Despite all the different hands the Terminator has gone through, from studios to directors, to writers and cast, the franchise has never
produced an underwhelming product. Yes, that includes the massively underrated third film and the just cancelled (Why, Fox, Why!?) Sarah
In the hands of director McG and writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, however, “Terminator Salvation” is a nonstop trip to the bottom
of the barrel. The fourth Terminator film is an utter disaster. It’s a film devoid of any inventiveness, character or interest.
The screenplay is a complete waste, filled with enough generic action dialog to make you wonder if Matt Stone and Trey Parker did a gag
rewrite. There isn’t a single attempt at character development here. The film clumsily stumbles between Christian Bale’s John Connor, who
really doesn’t do anything except scream in his Batman voice until the climactic action sequence, and Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a
new-fangled Terminator who thinks he’s human.
You would expect the film to really exploit the strong theme here of what truly makes someone human. But alas, the film doesn’t even
attempt to provide any true insight, almost as if it concedes that nothing they can do will top similar psychological explorations in Blade
Runner and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In fact, the film has a very bad habit of referencing much better films than itself. Call backs to the early Terminator films are jammed in
haphazardly, Frankenstein is more mimicked than referenced, and the sound design and art direction are both very War of the Worlds-like.
The visual inventiveness that fueled the action in the second and third films is completely lost here. As a result the effects, although good,
aren’t nearly as spectacular as you would expect from a Terminator product.
The action is equally underwhelming, as McG shows absolutely no style or skill. Action sequences breakout anytime the writers have hit a
wall in a particular scene and end before they can gain any momentum. The scene starts, some awkward dialog is exchanged, there is a
moment of silence, and then a massive Skynet force attacks. This repeats over and over throughout the first half of the film. Although, it’s
certainly funny how these massive Skynet machines manage to sneak up on humans so easily. After the action sequences begin, their foot
falls are so thunderous that they shake your teeth. I guess they have a ‘whisper quiet’ setting…
The only saving graces in the film are two of its performances. Worthington is quite good as Marcus Wright, even if his character is
ultimately wasted, and Anton Yelchin makes a great Kyle Reese. Everyone else, including Bale’s Connor, is a waste of time and adds
nothing to the film.
Danny Elfman is the most prolific composer to ever score a Terminator film and even he follows suit with a completely uninspired effort.
Worst of all is how unbelievably boring the film is. It has no energy, no humor, no thrills, and not an ounce of intelligence. “Terminator
Salvation” is a complete waste in every way. It’s an insult to the series and a poorly executed, idiotic action film on its own.
(out of four)
Directed by: McG
Written by: John Brancato & Michael Ferris
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon
Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cinematography by: Shane Hurlbut
Released: May 21, 2009; 115 Minutes