James Cameron has my complete sympathies.  It must feel like the lose of a beloved family pet… or maybe it’s like a divorce (he’s had four of them) to have his creation ransacked like this.  At least in a divorce he knows his matrimonial future is bright (come on, he’s James Cameron).  But putting the film in the hands of (let me just quote Bale’s inspiring words to his director of photography) “f#@%^*$ amateurs” was a move that even I wouldn’t have predicted.

The crux of Terminator Salvation is set in the year 2018.  John Connor, the leader of the human resistance against Skynet and the machines known as Terminators.  Connor’s world is rattled when he comes face-to-face with Marcus Wright, a stranger whose existence questions all he was lead to believe.

Terminator Salvation, although much grittier and explosive in Hollywood terms, lacks heart… just one of the elements this film was trying to bring back to the Terminator franchise.  Story, character, mood and atmosphere are sacrificed for the sake of pace and action.  Here are a couple of the rules when making a Terminator sequel:

RULE #1: Don’t hire a man named McG.  Besides his name be pretentious and lacking of any vowels, his claim to fame was Sugar Ray’s “Fly” music video.  Then he ruined a guilty pleasure of mine when he directed Charlie’s Angels 2.  If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why.

RULE #2: Hire actors based on professional ability, and almost as importantly… plausibility. There’s no way that squeaky teen John Connor would grow up to sound like a cross between Rambo and Batman.  Oh wait… it’s just Christian Bale doing the only “intimidating” voice he can do.

(recently added) RULE #3:  Re-watch the previous Terminator movies beforehand.  When Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) asks Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) what it’s like in the future… his reply is “We stay down by day…”.  So why was so much of T4 shot in daylight? A movie such as this lives and dies based on its story.  Why is it when we ask bacon and eggs, McG hands us a cold waffle?

Young John Connor was played by the puberty-ridden Edward Furlong in Terminator 2 and every fan has a memory of him as he squeals, “Dyson! Miles Dyson! She’s gonna blow him away!”  I’ve heard that war can change a man, but a transformation from the only John Connor we (fans) have been able to accept to the one that Christian Bales tries to pull off is ludicrous and wrong.  I would have suggested he lean towards his work as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho; someone complex and explosive rather than drab and angry.

Despite the numerous connections to Terminator 2: Judgement Day, nostalgia could not become Terminator Salvation‘s “salvation.”  The Guns N’ Roses song, “You Could Be Mine,” John resorting to his ATM-hacking skills, and a much anticipated cameo by the T-101 (Ah-nuld!) are but three examples of where this movie succeeds.  In this respect, the movie re-connects with true-blooded fans… but the rest plays out like your typical video game.

Terminator Salvation was the first of the four Terminator films to be given a rating of PG-13.  Obviously this was to increase the viewing demographic.  But we realists know that any post-apocalyptic future, without a doubt, would be darker, and much more savage (see Mad Max, The Roadwarrior).  When will we stop sacrificing creativity and vision for a box office draw?  And an equally justifiable question, “Why would you re-hire writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, writers of the epic failure Terminator 3: Rise of The Machine? The absurdity of this baffles the mind.  But then again, George W. Bush can get re-elected, and the “Flock of Seagulls” hairstyle can come back in fashion (see, Twilight).

Terminator Salvation, as much a let-down as it was, did have some positive aspects.  Both actors Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese) and Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright) did a fine job and as any action fan would be, I am always eager to see Michael Ironside (Scanners, Total Recall) in what is always an intensely fearsome performance.

The biggest plus, and the reason why the movie received 5 claws and not 4 is due to the thrill that comes with good special effects.  Whether we think another director could have filled Cameron’s shoes better or not, McG does provide some amazing visuals.  Yes, I’m giving this over-hyped “phenom” a cookie in this respect… deal with it!  Heck, on a second viewing, I might call him the “cookie monster”… but undeniably the fault is not with the direction but with the writing.  This story (or lack of story) only leaves me believing that the human resistance is futile, and the humans should go underground and party like it’s 1999.

But perhaps we should keep our chins up?  James Cameron’s success with Avatar brings him back to a major, dollar-earning standings and is slated to have a hand in Terminator 5 (2011).  As Wes Craven did with his beloved Nightmare on Elm Street series, let’s hope Cameron can bring the Terminator fans what they are hoping for, a film of “true metal.”

* * *

*Just a note:  I know I can’t be the first person to point this out – but John Connor, the “savior” or the world has the same initials as both Jesus Christ and writer (of Terminator 1 &2) James Cameron.  Interesting, eh?


Winning is easy.  Simply write out your thoughts on this, or any other review on The Joyce Review and you are instantly entered into a monthly drawing.  Winners are picked at random and qualify if their comment meets the criteria: no vulgar language, no disrespecting the other commenters or myself, and offering at the very least a two sentence comment.  Winners will be announced privately through an email and will be asked for a mailing address and dvd genre preference.  Tell your friends and join in our film discussions!


6 Responses to “TERMINATOR SALVATION :: ACTION :: 030”

  1. This movie was so amazing! I loved it just as much as I loved the older Terminator movies.

  2. Annette Says:

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe!🙂. I’ll go and read some more!

  3. […] the death of his twin brother, a paraplegic marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington; Terminator Salvation), steps into a unique position to continue his brother’s project and travel to the amazing […]

  4. Helicon Says:

    I actually quite enjoyed this. That probably sounds wrong, buto be fair, it’s way better than the 3rd installment. I think with so many people slagging it off before I’d seen it, I was expecting so little that it quite surprised me.

    • joycereview Says:

      I disagree. One of the big concerns for me is the story. If John Connor is supposed to be this great leader, he shouldn’t be going out in the field, battling terminators all by himself. He shouldn’t be flying helicopters that he just crashes, and he certainly shouldn’t fight “the machines” in the daytime. That was a big no-no taught to us from the mouth of Kyle Reese himself in Terminator 1. And remember in #4 when the terminator reboots with Cyberdyne? Well… wouldn’t it have been “a bitch” if, as it would be in real life, the computer simply “updates” the terminator instead of unleashing all Cyberdyne’s data and fixes his humanistic “glitch.” Tisk tisk. I recently re-watched Terminator 3 again… and i have to admit, it’s better the second time around.

  5. Helicon Says:

    Would John want it want other way?

    I picked up the third on Bluray recently – I’ll try it again….

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