Don’t believe the critic’s hype. I was as skeptical as anyone when McG was named the director of Terminator Salvation, but my fears were completely blown away. If you like the previous Terminator films, this one is just as good.
Taking place after Judgment Day in 2018, humanity and its remaining military forces are in an all out battle to regain control of the planet and end Skynet forever. John Connor is the commander of a resistance unit based in California at the epicenter of Judgment Day, not yet the overall leader of the resistance but already known as the guy who seems to know all about the enemy. Adding to the mix is a young Kyle Reese who seems to be important to the machines, and a stranger named Marcus Wright who seems to not know what’s happening in the world but always seems to have the upper hand on the metal like he’s been fighting them all his life.
McG manages to put a scope on the Terminator films we’ve never seen before. Despite the level of action in the previous movies, the story was an intimate one between a few players in a handful of locations. In this film, the narrative camera has been opened up significantly and we get combat with helicopters, A-10 Thunderbolt fighter planes and submarines along with a feeling of what the survivors are going through to fight back. The special effects are spectacular and McG manages to utilize camera angles that bring you in closer to the action. For example, when a helicopter gets taken down you don’t just look over the shoulder of the pilot, you twist, turn and remain as confused as he does until it hits the ground in a messy heap of scrap. The added attention to detail is done in a pseudo-documentary style and shows a lot of maturity from the guy who is previously known for bringing to the masses Charlie’s Angels.
The performances in the film are also fairly uniform and good. Although his tirade on set has overshadowed most of his work in the earlier stages of production, Christian Bale is the John Conner I was hoping to see. He’s precise, calculating, knows his enemy but at the same time is compassionate and just. The other real lead actor of the film, Sam Worthington does a passable job as the mysterious Marcus Wright. He really doesn’t have a lot of lines in the movie, sticking mainly with physical action instead. However, it should be noted then when he does speak it’s not perfect. Although the audience gets the impression Marcus is from California and speaks for the majority of the film in a typically North American flat accent, his natural Aussie twist comes through from time to time. An extra session in the voice over booth should have been able to correct those little problems. Perhaps the biggest stand out of the film is newcomer and Maxim Magazine hottie Moon Bloodgood. She lacked many lines, yet was able to add depth and a certain reality to her character Blair Williams. It’s undeniable that she’s a beautiful woman but it is nice to see that she’s an experienced enough actor to know how to make the most out of a little.
At the end of the day, it should be noted that while a Terminator fan will find many instances that tie this film with the previous ones and even a few hints at the now cancelled TV show (thanks for nothing FOX), non Terminator fans likely won’t find anything to get their juices stirring. They may actually find the film overly long although as a Terminator fan I personally couldn’t get enough. I can’t wait for the eventual sequels that will no doubt come.