Review of Terminator: Salvation

May 21st, 2009 | By | Category: Entertainment, Movie Reviews

Review by Zach Becker

Terminator: Salvation, the newest entry into the famous sci-fi franchise, far eclipses previous Terminator installments in the action and special effects department, but in exchange it sacrifices some of the emotional core that distinguished the previous films. terminator-salvation-poster

It is, however, one exciting ride and well worth the price of admission.

While the original Terminator films were always set in the present day, this new film is set nine years in the future, the year 2018. The future, apparently, is set and the goal is no longer to prevent the apocalypse and the war with the machines, but rather to fight that war. This future war was glimpsed at before, but to see it brought to life with the size and scope of a real battlefield is a treat and something to which many fans surely have been clamoring.

The film starts off rather mysteriously as a convicted death row felon, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), reluctantly agrees to donate his body to Cyberdyne Systems for an experiment in the year 2003.

The next thing you know, it’s the year 2018, the future war is in full swing, and the action commences. John Connor (Christian Bale) is leading the human resistance (although not in charge of it) and he doesn’t like terminators. In fact, he’s got one heck of a grudge (probably something to do with the darn things coming back in time to try and kill him and his mom). The resistance has some kind of trick up its sleeve that may just end that war, though.

Meanwhile, Marcus wakes up in the future, confused and with no memory of anything after his execution, and discovers the world is not what he left it. Wandering through post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, he quickly draws the attention of a burly T-600 (a predecesor to the model of terminator played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first three films).  Luckily, a teenager named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) rescues this lost soul from the battered remains of the city (“Come with me if you want to live,” Kyle declares to Marcus in a good bit of foreshadowing (postshadowing?) to the original film).

Salvation, despite a different director (McG), a new setting, and an entirely different style and focus from the original films, still manages to feel like a part of the larger franchise. Linda Hamilton lends her voice as Sarah Connor for narration through the audio tapes that we saw her creating in the first film. John still listens to the same music and enjoys riding motorcycles like he did as a teen. We even get a brief (but really cool) cameo of The Governator himself back as the Terminator. These, along with a few other instances, both help tie this film to the overall franchise and pay homage to what came before (although hearing Bale borrow Arnold’s “I’ll be back” catchphrase was a little strange).

Through a series of action sequences, Kyle Reese ends up getting captured by the machines despite Marcus’s best attempts to save him. After Marcus works his way back to resistance headquarters, John must decide whether or not to trust this new half-human/half-terminator hybrid who truly believes he is human.

In the midst of a organizing a potential war-ending attack on the machines, John must find a way to save Kyle Reese (who holds the key to John’s and humanity’s future survival).

The plot serves its purpose for the most part, although some of the characters are very two-dimensional and a few of the events make little sense. Still, the plot really only serves to set up the action sequences. Worthington and Yelchin put in good performances and Bale cements his status as the modern action star.

The movie is a thrill-ride. The explosions are plentiful. The terminators are intimidating. The post-nuclear holocaust setting is chilling. The effects and action sequences are top notch and the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Lost in the shuffle, though, are some of the strong, emotional undertones seen in the first two films. Those movies had an intimate setting as the characters ran from and fought off the singular force known as the Terminator. Audiences connected emotionally with the characters on a level not found in this film. We could relate with those characters and we felt their pain.

Whereas the original films were primarily non-stop action chase sequences, this new film brings to life an entire battlefield where man faces off against the seemingly-unstoppable machines. The characters and the drama of their situation is lost in the shuffle to some degree. This movie won’t bring a tear to your eye, but it will make you break a sweat.

Much like James Cameron came in and redefined and reinvisioned director Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise with his sequel, Aliens, so too has McG borrowed Cameron’s mythos, honored it, but took it in a whole new direction with a larger scale. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day remain great films ( Jonathon Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a decent film, but not close to the level of the other films). Salvation feels fresh and new, but not inferior to the other entries (nor repetitive, as was the case with T3).

Terminator: Salvation is a great film in its own right, just in a different way from its predecessors.

For any sci-fi, action, or Terminator fans, this is a must-see movie.

Grade: A

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