By Sandra Kraisirideja
“Terminator” fans argue the first two movies in the franchise are the best. What those movies had in common was the battle between Sarah Connor and the Terminator. When the franchise switches its focus to John Connor-which occurred in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and now again in “Terminator Salvation,”-it loses a big part of what made it work. There is just something more compelling about a woman who must outwit and outmaneuver a killing machine hell bent on her destruction.
“Terminator Salvation” is a departure from the franchise’s usual formula, which goes something like this: Terminator from the future sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor or John Connor; ally of the Resistance also sent back to protect said Connor, resulting in many high octane explosions and car chases created with jaw-dropping special effects.
Make no mistake, “Terminator Salvation” has a decent amount of explosions, car chases and special effects. It also appears the screenwriters were hoping to add more depth to the basic premise-man vs. machine-but the result lacks an emotional core.
“Terminator Salvation” is the first movie in the franchise to take place entirely in the future rather than in present-day. John D. Brancato and his writing partner Michael Ferris (“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”) planted the story in 2018, a mere nine years from now, which makes it hard to accept some of the technological advances shown in the movie.
In the future, John Connor (Christian Bale) is alive and well and leading the resistance against Skynet. He learns the machines are going after Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who is still a teenager and decades away from fulfilling his mission to save Sarah Connor and father the child who will grow up to defeat Skynet.
Rather than spend the rest of the movie protecting Kyle Reese, John Connor must contend with the discovery of a machine, played by newcomer Sam Worthington, that was built to look human and who believes he is human. Does he trust this person despite everything he knows?
McG (“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”) is an adept action director, but he has yet to attach his particular vision to a script that does his style justice.
“Terminator Salvation” is rated PG-13 and the effect of not having an R rating is noticeable. The scenic landscape is less ominous and the violence that is depicted is tame.
Skynet headquarters is revealed for the first time in this movie as well as a few new machines. There are flying “HKs” or hunter-killers, deadly high speed motorcycles and gigantic robots that shoot lasers. Unfortunately, the machines come a little too close to looking like Transformers’ knock-offs. More than one machine turns out to have additional weaponry or fire power that emerges from itself to chase after its targets.
“The Terminator,” released in 1984, is a milestone in cinema history similar to “Blade Runner,” “Aliens” or “The Matrix.” Both visually and with regard to its focus on a strong female character, “The Terminator” changed science fiction action movies forever.
“Terminator Salvation” has a mediocre script, good acting and plenty of action, which all adds up to it never finding its footing. While there are parts of it that are entertaining there are an equal number of moments where the movie stumbles.