Terminator Salvation

may 24, 2009

I am an on-and-off fan of the Terminator series.  The first one was pure B-film fun.  The second was perfectly done action with lots of brains to go along with it.  The third was fun, but completely out of place with the first two -- it was a cartoony caricature of the second.  And the TV series that was recently canceled by FOX (damn you FOX!) was great drama, it tweaked the Terminator timeline a bit much -- but the erasing of the events of the third film was welcomed.

I was actually looking forward to Terminator Salvation -- yes, even after I saw that it was directed by McG (Charlie's Angels and TV's Chuck).  I was even surprised that they got Danny Elfman to score the film.  And Bruce Wa--err, Christian Bale as John Conner?  I bought into that one.  So, the package itself was quite appealing.  What do I think after seeing the 9:30am showing today?

The film is great pulpy summer fun.  The film is mindless action:  chases, gun fights, explosions, etc.  I did not expect too much from it, so I got a lot of entertainment out of it.  The film was generally really exciting.  Though, with all the wall-to-wall action, there were no real standout action sequences (like the Cyberdyne sequence in T2).  McG certainly has an eye for action and he gets a lot of good sequences into the movie -- including what it would be like to be inside of a crashing helicopter.  McG also shows that action can be exciting without having to shake the camera like a madman or cut scenes into tiny microsecond chops -- are you listening Michael Bay?

The problem with the film is Christian Bale.  He portrays John Conner as a pissed off man, and I mean really pissed -- as in a "Hey, is that a director of photography?" type pissed off.  The Conner that Bale portrays has no heart or soul -- unlike the three before him (Furlong's, Stahl's, or Dekker's).  He spends his time growling or screaming, or both at the same time.  His Conner has no humanity in him and I cannot see how people would want to follow this John Conner around. 

The character with heart (literally) and soul is Sam Worthington's Marcus -- and not to spoil anything, but this is quite ironic for the character of Marcus.  Worthington steals the movie from under Bale.  He makes Marcus a character that we can like.  Kudos to Worthington for putting some soul into a rather soulless affair.

Common, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, Jadagrace and Bryce Dallas Howard all have cardboard roles in the film and do what they can with the horrible dialogue that they are given.

The script has some pretty bad lines -- including the "I'll be back" line, which when it came out of Bale's mouth cause me to giggle because it sounded so silly.  But, the script also has some nice twists in it and that was quite welcome.  Again, this is a summer blockbuster movie, so don't expect too much from it.  The small cameo from our Governator was quite fun too.

One huge disappointment after Bale's performance as Conner is Elfman's score for the film.  The score that is in place could have been done by anyone.  There are no real themes to the score and worse yet, Elfman completely discarded Brad Fidel's Terminator theme.  I am a huge Elfman fan, but his work on Salvation is a disappointment.

So, do I like Terminator Salvation?  Yes.  As an action film it is pure fun.  McG knows how to make things exciting without making the audience disorientated or seasick.  The running time is about two hours and ten minutes, a little long, but with all the explosions, I hardly noticed.  It's worth a see if you have an interest in the Terminator series -- it might not make sense if you are not.

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