The Terminator series has come a long way with Terminator Salvation in terms of graphics, but the story fails to meet the standards set up by the prior films.
In the year 2018, the machines still have the upper hand following their all out nuclear strike many years before on Judgment Day. Though forced to live in hiding thanks to their decimated numbers, the human resistance has yet to give up the fight against the machines. Taking place following the three previous films of the franchise, Terminator Salvation follows John Connor, who has yet to fulfill his destiny of leading the humans against the machines. However, before he can become this man he has to retain the timeline that has been set by finding Kyle Reese, the man who will eventually go back and time and father Connor; the same man the machines are trying to find and kill, thus killing Connor as well. Prior to this film, I never thought to question this timeline, but because it takes the spotlight in this story, it becomes more important to understand. Unfortunately this film does nothing to explain this issue, so my mind is left boggled. For one thing, if (nonexistent) John Connor has yet to send Kyle Reese back in time how does he exist in this future? Unless there is some time loop going on in which Connor sends Reese back, fathers Connor, Connor grows up, sends Reese back again (and the cycle continues)… I just don’t get it. Like I said, don’t try to explain it because it will become as debatable as the chicken and the egg.
Back to what can be explained: Christian Bale fills the role of John Connor, proving once again that action films are a strong suit for him. I’m just concerned that his more recognizable role as Batman may also hinder his performances in other roles. For one thing, whenever he was in a stressful, life-threatening scene (which was more often than not) he would go between his normal voice and his gravely, lower Batman voice. Good thing there was enough excitement in these scenes to distract from Bale or else I might have started wondering when I was going to see his signal in the night sky.
Though this unintentional variance in voice performance was a little frustrating, it is the least of Bale’s problems. While Connor is searching for Reese, Marcus Wright is creating a much more interesting and entertaining storyline. Many years prior to the present date of the film, Marcus Wright was a man on death row who chose to donate his body to science. Now, in 2018 he awakens to the exploding debris of the lab around him without an understanding of what was done to him and how he is still alive. What he failed to notice was his skin regenerating over his newly acquired metal upgrades. Because of the importance of both storylines, the film becomes spread too thin across the two with Wright’s struggle to survive in a world he doesn’t understand as a man/machine trumping John Connor’s mission to save Kyle Reese. Plus, Sam Worthington’s ability as Wright to draw sympathy and compassion from the audience wins out over Bale’s less complex character.
Overall, the look of the film is very bleak and drained of color, with only the red of the terminators eyes adding a sadistic splash of color. But what keeps this from becoming obnoxiously monotonous is the excitement of the action scenes, full of fiery explosions and amazingly animated machines. In this addition to the series, the slow moving, brutish terminator model is overshadowed more often than not by the strides the machines have taken in advancing their means of tracking down and killing the remaining humans. Where there were once only the slow stalkers, everything now is bigger and faster, which is exemplified best during a chase scene involving a colossal machine and gun-totting motorcycles.
While it is interesting to see the world that has always been hinted at throughout the Terminator series, Terminator Salvation would have benefited greatly with another 30 minutes or so. The ending is profound in the statement in makes about this world, but it only rounds out one of the two storylines this film failed to flesh out to their full potential.
Final Grade: B-