In 1984, James Cameron ushered in a new era for the science fiction action film. Centered around a classic sf premise, well-choreographed, unrelenting action, groundbreaking special effects, and an intelligent script, The Terminator forever altered the movie landscape. Cameron triumphantly returned to his signature creation seven years later and amazingly upped the ante in terms of story, action, and effects. Terminator 2: Judgment Day presented a healthy dose of the original's strengths, amped up on steroids. Wisely for him, Cameron opted out of the franchise at that point.
After a decade of bankruptcies and rights litigation, the Connor family chronicles returned in the unremarkable and forgettable Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). Helmed by director Jonthan Mostow (U-571), the movie revived the similar storyline of T2, a terminator from the future comes back in time to kill John Connor, who is protected by the less advanced, re-programmed former enemy T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) model, but without any of the panache and style of Cameron's previous efforts.
Terminator: Salvation attempts to return the franchise to its Cameron glory days. Best known for the two Charlie's Angels movies and numerous music videos, McG's directs the emotionless, derivative, and predictable effort that does little to elevate the franchise and should have been terminated during gestation.
The brief opening sequence, set in 2003, dangles a potentially well thought out movie with powerful, emotional scenes and quality acting. Sadly, Terminator: Salvation fails to deliver as it reaches its artistic pinnacle within those first ten minutes, primarily thanks to the interaction of the bald, cancer-assaulted Helena Bonham Carter and the buff Sam Worthington.
The first Terminator movie set after the apocalypse and during the time of the machines (this period has previously been explored in comics and novels), the story jumps to 2018: the world of John Connor and the resistance. The machines, headquartered in a ravaged San Francisco, devote their energies toward finding and capturing Connor's father, the teenage Kyle Reese (If you don't know what I am talking about, see the first two movies). How these future machines learned of the Connor-Reese connection is never explained.
And frankly, nothing in this movie makes you care about this conundrum or really much of anything else related to this poorly executed story.
The constant wall-to-wall action, while adequately shot, borrows heavily from the first two Terminator movies and several other similar Hollywood movies especially the vastly superior Road Warrior. Many of the new machines mimic Transformer-like designs without the adaptability. The settings rely on the well-worn post-apocalyptic stereotypes. The decent special effects lack the originality and power of the 25 year old first film. Like most early-21st century action films, Terminator: Salvation quickly devolves into one explosion after another, each more boring and redundant than the last.
The rare so-called character development moments feature bad acting and atrocious dialogue. Moon Bloodgood deserves a Razzie for her wretched portrayal of Blair Williams (pretty bad when the real name is more made up sounding than the fictional one). The beautiful and perfectly toned Bloodgood with her perfect teeth and attractive hair typifies the unrealistic view of women throughout. All the females are in extraordinary shape, good health, and gorgeous. Yet, one must assume in this post nuclear world that there is little natural food, inadequate medical attention, and no proper dental care.
One of the few surprising, crowd-pleasing, and entertaining moments occurs roughly two-thirds of the way in. But even that is fraught with predictability, inferior ideas, and logic flaws.
Due primarily to the effects, setting, and the presence of Christian Bale, this emotionally shallow movie is better than its immediate predecessor. But not by much. Ultimately, Terminator: Salvation proves once again that only James Cameron should create Terminator films.