Worthington is the real gem here (he actually has more screen time than Bale, and much more to do) and he is a worthy replacement for the classic Ahh-nold. His character accepts what has happened to him and quickly takes up the action hero robe, allowing his good looks to be blown to bits in the process.
Like a typical summer film, the story leaves something to be desired, but the special effects are fantastic and the action sequences are breathless. It's a very watchable film, as long as it doesn't try to connect itself with the earlier films, like with a title sequence that mimics the first film's, and the resurrection of the legendary line, "I'll be back." The film isn't bad, but maybe they should rethink that statement of coming back before the franchise ends up terminating itself.
I would recommend this film to everyone who liked the original movies, and who like action films.

You can watch the trailer here:

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