Science Fiction / Action
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Ever since the day I saw the first Terminator film, I was hooked. I’ve seen all the movies, read the books, read the comic books, watched the television series, collected the music - was there ever any doubt that I would see the fourth movie in the Terminator series as soon as it hit the theaters? Heeeeellll nooooo!!
Terminator Salvation opens rather interestingly. Unlike all of the films in the series, this one doesn’t start off with a naked Terminator dropping into the past and killing someone for their clothes. Instead, we are introduced to Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), an inmate on death row awaiting his execution. In his final moments, a representative of Cyberdine Systems (Helena Bonham Carter) convinces Wright to donate his organs for experimentation. Wright signs them over believing that this would be his final shot at redemption.
Flash forward to the year 2018, a world under siege by Skynet with pockets of human rebel resistance getting smaller and smaller as Skynet executes its plans to remove humans from the face of the Earth. John Connor (Christian Bale), the would-be savior of the human race, is a high ranking soldier in the resistance front, but not the leader we expected him to be. He takes his orders from higher ups who often withhold information for the sake of their missions, leading John to mistrust their direction. The latest raid Connor has conducted for the front has left him the sole survivor of his unit and in forcing the leaders of the resistance to reveal the reasoning behind the mission, Connor learns that Skynet has targeted Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) for termination.
Meanwhile, Marcus Wright has just come back from the dead to discover most of humanity has been wiped from the planet. His life is saved by a teenager and his young mute counterpart, the sole members of the Los Angeles branch of the resistance. Wright begrudgingly befriends his new acquaintances - a very young Kyle Reese and his friend Star - and they become traveling partners in search of the infamous John Connor, the voice of the resistance.
Eventually, Wright and Connor unite under one common goal - save Kyle Reese from the clutches of Skynet. But a revelation about Wright leads us all to wonder whether Connor can truly trust him to help save Reese. If Reese dies, he will never travel to the past to save Connor’s mother and if this doesn’t happen, John Connor will not exist. The fate of humanity rests upon a very weak bond between two enemies and an all-powerful artificially intelligent system bent on the termination of the human race as a whole.
From the very opening scenes you knew this movie was going to be different, yet still embrace the same concepts that made the Terminator franchise so popular. The major difference in Terminator Salvation is that it takes place in the future. While all of the other films took place before Doomsday, Terminator Salvation takes place some time afterwards. In the previous movies and in the television series, Skynet sent a Terminator into the past to wipe out perceived threats before they became real threats. In this film, Skynet seeks to change the past by eradicating someone who will become an enemy in the future. In effect, Skynet had originally tried to change the future by changing the past. This time around, Skynet is trying to change the future so it can change the past and thereby allow Skynet to destroy the human race. It sounds confusing to someone who doesn’t know the series, but to a Terminator fan, this is a radically new and very cool concept.
What is great about this film is that it appeals to two very different sets of moviegoers. If you never saw a Terminator film in your life, you will still be able to enjoy this film. Everything is explained to the viewer in a subtle way. This way, the first-time viewer will understand and enjoy the movie for its action, suspense and interesting storyline, while the Terminator fanatic won’t get bored and bogged down with repetitive explanations.
Speaking of Terminator fanatics, this would be the second set of moviegoers that Terminator Salvation caters to. Those of us who loved the original movie are going to truly enjoy all of the nods it receives in this film. Famous lines like “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live” are featured prominently in this film. One of the car chase scenes and one of the fight scenes are very reminiscent of scenes from the original Terminator (two hints: pipe bomb on the freeway and pipe swinging in the warehouse).
Of course, we Terminator fans want…no, expect much more out of every sequel. We want new and more creative action sequences, crazier looking terminators, bigger booms…yeah, we want more! Well, Terminator Salvation answers our prayers with some stuff we have never seen before - Terminator Motorcycles and transforming Terminator Prisoner Carriers (very reminiscent of Transformers if you ask me). We also get a better idea of how the Resistance fought their end of the war. We knew about the older, refitted automobiles, but did you know they used military planes and choppers? What about submarines? Oh, and bigger booms - oh yeah, this movie isn’t lacking in that department.
Of course, Terminator fans are going to be wondering about two things - will the telltale Terminator sound be the same and can Christian Bale carry off the role of John Connor? The musical score of Terminator Salvation is created by Danny Elfman and although he has never worked on the Terminator series before, this composer knows his way around an action film (see Wanted Soundtrack). Elfman created a completely new and exciting musical score while still using some of the sounds and featuring a sampling of some of the themes that made the music of the Terminator franchise so appealing and so recognizable.
As for Christian Bale’s portrayal of John Connor - spot on. Christian Bale knows how to portray a character weighed down by huge responsibility and full of angst. This is just the way I expected the adult John Connor to be - a refreshing change from the wimpy John Connor portrayal by Nick Stahl in Terminator 3. Sam Worthington’s Marcus Wright was a refreshing addition to the Terminator characters list. Bryce Dallas Howard does an excellent job taking up where Claire Daines left off as Kate Connor. Anton Yelchin is completely believable as a young Kyle Reese. Moon Bloodgood is also a noteworthy new addition to the character list - she’s pilot Blair Williams, Resistance member and newfound ally of Marcus Wright.
There are some notable performances by Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Ironside as characters you love to hate. Terminator fans will be thrilled to see Arnold Schwarzenegger make a quick appearance via CGI as a T-800 and to hear Linda Hamilton’s voice as she relates her story via audio cassette tape to John Connor.
To sum things up, Terminator Salvation is a film that is equivalent to a thrill ride filled with action, special effects and wonderment while still managing to contain a credible and easily absorbed storyline. Fans of the Terminator franchise such as myself will find Terminator Salvation to be just what the doctor ordered as far as sequels are concerned. Moviegoers who have not kept up with the series are going to love the sci-fi and action and won’t find themselves lost and wondering what happened in the other three films. I’d say that this makes seeing Terminator Salvation a win-win situation.