[WARNING: This review contains spoilers, plot points, and references to other current theatrical releases. You have been warned.]
There’s a special place in my heart for the Terminator series. Perhaps it’s the originality of the concept so brilliantly conceived by James Cameron during a fever-induced nightmare. Maybe it’s the skillful acting of current California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or perhaps it’s the kick-ass action and special effects. Whatever the reason, the first three were amazing and kept me on the edge of my seat.
Terminator: Salvation did quite the opposite. I became bored on a number of occasions primarily due to the following:
I didn’t care about anyone in the film. They, for the most part, showed little or no personality or likeability. At least with the previous films there was someone to care about and hope for their success (be it Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), John Connor (Edward Furlong), or the T-800 (Arnold)). Remember when Arnold, as he was being lowered into the molten steel at the end of T2, gave the thumbs-up to John and Sarah? You cared about this machine. He was “human” in the eyes of the audience. You felt bad for John and Sarah that they had to do this to what Sarah referred to as “the only decent father-figure” her son ever had. We liked these characters because they were complex and vulnerable while still kicking ass and taking names.
In Terminator: Salvation, we get very little of this character dimensionality. Yes, you could argue that we already know who John Connor (Christian Bale) is. We know who Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) is. But, we don’t know them as who they are at this point in their lives. I felt like John Connor was as robotic and stiff as the machines he had sworn to fight. Even Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) who is a human/machine hybrid has more personality that Connor. We know that Bale is capable of emoting, so what gives?
The first two Terminators had a strong female presence in Sarah Connor. She was the hero in the first one, and was a strong presence in Judgment Day. In Salvation, the female characters are either dying of cancer, pregnant, or eye candy. They add nothing to the story. Connor’s wife is pregnant. Ever mentioned? Nope. If it’s not important, why include it? A strong female was one of the things that made the first two films unique for action movies. Along with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) from the Alien films, Sarah Connor was the ultimate female action hero. Not even touched upon here.
What about the acting? By now we’ve all heard or heard about Christian Bale’s rant on the set. But I kept wondering when his character was in such a strong emotional state that a distraction would cause such an outburst. He screams a lot. He also talks in his low Batman voice a lot. He gives fireside chats over the radio to the Resistance, but they come across as read speeches not emotional moments.
The rapper, Common, is one of Connor’s buddies and can’t act at all! Every line sounds like he’s reading it. There’s one point when he says “huh?” and it sounds so artificial it got a laugh from the audience. Rappers have every right to act in films, no problem with it. However, with the expectations and stakes so high for this much-anticipated film, you think they would have cast a better actor.
Bryce Dallas Howard, Helena Bonham Carter and Moon Bloodgood (yep, that’s her name) aren’t given any time or room to actually act. They could have saved the film millions by casting unknowns in these roles and no one would have noticed a difference.
Okay, so it’s 2018. If Skynet is in control of communications and technology, how can the humans use Sony electronics, high-tech computer gadgets, and other tech devices without Skynet interfering, tracking the humans down through them, and killing them? If you start a car, the machines are on your ass. So why can’t they pinpoint where you are via your cell phone?
John Connor says, regarding Kyle Reese (his future father) that if Kyle Reese dies, then John Connor is dead. So, by that logic, if Kyle Reese was killed by Skynet instead of being saved by Connor, would Connor have suddenly dropped dead? I guess it’s the same question I have about Star Trek: If young Spock had died would Old Spock still be around? Or on Lost, if Ben Linus had been shot dead as a kid by Sayid, would present day Ben have died? Plus, Reese goes back in time, impregnates Sarah Connor with John in order to prevent what’s currently happening. Obviously, it didn’t work!
McG is good at action, but bad at coaching actors. He may as well have gotten George Lucas to direct the dialogue scenes; they were that stiff and off-putting. And I’m sorry, but it sort’ve cheapens a film with the last thing you see before the film starts is “Directed by McG.” It looks a tad silly on a movie like this. But what do I know? Two of actors are named Common and Moon Bloodgood!
Count how many times Marcus Wright lets out a Wolverine-style primal scream. My count was three, and I kept thinking about Hugh Jackman in the role each time it happened.
And the big question: Who was the main bad guy? Machines, as was seen, can be destroyed, melted, blown-up, deactivated, and reprogrammed. But there was no sense that Conner or Reese were actually being hunted by some sort of Terminator bounty hunter. You’d think, even though it would be a throw-back to the previous films, that if Skynet is now in control they would have a much easier time finding and killing Connor and Reese. Guess Skynet isn’t run on Macs; I’m sure the robots could use an app on their iPhones and locate Connor and Reese quite easily.
So, what did work for me?
The action sequences and effects were very cool. I loved the new Skynet machines that were included in the film, and thought that the effects were great.
Arnold’s cameo during the third act was enjoyable and fun to see. While he has no lines, his presence was a much-needed jolt to the film.
James Cameron’s absence is certainly felt by this fourth installment. Many may ask, “Well, what do you expect? It is the fourth film in the series. You can’t have too high of expectations.” If that’s the case, then explain the success of Batman Begins/The Dark Knight, Star Trek, and Casino Royale? All are films that re-energized dying film franchises and gave them new life.
I don’t think Terminator: Salvation is the new blood people were hoping for.
NOTE: Now, I’ve read the comments people are writing on the reviews posted on RottenTomatoes.com, and I have to say that I am shocked at how angry, vile, and bitter people are if someone has written a negative review of this film. If you disagree with any of the points made in this post, please leave a comment that I can respond to that is mature and free of profanity.
Watch David’s video review: