NOTE: This review is NO way, shape or form meant to discredit, piss on or otherwise ignore all the other takes on the film in this section of the forum (of which there are a few if I am not mistaken)...it is merely my own personal take.
Studio: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High Definition; 16X9 2.4:1 (2.40:1); Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (tested at core DTS)
Starring Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Bryce Dallas Howard
RESISTANCE IS FUTILE…OR IS IT?
In many ways, this fourth installment to the Arnold-esque franchise is like a cross between War of the Worlds and Transformers – how, you ask? Well, remember when Tom Cruise and all the unlucky captives of the aliens in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds are trapped in those “transport buckets” on the alien ships? Something very similar happens in Terminator Salvation. Furthermore, the overtly wild, eye-popping mechanical mayhem and battle sequences in this Christian Bale-helmed action fest are eerily similar to all the chaos that ensued between the transformers in Michael (gulp) Bay’s film.
Let me back up a bit. I rented this on a whim after recalling wanting to see it theatrically; after all, the “hole” left by “John Connor” telling us that the “battle had just begun” at the end of Rise of the Machines had fans salivating for the fourth installment. Part 3 was pure popcorn action – the kind of film that non-diehard Terminator fans were able to enjoy just as an over-the-top summer blockbuster, while serious fans that were raised on the more cerebral diet of the first and second films called Jonathan Mostow’s film pure eye candy. Bet that as it may, Rise of the Machines was simply all-out, balls-to-the-wall fun from beginning to end, and we were treated to Arnie gettin’ it on with a foxy “female” terminator sent to wipe out John Connor once again. The DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is still, all these years later, absolute pure demo gold. And so Terminator 3 stands on its own as a kind of unique entry in the franchise; one that non-Terminator diehards can watch as a standalone action picture.
The biggest gamble came when Warner Brothers announced that Arnie wouldn’t be in the fourth installment – it was to take a bit of a fresh direction with Christian Bale as Connor leading the human resistance after the events of the third film. How could this work? How could it be a Terminator film without Arnold on the marquee? Well, just when you thought he wasn’t completely in it, there’s a good surprise towards the end of Salvation…
The timeline of events from the conclusion of Rise of the Machines up until what transpires in Salvation seems a bit sketchy upon first watch, and the film finds itself playing like an odd mix of a Mad Max film and one of the aforementioned Transformers sequels, what with desolate, dry landscapes and horizons fusing with bands and pockets of survivor colonies. An opening sequence gets a bit confusing as we witness a prisoner (Sam Worthington) preparing to be executed on death row as he talks with a cancer victim looking for him to donate his body once he’s executed. Worthington’s character ends up being “half-made” into a terminator and sent into the raging war that Bale and the resistance is fighting with Skynet and the machines. It takes until the end of the film to discover that the cancer victim in that opening sequence was actually behind making Worthington into the half-machine in order to, of course, stop John Connor’s resistance efforts.
The resistance, as it is known, is apparently fighting this war against the machines and Skynet via a submarine, I guess because the robots simply cannot make it underwater – until some new eel-like terminator units find a way to do just that. Meanwhile, there are some continuation issues here, mainly with the fact that Claire Danes’ character from the third film has been replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3); at the end of the third film, Connor and Danes are destined to be married and have children as they hunker in the military bunker, but much like the Dark Knight Katie Holmes switch, Howard now plays Connor’s wife and is carrying his baby. Another interesting element in Salvation comes in the form of Connor’s father (played here by Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin)who is fighting the war against the machines from the L.A. pocket of resistance – Connor doesn’t know his father, Kyle, is in this time until some events start coming together.
The main problem with Bale playing John Connor is his Batman-under-the-mask-like dialogue delivery; sometimes, it is so similar, it’s startling. As Bale delivers his lines in this, you can almost hear the lisp-like speech in The Dark Knight when he talks to Harvey Dent about turning himself in – the delivery is identical. But, surprisingly, if you give it time, Terminator Salvation has some moments of clarity and wallops of action setpieces reminiscent of the first three films. There are wild updates of the terminator machines and their weapons/ships, and a great final battle sequence between Bale, Worthington and a surprise visit from a terminator we all know…
Which brings me to Worthington’s “Marcus” character and the role he plays in this; as I said, if you give the film time, the plot begins to make more sense and effective elements begin to fall into place. Once discovered as a half-machine, Marcus is suspected of being a Skynet spy of sorts by Connor and some of his resistance friends, even though he denies being there to harm them. Restrained in iron chains, Marcus is eventually set free by a sexy member of Connor’s team that doesn’t believe he is there to harm them, either. Meanwhile, Connor’s father, Kyle, and other resistance fighters, have been scooped up by giant machines and are headed to Skynet headquarters in a bombed-out San Francisco. Now, in order to save the future and stabilize the past, Connor must get to Skynet and rescue Kyle – his only hope is to trust Marcus in that this half man/half machine will help him in infiltrating Skynet’s headquarters.
What ensues are eye-popping machine/human battles that borders on almost beyond reproach – sure, these battle sequences were wild enough in Judgement Day and Rise of the Machines, but wait until you see Bale fighting the surprise terminator towards the end, or Marcus using his machine half to battle the super terminator. Pretty cool stuff, to put it simply.
There are some “cameo” voiceover moments from John’s mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) and the score from the first three films has been fused with a Batman Begins-like tune from Danny Elfman, but the biggest issue I had with Terminator Salvation was Bale as Connor; I just didn’t see it. Actually, Worthington would have probably been a better fit, visually, for Connor. I just didn’t see Edward Furlong growing up into Bale – speaking of Furlong, there’s a nice nod to his John Connor performance from the second film in this, when Bale switches on a boom box radio and blasts that Guns ‘n Roses song from Judgement Day…
The final sequence has, again, Bale as Connor narrating a few words about the machines not being completely eliminated, thus leaving the door open for a fifth installment; will we see a return of the beloved California politician? Is he too old? Can his wife manage to look remotely sexy even with makeup?
TERMINATOR SALVATION REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW...