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Terminator Salvation (Director's Cut) (2009)

A movie directed by Joseph McGinty

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A Solid Sci-Fi Action Film But Carries Some Inconsistencies to its Existing MYTHOS (?)

  • May 23, 2009
Rating:
+3

Hollywood has a habit of rebooting successful franchises, and it seems like the next one on the list is James Cameron's "Terminator" franchise. I have always wondered how the futuristic apocalyptic world of this sci-fi franchise would look like and as to how humans are able to survive and keep a "resistance". Having the rare distinction of being both a prequel and a sequel, "TERMINATOR SALVATION" attempts to give us that vision. The film pretty much takes off after where Jonathan Mostow's underappreciated "Rise of the Machines" and takes place many years after Cameron's original.

2018. John Connor (Christian Bale) is an tired soldier in a war against the killing machine-hordes of Skynet. Using tapes left behind by his deceased mother Sarah Connor (voiced by Linda Hamilton), he tries to piece together clues to their future and how everything is tied to the past. Some people see John as some prophet, and he has managed to gain the confidence of many soldiers, including a teenager named John Reese (Anton Yelchin) who is also John's father. After a skirmish between the resistance fighters and machines in a desolate area, a man named Marcus (Sam Worthington) is freed. He was a ruthless killer executed sometime ago, and who has now regained consciousness. Wandering in the wasteland which was formerly L.A., Marcus befriends Kyle who points him to the direction of the resistance movement. Kyle becomes captured and marked for execution, as Marcus meets John Connor. But Marcus is a lot more than he seems to be, and the fate of humanity is now at risk. 

             A scene from "Terminator Salvation."

                              A scene from "Terminator Salvation."

The Terminator franchise is a series that is essentially an action-packed chase film that was thrilling, and manages to expose the heart of human drama in the face of a potentially horrific future. It was brilliantly simple, its creator James Cameron and then director Jonathan Mostow's renditions carried the same scent and mechanics. Well, this time around, director McG, is a odd choice since his less than impressive resume includes the abysmal "Charlie's Angels". The world of 2018, is not too much to be understood as it is to be experienced. "Terminator Salvation" chronicles man's fight for survival ruled by machines and intelligent computers. The direction is very uneven and presents a lot of inconsistencies in its existing groundwork. What's more, the film relies on the impression that whoever would be watching this film is a solid fan, as it abandons a lot of characterization. 

          A scene from "Terminator Salvation."

                                             A scene from "Terminator Salvation."

The moody and brooding monochromatic world of "Salvation", is something different from Cameron's set groundwork of night executed guerilla warfare, where humans are left in the underground on the brink of extinction. Keep in mind that this film occurs during the early years of the resistance and this time around, there are quite a number of survivors in this dried up barren world. The screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris is very inconsistent and proves to be a little too hollow. (Not surprising, since these two are responsible for "Catwoman") The script introduces certain plot concepts, that seem quite viable but then abandoned. The script felt a little too rushed and lacked a careful methodical approach. It seemed like they were relying on the audience to fill in the plot gaps, such as why the machines were taking prisoners, or as to how the resistance seem to be well-supplied in armament and provisions--they have aircraft and submarines. It would have been easy to give hints that humans are needed as slaves to maintain the machines or to synthesize their organic skin, and that the supplies were stolen, that there were military lines of communication left in the world; but none were brought to exposition. I thought Cameron's world gave the impression that humanity was all but wiped out, with very few survivors. The direction relies on the audiences to find explanations, and leaves us to our assumptions. A little effort in plot details and characterization would've helped. The direction exhibited ignorance to this successful sci-fi franchise. 

         A scene from "Terminator Salvation."

                                       A scene from "Terminator Salvation."

The film is also promoted as a film about John Connor but it carried a more steady diet on Marcus and even borrows elements from "Ghost in the Shell" and maybe even the "Matrix". The concept of what makes a human is quite interesting, but it was a little unnecessary. Marcus was human to begin with, despite his alterations to machine parts. He has his own organic parts, and still has the human essentials. The idea of him becoming a ‘sleeper' terminator carries little merit as a machine who thinks himself human. In this installment, the machines have risen to the point as being more interesting than their human counterparts. What's more, McG never fleshes out the idea of the duality of man and machine, the potential combustive merging of man and machine, Marcus' character would've been interesting if guided by more competent direction. Bale takes a backseat to Worthington and the Connor character was almost left with nothing but to play a supporting role. The cast is a little uneven, but I cannot really blame them given the small things they had to work with. I was real pleased to see Moon Bloodgood, she was a sight for sore eyes.

Amid all the plot mistakes and blunders, McG attempts to flood our minds with explosions and very cool scenes of battle. Yes, the film does have a good number of "Man Vs. Machine" confrontations. The machines this time around looked very inventive, as to how they mimic common military strategies and firepower. There are terminator motobikes (idea probably taken from "Robotech"), a huge tank-like robot ( which looked like a refugee from Michael Bay‘s "Transformers"), a carrier aircraft, and we see glimpses of the T-600, the slow earlier generation terminator. Oh, we also get to see the newer generation T-800 and a CGI-generated "Anuld" makes a short appearance. The battle scenes are cool to watch but they are hardly epic, since they are too short and barely carried any emotional impact. Still, the action sequences were thrilling enough and may be enough to give the movie hyper-kinetic momentum, to compensate for the clumsy storytelling.

Now, is "Terminator Salvation" worthy of a nod from Cameron? Well, probably not. The film's storytelling is clumsy and uninspired, the film doesn't carry the same metal scent in the other previous films of the franchise. But for a fan of the franchise as I am, I was willing to forgive its shortcomings. At least the franchise is given new life, now let's hope "Sarah Connor Chronicles" manages to stay on television.

Recommended! timidly [3 ½- Stars]

          Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams and Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright in "Terminator Salvation."

 


movie poster T-600 giant robot poster teaser teaser

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December 06, 2010
Helena Bonham Carter all day, excellent review WP.
 
December 12, 2009
Yeah this really is an incredibly summation of my own feelings.. I wonder if I hadn't been a bit generous by rounding my score up. I believe a lot of my motivation had to do with the roller coaster action ride on the surface. It was definitely a piece that wouldn't stand up to heavy scrutiny (even though I found myself scrutinizing it anyway). I keep trying to find value in the shallowness (see: the visuals)- I still love that T-600 you included in the still above. I'm concluding that I generally find Christian Bale's acting to be lackluster. I wasn't thrilled with his portrayal of Bruce Wayne (a bit too gruffy for me) and now I feel like his John Connor was a bit flat and one-dimensional. Well anyway, great work Woop, you da man!
December 12, 2009
nah, this one's hanging between a round up and a round down. I actually liked it more when I saw it the 2nd time and I thought your review gave the movie justice. I guess I do tend to overanalyze a lot when it comes to my fave franchises.
 
May 26, 2009
Can't believe you only gave this a 3... I loved this flick. Best action film of the summer so far (certainly beat the heck out of Wolverine and Star Trek). I agree that Marcus was too much the focus, while Bale got sidelined, but for me the real impressive performance was Anton Yelchin playing the younger version of Kyle Reese, who was previously played by Michael Biehn. That kid's got talent, even if he was miscast in Star Trek. :) Also, I have to say that I didn't notice any continuity errors or plotholes in regards to the other Terminator films, although I've not yet seen Rise of the Machines.
May 27, 2009
Let's see I would rate T1 4 Stars, T2 4.5-5 Stars, T3 about 3-3.5 stars, don't get me wrong, I also liked this film, and 3.5 stars rounded down means 'good' to me. Yeh, it was better than ST in some ways, but it was pretty much comparing it to the first two classics that affected the rating, the script is a little uninspired IMO. I saw inconsistencies to existing mythos established in T1 and T2. (see my additional comments below), I also have issues believing Skynet would miss the resistance's airfield. Also, a terminator would squash Connor than throw him around, and missing the heart is a little unlikely for a T-800 machine. I do agree that Anton Yelchin is talented, he should have a bright future.
May 27, 2009
Yeah, okay but that's a problem with every film that features a villain who's more powerful than the hero. Why don't they just tear them apart instead of throwing them around and allowing them to regroup? I'll tell you why, because then it's much harder to make a sequel!
May 28, 2009
True, and remember Sarah and John avoided being in close distance with a terminator in T1 and T2--because it was just going to just kill them both so quickly. oh, I replied to your post under Alric. It is a great action film still and a decent kick-off for a new trilogy.
 
May 24, 2009
I saw this last night, and I was thoroughly pleased with it. I didn't really see any inconsistencies. The world McG took us into seemed complete enough to me, and I caught myself totally immersed in it. The scene of the human prisons was strikingly vivid, with its industrial landscape, smelting heat, and Terminator guards posted here and there. Going in, I was unsure of what to expect, because I'd heard this or that thing. But it was better than I expected. I'm partial to apocalyptic visions, and if the script doesn't do anything to break the illusion, I'll stay immersed in it. But I didn't see any inconsistencies. In fact, there was a surprising attention to details. For instance, we learn how Conner go the scar we're shown at the beginning of Terminator 2 (I have to admit, as it happened, someone pointed it out to me).  And other little touches that supplied another layer of subtlety to those familiar with the more iconic images from the other films.  For example, when a helicopter lands on top of a terminator skull and crushes it is a reference to one of the earlier films that shows a Terminator crushing a human skull into shards by stepping on it. 
May 24, 2009
Spoilers*** Its inconsistencies were from previous 'terminator' mythos. In the original, Reese definitively described the future as skynet almost wiping out the human race; that John Connor was the one who helped organized the resistance (this was also fleshed out in T2). Here, he wasn't the leader but a soldier who rose to leadership. I thought the script was uninspired, because it didn't develop its charcters details; it didn't explain why the machines were taking prisoners, (how can humans have an airstrip to launch aircraft if they were in hiding?) I understand it was 2018, but we were left to assume how and why--. I also understand that this is basically the origin of the T-800, so why have the question: "What makes a human?" or something like that--when regards to Marcus? He was human to begin with. Don't get me wrong, I liked the film,  it was good but could've been a lot better.
May 24, 2009
Thanks for the comment and the read, my friend. (comments are also glitchy)
May 24, 2009
I don't really see those points you made as real inconsistencies. It seems to me that Reese was speaking in general terms. By the end of this new film, Conner really had become the leader of the resistance. He was already a voice strong enough to supersede the commands of his superiors. It looks to me that Connor's role as described by Reese comes after the events in this movie. In the 1st and 2nd films, the T-800s were all over the place, a huge army. That army didn't really exist at the beginning of the film, but Skynet was business churning them out on an assembly line, which for now has been disrupted. It appears to me that in this film, the initial strike against humanity failed to kill enough human beings, and each side had their occupied territories. As for the taking of human prisoners, I assumed that they'd be used in experiments, as Marcus had been. To me, this film kicks the franchise off again. I see you liked the 3rd film, but I didn't, and felt it was some odd segue. This appears to veer it back on track. I'm definitely looking forward to the next two, which will cover the discovery of the time machine.
May 24, 2009
good points. Maybe Reese did describe the 'Conner' after the movie...but I still have some issues in believing that the resistance could maintain an airforce without the machines knowing about it. Skynet supposedly wiped out all human defenses. We both have interesting points--my new edited review explained everything. (but it won't post here). I do see the point with the humans as prisoners..but as you've said, and we agree; we were left to our own assumptions. This was a lot of times. It is poor storytelling when you leave your viewer 'assuming'. McG needs to NOT assume anything. I did like T3, hollow plot but it had the scent of the previous two; the T-series is essentially a thrill packed chase film, lose that formula and the series falters. But I would have to rate this one and T3 about the same. Despite some disappointments, I am looking forward to the rest of the sequels to this new trilogy, it is a way to rekindle the franchise. It's terminator...you just have to see it.
May 27, 2009
Connor did organize the "resistance". The military dudes weren't actually part of the resistance, just a group of mangy humans that were left from Judgment Day that knew about military strategems. The resistance was those that they showed that wore the red armband and not the military uniforms (although there were some that wore both). Also, the machines were taking prisoners to help develop future Terminators. Think about it now, the T-1000s were essentially formless until they came into contact with something that they could replicate, so naturally those humans could've been used as models for the T-1000s to use so that they would be able to infiltrate the humans more easily. Or it could have been that they were harvesting their organs for the cyborgs, after all Reese explains in the first film that they used human tissue as well as robotic elements.
May 27, 2009
Perhaps the whole "inconsistency" thing here could be written off as a result of the time traveling as in "The Man Who Folded Himself". Whenever you start doing that you've influenced the future and its going to be different.
May 28, 2009
Count, I know that bit about the humans being kept as slaves and harvesting them for organs, but the script is a little lazy--it leaves a lot of info for the viewer to 'assume', (what happens to the new guy who never saw a terminator movie?) they've been harvesting humans for how long and how do they do it? They said they were 'slaves', but in what manner? I think they may have omitted details to keep this one PG-13. I never said that part was an inconsistency only that it assumes that only fans would watch the movie. It lacked characterization. I can forgive this easily, however, I also didn't like that play on the "device" with Marcus, he is still human after all--so "what makes a human?" line was too hack-eyed. Actually, the resistance leadership base is in the sub, as established in the film's first act. Connor was only a soldier. So, in essence, while he was the 'prophet' he was only a follower who reveals the weaknesses of the robots. I've seen T1 and T2 (the hidden director's cut ruled!) numerous times, and I vividly recall what Reese and the T-800 saying that Connor took them out of the darkness, they were just hiding before--so if it wasn't Connor responsible for everything, what would be the purpose of assasinating his mother in T1? The humans couldn't fight back, he organized them; which is why he was targeted. What really bugs me is the fact that Skynet supposedly wiped out ALL lines of defense, (it is in control of all defense systems) even provoked the Russians into mounting an all-out war, here we see the resistance with aircraft and submarines (you know how hard it is to maintain one)--totally different from what was established in the first 3 films. Reese mentioned they were  mostly using guerilla tactics and night time raids. I know why, some investor wanted to see planes and such. The T-1000 is virtually none-existent, I think it was maybe created around 2027 or something. Karen, that is one great point. I can see that happening, but the inconsistencies were from the previous movies. Then again, it is possible, but then, groundwork would have to be set up for such a theory to be credible.
 
May 24, 2009
I guess this was to be expected. Its always the same. They did it with I AM LEGEND. You spend some money and throw in enough CGI and nobody's going to care if the story hangs together or not.
May 24, 2009
I know what you mean, Karen. This had great potential, but the plot is a little too inconsistent to the established terminator mythos. I almost rounded up the 3.5 star rating, but awesome special efx CANNOT cover up its plot fumbles. It is still a fun watch though, and more than likely I will still buy the dvd because I am a fan of the franchise.
May 24, 2009
I wonder if Trashie will be sitting shiva after he sees this or not=)He's been looking forward to it for such a long time.
May 24, 2009
I know Trashie has been aching to see this movie. It was a mixed bag, good popcorn entertainment, but not nearly as good as it should have been.
May 24, 2009
I know trashie has been dying to see this movie. It was good, but it just wasn't as good as it should've been.
May 24, 2009
Poor baby.
May 26, 2009
Oh, come on. It's an easy 4 stars. The plot, while overly simplistic and predictable, follows in the footsteps of T1 and T2.
May 26, 2009
I haven't seen that many 4 star reviews that hadn't been rounded up from 3.5 though and that's not the way you want to get 4 stars.
May 27, 2009
Well, give me some time and I'll get around to reviewin it, but I've got three book reviews that I have to tackle first... oh, and I rounded it up to a 5. Woo, don't kill me! LOL. It seems odd of me to be generous towards a sequel does it not?
May 27, 2009
More than odd, freaky is the word that comes to mind.
May 28, 2009
Count, I would love to read your thoughts about this movie, that is how I learn, and see if maybe I was harsh LOL! Scottie told me at work that I would never be able to justify why I thought Star Trek wasn't a 4 star movie, then I ended up convincing him slowly LOL
May 28, 2009
Got yA THERE WOOP, Ya little fanboy.
May 28, 2009
He-heh.
 
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Wiki

Terminator Salvationrestores some of the balance of huge freakin' explosions and emotionally compelling plot to theTerminatorseries. Set entirely after the nuclear assault that left the computer system Skynet in control of the world,Terminator Salvationfollows John Connor (Christian Bale) as he grapples with both murderous robots and his superiors in the resistance, who aren't sure they believe the prophecies that Connor is destined to save humanity. Into the midst of this struggle tumbles Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, who would later star in James Cameron'sAvatar); the last thing he remembers was being executed in prison decades before. Baffled, he falls into company with Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin,Star Trek) and a mute little girl, who soon get captured--but Wright then meets and bonds with Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood,Eight Below), a resistance fighter who remains loyal to the confused Wright even though Connor suspects he's not what he seems--or what he believes himself to be.Terminator Salvationisn't the astonishing synthesis of action and feeling that eitherThe TerminatororT2were; the plot threads are poorly woven and fray completely in the last third of the movie. Despite this,Terminator Salvationhas at least two skillfully orchestrated action sequences that will get your heart racing, and Worthington’s beguiling mixture of toughness and vulnerability gives his relationship with Bloodgood a genuine pulse. It's imperfect, but compared ...
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Details

Director: McG
DVD Release Date: December 1, 2009
Runtime: 117 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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