An often nostalgic sequel to the famous Terminator franchise, Terminator Salvation is salvaged by ground breaking effects and a star turn by Australian actor Sam Worthington, yet will leave those un-associated with its history scratching their heads, and hardcore fanboys partially impressed.
With franchise creator James Cameron long gone, the reins have been handed to oddly named director McG, who plays slave and pays tribute to Cameron’s The Terminator, released back in 1984.
With Terminator Salvation set in post judgement day 2018, McG’s mission is simple: explain the origins of the T-800 model terminator – human infiltrators played famously by Arnold Schwarzenegger – and explore the pressure which falls upon the shoulders of two legendary figures: prophesised human resistance leader, John Connor (Christian Bale); and his future (or should that be past?) father to be, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin).
(History lesson: As seen in The Terminator, Kyle Reese –as played by Michael Biehn – is sent back in time to protect John Connor’s mother, Sarah Connor, falling in love and impregnating her in the process.)
All the while, McG constantly alludes to the original Terminator, which works as a sign of respect and giddy recollection, yet does backfire due to the superiority of Cameron’s ground breaking sci-fi opus.
A big flaw in Terminator Salvation is Christian Bale’s insipid portrayal of John Connor. What should have been a memorable turn is a bland and gloomy interpretation of a popular character. Bale employs the same annoying throaty growl used in The Dark Knight, while keeping his face in a suspended state of concentrated angst.
His performance is so ho-hum, that viewers will be forced to play a game of “Guess Which Scene Bale Lost It”, with this critic placing money on an “emotional” embrace with an equally dour Bryce Dallas Howard, who co-stars as John Connor’s wife. Hopefully clarification will be forthcoming in an audio commentary.
So with Bale dropping the ball, it is up to equally billed yet less popular Australian actor Sam Worthington to deliver, which he does triumphantly.
Here we bear witness to a star ascending.
Worthington portrays Marcus Wright, a killer put to death back in 2003, yet mysteriously resurrected in 2018, without a scratch on him. Throughout, the viewer questions his intentions: is he friend or foe?
A scene where Worthington jumps a barbed wire fence ala The Great Escape is telling, since he does remind of Steve McQueen in his strong screen presence, steely resolve, and ability to steal scenes from more famous co-stars.
Yelchin, too, delivers with a solid turn as the young Kyle Reese, deploying Michael Biehn’s concentrated stare and injecting his character with the honourable spirit needed to make his performance work.
Yet Terminator Salvation’s greatest asset is its jaw dropping spectacular visual effects. Taking cues from Cameron’s brief glimpses of 21st century warfare in The Terminator and its popular sequel, McG has created a murky and inhospitable post apocalyptic environment, infested with various – and hats off impressive – machines of death, scouring the land for fresh blood.
Yet be warned: its thunderous sound effects, coupled with Danny Elfman’s over bearing score, has earned Terminator Salvation the award for loudest movie of the year, thus far.
Bringing this entry to the Terminator franchise full circle is a surprising and welcome “cameo” which again highlights the films stellar visual effects. More can be said about it, but that would ruin a genuine surprise that will make viewers sit up and take notice, novice and expert alike.