Terminator Salvation (2009): Breakdown by Kain424
In the year 2018, John Connor breaks into SkyNet’s base of operations to save Kyle Reese. He ends up with a scar and a heart transplant.
After Terminator 3: The Rise Of The Machines failed to meet the relatively low expectations of fans, the announcement of another sequel drew negative criticisms immediately. This was especially so after Charlie’s Angels director McG was announced to helm the new installment. Still, he attended Comic-Cons and spoke with a silver tongue of his fidelity to the canon of the established series. Clearly the man seemed to know his stuff, and the coy insinuation of an Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo had everyone curious but at the same time cautious.
McG demonstrates his faithfulness to the established canon immediately, as the movie opens with Christian Bale shooting and killing a terminator trapped beneath his helicopter. With bullets. Regular, plain old bullets. The kind that could barely slow down the Terminator of the first film. And the inconsistency with the series’ mythology doesn’t stop there.
The HKs are rusted, clumsy things, unable to catch a vehicle driving in a straight line on an open road. The guns, far from being lasers and plasma rifles, are contemporary weapons. There are now motorcycle terminators, giant transformer terminators, and the “new” T-800 models as described by Kyle Reese from 2029 are now new in 2018. It’s almost as if the writers (including the self-described “obsessed Terminator fan” McG) listened to some of the dialog and ignored the rest, as demonstrated by these, fairly easy to understand bits of dialog spoken by the same character:
[flashvideo filename=videos/T4Kyles.wmv.FLV /]
In fact, the dialog is particularly bad here, being irritatingly redundant. Characters constantly repeat and reiterate themselves to the point of idiocy. In one moment, someone will say “RTB” and in the next breath explain the acronym as “Return To Base.” Pick one or the other! There is simply no need for this!
The redundant exposition is constant throughout, having the fourth film in the series beginning with this drawn out expository introduction:
Early in the 21st Century, SkyNet, a military defense program, became self aware. Viewing humanity as a threat to its existence, SkyNet decided to strike first.
The survivors of the nuclear fire called the event Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare…
The war against the machines. To hunt down and eradicate humans, SkyNet built Terminators.
As the war rages on, leaders of the human resistance grow desperate.
Some believe one man holds the key to salvation. Others believe he is a false prophet.
His name is John Connor.
The year is 2018
And just in case you didn’t catch any of that, they basically repeat it a couple more times for your dumb-ass.
Things are not assisted with starring cast member Christian Bale choosing to utter all of his dialog in this, near incomprehensible babble:
[flashvideo filename=videos/T4Bale.avi.FLV /]
His one-note performance, clearly originally written as more of a supporting role, detracts from the overall flow of the film. His story arch, in fact, seems utterly forced upon the movie’s narrative. A quick look at the history of Terminator Salvation‘s production history shows Bale heavily forced his will into the making of the movie. Bale would regularly spend up to 8 hours a day in the editing room. This diva-like behavior seems to have had a negative impact on finished product.
The fourth film in the Terminator series looks remarkably unlike any of the future war sequences as seen in the past flicks, making it almost more of a curiosity than a true sequel. The desert landscapes are boring and the ruined city pieces are as dull as they seem dead. The lifeless look of the film causes one to nearly nod off, as if on a testing road trip. Whatever “war” they are fighting seems to be taking place far from the action we’re getting.
McG’s direction can be workable for much of the picture, managing to keep a steady camera and a pretty decent set-up of shots. However, he has no sense of suspense or balance, with action moments coming and going at random. His insistence upon using practical effects much of the time is admirable, though. As is his direction of the action scenes themselves. He would make a fine second unit director for a better filmmaker.
The film’s blatant disregard for the established canon of the films that preceded it aside, T4 still manages to settle into range of enjoyable mediocrity. Several of the references to the other films are welcome and the action, when it occurs, is well enough done to warrant at least one viewing. It’s unfortunate that the movie gets bogged down under the demands of its star, the terrible story, and depressing disregard for the previous entries. Perhaps they should have stopped after T2.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Christian Bale is John Connor
Bale plays Connor as a one dimensional hard-ass with a speech impediment. He hates the machines, but spends much of the film railing against the authorities that command him. Still, he takes out many Terminators on his own and manages to blow up SkyNet’s supposed base. Pretty bad-ass.
Sam Worthington is Marcus Wright
Worthington escapes the film relatively unscathed, thanks to natural talent and charisma. He is convincing as a human and also as a bad-ass looking for redemption. He not only fights terminators, but also takes out a handful of guys, practically unarmed. His through-line may be silly and rather pointless, but he’s still pretty cool.
Anton Yelchin is Kyle Reese
In a perhaps not-so-surprising turn of events, Reese is again one of the better characters of the movie, being both well-acted and well written. The story that surrounds him isn’t grand, but Yelchin (doing his best Michael Biehn impression) does a great job. Reese, despite the turn of Marcus’s character, gives Terminator Salvation a heart and an interesting lead. He also lives in war-torn L.A., where he takes out 600 series terminators. Reese is still a bad-ass.
Helena Bonham Carter is SkyNet
In one of the film’s big What The Fuck? moments, they decide to give SkyNet a human (well, as human as Helena Carter can claim to be) face. Despite being a cold, calculating computer, SkyNet is shown to possess a wide range of subtle emotions and wit. Whatever.
[THE BODY COUNT: Around 30]
Most of the kills occur either offscreen or are handled in such a manner as to be damn near family-friendly. One guy gets blasted in the back at point blank range with a shotgun and not a drop of blood is seen. Most of the bodycount comes from people dying in explosions, which are all very bloodless.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING]
Easily the best fight scene in the film, and probably the best Action sequence as well, belongs to the one between the T-800 and the human resistance members Connor, Reese, and Wright. The T-800 rips a 600 series in half (because he’s bad-ass like that, I guess) and puts on one helluva show, seemingly killing Wright and mortally wounding Connor.
Sure, the fight’s not without its problems. Why doesn’t the Model 101 punch a hole through any of them like he does in the first film? Why does he insist on simply throwing his opponents around? Whatever, I say. It’s still a kick to see Arnie back in action, even if he is just CGI.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Aside from the rather frequent male nudity and the male characters’ seeming non-interest in members of the opposite sex, I can’t think of a damn thing.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
There are only a few female characters in Terminator Salvation, but the way in which they are treated just goes to show how far the apple has fallen from the tree. One character, a soldier seen at the very beginning of the film, is killed in an explosion and never again mentioned. Helena Carter gets to play two characters; one a dying, hairless executive sent to a prison to try and get a death row inmate to sign over his body for science, and the other a genocidal artificial intelligence that may or may not actually be all that intelligent.
There is also John Connor’s wife (played by Bryce Howard) who seems to be in the film just to set up a cool one-liner for her husband, and Moon Bloodgood’s character, Blair Williams. Blair has the purpose of leading a terminator into Connor’s camp and then, once it’s captured, sets it free. Did I mention she nearly gets raped? Yeah, she has be rescued (and if you have the Director’s cut, you get to see some side titty). So the strong female archetypes have all but disappeared from the franchise now.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Connor infiltrates SkyNet’s base and begins freeing the kidnapped civilians from cages. He searches through them frantically, looking for the young man that will eventually become his father. Suddenly, a door blasts open and out steps a T-800, Model 101.
A pissed off looking Arnold Schwarzenegger proceeds to attack a suddenly rather defenseless Christian Bale.
In the one-liner territory, there are a few nice ones, including the old stand-by, “Come with me if you wanna live.” But I actually enjoyed the new life breathed into the series’ most famous line. Connor, about to go on his mission to infiltrate SkyNet’s base, is asked what to tell his men when they find he’s gone.
“I’ll Be Back.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Machines aren’t all that bad, but if we act as cold and emotionless as they do, we will be.
[THE CHECKLIST: 16 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[X] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice