25
May
2009
Review: Terminator Salvation
Terminator Salvation
Jordan
Yesterday I found myself, as I so often do, browsing for blu rays in a Best Buy. I came across a sale on all three Terminator movies and automatically picked up the first two. When I didn't pick up the third, my brother inquired as to why I wouldn't buy all three (I am, after all, obsessed with owning a full series if I own one movie, even if I dislike one of the movies in said series, just for the sake of having the entire thing). I told him that the third one was not really worth owning, but that if Terminator: Salvation (the colon is mine, as I feel like that is more grammatically correct. They aren't trying to save the terminators, people!) was good enough, I would have to return and buy it. I will tell you that I am now the proud (ok, somewhat reluctant) owner of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
McG (insert snicker about why he would choose that name for himself or joke about how you'll never hear, "And the Oscar goes to"¦McG" here) has honestly outdone himself here, and my never before existent faith in him has grown exponentially. The film is set in the near future, after the nuclear holocaust that ended the last installment. After a brief opening scene set in 2003, which introduces us to Marcus (Sam Worthington) a remorseful death row inmate who signs up for some controversial (read: probably has to do with Skynet, the computer overlord that is yet to be) medical research on his body that will give him a second chance. The offer, by Dr. Serena Kogan (the always excellent Helena Bonham Carter) starts off the movie on an ominous tone.
Meanwhile, in the future, savior in waiting John Connor (Christian "I can carry a franchise excellently" Bale) is a part of a mission lead by the resistance into a defunct lab used by Skynet. There, after his entire team is destroyed in a machine attack, the resistance manages to discover what they believe is the key to winning the war against Skynet. They also manage to awaken the long sleeping Marcus, who discovers the world is not quite as he left it.
Marcus, wandering in a dystopian future that is remniscient of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, only, you know, with huge fucking killer robot, comes upon a young resistance fight named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, who either has the best agent or the best luck in Hollywood right now, having just appeared as Chekov in Star Trek) who die hard fans, and John Connor, know will eventually travel back in time and impregnate Sarah Connor, conceiving John and giving humanity its last hope. Unfortunately, Skynet knows this too, and so Kyle is put at the top of their kill list.
What follows is pretty much a long train of set pieces, pitting Marcus, Kyle, John, and the resistance as a whole against hordes of robot killing machines as each attempts to fulfill their own agendas"”Marcus wants redemption, Kyle wants survival, and John wants Kyle's survival, as well as ultimately victory against the machines. If the idea of a long train of set pieces in which humans fight robots doesn't make you jump up and go see this movie, then Terminator: Salvation (Still using my colon, damnit!) may not be the film for you. There are a few scenes of Christian Bale soulfully emoting, a throwaway subplot involving his pregnant wife (Bryce Dallas Howard), and some of the obvious philosophical questions a movie like this raises (what really makes someone human? What would we give away to preserve our humanity? Is it worth it?), but for the most part, it's all about the action.
And every scene delivers. From an early chase sequence involving a motor home, Terminators on motorcycles, and a hover craft, through the climactic battle against several new off the line T-800s (which allows for a much expected Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo. All I could think was, A. Shouldn't he be making sure California doesn't go bankrupt right about now, and B. The Terminator! Awesome!) the film absolutely delivers. As a philosophical treatise, the movie is utterly lacking, but as a pulse pounding action thriller set in a dystopian future, the film fires on all cylinders.
The performances are very good, the action is excellent, and the direction is surprisingly competent from the man who brought you Charlie's Angels. It of course inevitably sets up the potential for sequels, but unlike the third film, this time I'm excited to see what comes next.
Grade: A-
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