On May 21st, 2009 McG's vision for the beloved Terminator franchise is set to reach American audiences. Replacing the brawn and crowd appeal of Arnold Schwarzenegger with the brooding gruffness that is Christian Bale as the movie's focus would be a tough task for the director as he intends to take the franchise into a new direction and finish telling the story of John Conner, started by James Cameron in 1984. With big shoes to fill like that, failure seems more likely than success... even for the brilliant mind that brought us not one but two Charlie's Angels films.
And try as he might to botch it, McG's Terminator: Salvation holds up. Starring Christian Bale as John Conner, the prophetic would be leader of the Human resistance against the machines; the film primarily dwells on the beginnings of John Conner's rise to power. Throw in some outstanding visual effects, a few solid performances by the supporting cast, and a cameo that will have you doing mule kicks in the aisles and you have the makings of a fantastic summer blockbuster. So how does it do?
- - The special effects are outstanding. The film is jammed with one visually stunning action sequence after another. The Terminators, especially when compared to the ones in the previous three films, look amazing. The post Judgment Day America depicted in this film is jaw dropping, as McG and his special effects team managed to create an amazing wasteland world for this story to unfold in.
- - The story the film was intending to tell was good in its core, and while we had some issues with the script itself (see below), none of those issues were so egregious that it managed to drag the plot to a screeching halt.
- - Sam Worthington ("Marcus Wright") was quite good in this film (I would love to say more, but it would give away some of the story so I will leave it there). Anton Yelchin ("Kyle Reese"), while not the best actor, must have done something right as he is featured prominently in not one but two of this summer's blockbusters (Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation) released within a week of each other and manages to come off great in both films.
The Not So Good:
- - While a good actor, we feel that we might be having our fill of Christian Bale. Never mind that bullshit about him yelling at the incompetent light wrangler (though after having had Bale yell at me for two hours in both The Dark Knight and Terminator: Salvation I can honestly say I know how that dummy must have felt), with Bale in now two major film franchises where he gets to play a miserable fuck for two hours who yells at everyone no matter what he is saying, we fear that he is dangerously close to jumping the shark and becoming a mere caricature of the actor he once was (remember, before Al Pachino became that shouting, grunting, and hooting character he now plays in all his movies he was once a very talented actor...). The over expose that comes with the success of not one but two huge film franchises is giving Bale a burn out factor that inches ever higher with every syllable he grunts out.
As for his performance in this film, Bale is cast to be a miserable fuck. Don't get me wrong... no one plays a miserable bastard quite like Christian Bale. One might say he is the best miserable fuck in the game. But for some reason, in this film Bale's misery transcends the screen and drags the viewer down into his mire. Every time he is on the screen, the movie becomes uncomfortable and weighs a thousand pounds. Christian Bale's John Conner comes off like a pompous prick whose "wisdom" of past and future events makes him look more like a narcissistic crybaby mama's boy as opposed to the only man who can guide the human race against the machines looking to exterminate them.
- - At times, the movie expects the audience to know more about the plot than they do, making the film seem at times disjointed and lacking any sort of direction. The dialogue is also lacking something, as it is clunky and awkward throughout the movie (even the "rousing" calls to arms delivered by John Conner seem to lack the conviction one would expect to find in a life or death struggle to save the species from robots intent on taking over the planet from humanity).
The film is tame, especially when compared to the previous offerings from the franchise, which were out of control. While packed with amazingly violent action sequences and what seemed to be an explosion every five minutes, the movie seemed like it was missing something... we just cold not figure out what exactly. While grander in scale than the previous three films, at times this movie seems small and inadequate- leaving us to hope that the missing pieces were left on the cutting room floor destine to rise again in the McG-arific directors cut (just in time for the holidays!!!!).
If you are only going to see one movie this summer, Star Trek or taking your chances on Transformers 2 might be more worthwhile options. But should you need to find a way to burn two hours on a rainy afternoon, then give this film a look see. While not as good as Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation is much better than Wolverine (both visually and plot wise). Overall, I give this movie 3 stars. It is a solid movie with a few problems here and there, but overall it is an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours.