Setting an entire Terminator film post-Judgement Day was always a tempting proposition. After Terminator: Rise of the Machines (one can’t really call it a disappointment – did anyone have high hopes?), breaking free of the highly repetitive narratives seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, Terminator Salvation isn’t different enough to stand apart from its predecessors. It is, however, an enjoyably mindless action flick.
It has to be said that McG isn’t really an actors’ director. He can coordinate the occasional fun sequence, but I’ve yet to see any depth coming from the man that brought us Charlie’s Angels, its sequel and We Are Marshall. Many buffs got understandably excited when it was revealed that Christian Bale was heading the Salvation cast, but if he thought this film was going to be quality then his judgement was sorely lacking.
The script is woeful. Every single line that comes out of the characters’ mouths is garbage. In fact, the dialogue is so bad that the best moments are when there’s shit blowing up and no one gets a chance to speak. For the first time ever, Bale is completely forgettable (and I even remember his role in Henry V) and Sam Worthington simply seems to be warming up for a huge Hollywood career. He’s good here, and I think he’s TNBT, though he needs to work a lot more work on his accent. He plays Marcus Wright, a man thrown into this post apocalyptic future with no preparation whatsoever, and it’s hard to work out if he’s supposed to be American, Irish or Australian. Bale is of course playing John Connor, though there’s very little consistency between his, Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl’s versions of the character. There’s a motley bunch of supporting characters – Anton Yelchin proves just how chameleonic he can be (almost unrecognisable as the guy who played Chekov in Star Trek), Helena Bonham Carter seems totally out of place and Moon Bloodgood still has the coolest name in Hollywood.
I won’t go into the actual plot, because the general idea (and I mean the broad brush strokes, not the scene by scene breakdown) is actually kind of interesting. It does offer a slightly different take on the oh-so-familiar Terminator formula, but it’s not enough. John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris’ screenplay is overly keen to rehash dialogue and moments from the original, and this is where the film really frustrates. It’s like the Star Wars prequels – there’s only so many times you can hear ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ before you want to start kicking yourself in the shin.
So after all the negatives, what’s left? Well, some truly enjoyable action sequences. The film is shot almost like a war documentary – the images we’ve seen of the second Iraq War were clearly an inspiration – and it works well. The camera doesn’t get too juddery, and the CGI is passable if never truly awe-inspiring. We get to see some new Skynet technology as well as the old models, and the brisk pace means the film never gets boring. It does feel a little choppy – like maybe half an hour was left on the cutting room floor – and I wondered more than once if the scene order had been rejigged.
Terminator Salvation is a stupid action film of the highest order. By this I mean it also fulfils the secondary Stupid Action Film requirement – don’t get boring. There are a couple of surprises along the way (though you’ll likely foresee one of them), but it certainly doesn’t herald a brand new day for the franchise.Rating: