The summer of 2009 finds a batch of franchises trying to rise from the dead. Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement as X-Men
wasn't really dead, but you get the picture. Hollywood's bringing back some popular film franchises and, so far, the results have been mostly positive. Wolverine
wasn't wow worthy, but it was at least a decent action film. Star Trek
on the other hand exceeded all expectations, effectively reviving, reinvigorating, and re-whatever else a film series that had flatlined.
Now McG and Warner Bros are rebooting the Terminator
franchise, sans Arnold, with Terminator Salvation
. Removing Schwarzenegger from the mix is a risky move but, truthfully, as a native Californian I'd rather see our governor concentrate on fixing the state's economy than stomping around blowing things to pieces while speaking in truncated sentences. And if you're going to take Schwarzenegger out, plopping in Christian Bale
as the film's main draw isn't a bad trade-off.
So Bale's John Connor, Australian newbie Sam Worthington (keep an eye on this guy...he's going to explode - and since we're talking Terminator I'll throw in that's not to be taken literally) is a hybrid we haven't seen before in a Terminator movie, Moon Bloodgood and Bryce Dallas Howard fill the Sarah Connor strong female character void, and Anton Yelchin tackles the pivotal role of a young Kyle Reese. It's not a bad collection of actors for a Terminator film but that doesn't guarantee, even with Bale in the lead, that this new Terminator is going to live up to its predecessors. Granted, pretty much any new addition to the Terminator franchise would have to be better than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a film most diehard Terminator fans would like to use time travel to go back and destroy. But what about living up to Jim Cameron's Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)? T2's effects still hold up after all these years, which is really saying something for the work Cameron and the effects artists did on that sequel.
Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin in 'Terminator Salvation.'
© Warner Bros Pictures
Director McG and screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris had a heavy load to bear in bringing this fourth Terminator
to life, and for the most part they succeeded in making a movie that is worthy of Cameron's Terminator
franchise. It might not be quite as good as T2
, but it's certainly within arm's reach of the bar set by that film.
After a brief recap of events leading up to Terminator Salvation
's present day - post-apocalyptic 2018 - we find Skynet and its Terminators, Hunter-Killers, Hydrobots, and other cruel machines have left the planet a bombed out wasteland, with just scattered pockets of human survivors. Members of the Resistance (they wear red arm bands as a badge of courage) fight off the machines in organized assaults, but we humans are not winning this war.
John Connor, not yet the leader of the Resistance, is disliked by the Resistance's head guy (played by Michael Ironside) but respected by the grunts on the ground. Along with his right-hand man Barnes (Common) and his eight months pregnant wife, Kate (Howard), John Connor works on hunting down Skynet's machines. But an encounter with Marcus Wright completely changes John Connor's perception of Skynet's capabilities.
Marcus is a hybrid with a human heart and brain housed in a skin-clad mechanical body, a creature - apparently of Skynet's making - that Connor never knew existed. Resistance fighter Blair Williams (Bloodgood) trusts Marcus - he saved her life - but the Connors aren't as accepting. Marcus is declared an enemy, Blair has to rescue him from being put to death, and that sets up a confrontation between John and Marcus that changes the course of both men's lives. John and Marcus discover they share a goal: to keep Kyle Reese (Yelchin) alive. Kyle's been captured by Skynet and John Connor knows there is no other option than to rescue him. The future of mankind is depending on it and if it means he has to try and trust a machine, then he's willing to go that far in order to guarantee Kyle's survival.
Bale's the very definition of intense and he can handle action scenes like nobody's business. But he opted to use a modified Batman growl in this that just seems out of place. It's a small misstep but one that bothered me enough to remind me throughout the film that this is Christian Bale. I think it's the first movie where I didn't lose sight of Christian Bale the actor while watching one of his characters.
Bloodgood's a real revelation in this, and boy does she kick some serious butt. Howard is also terrific, though underused, as John's second in command. Same goes for Common as John's right-hand man. We see little of him but when he's there, he has an impact.
Moon Bloodgood in 'Terminator Salvation.'
© Warner Bros Pictures
The two real standouts in the whole production are Yelchin as Kyle Reese and Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright. They're so good in this I'd liked to have seen more of them working together as a tag team going after Terminators. Yelchin's boyish good looks don't at first glance fit with the hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners Kyle portrayed by Michael Biehn. But the more Yelchin's onscreen, the more Kyle the teenager seems to warp into Kyle the man who will become the father of the leader of the Resistance. And Worthington is the
star of this film. The pre-release hype focuses on the John Connor storyline, but Marcus Wright as played by Worthington is the most compelling character to come out of the Terminator
franchise other than Schwarzenegger's Terminator.
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