There was seemingly a lot of hate spewed forth about “Terminator Salvation” when it hit screens, enough so that I let it sway me and keep me from running out to see it right away. Generally I work hard to not lot public opinion influence my own, but this time it won me over. I loved the first two “Terminator” flicks, I loved the first season of “Sarah Connor Chronicles”, but “T3″ left a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose I feared the worst in that “Salvation” would be a repeat offender by the general disdain it received. Having sat through it, I quickly realized that while it does have its problems, it’s not a total wash. In fact, it was pretty enjoyable as an action movie.
“Salvation” seemed to be plagued by some definite problems, mostly centered around some general stupidity in plot elements and such. The special effects were pretty great, the action was enjoyable. My main issue really over all of it; when you’re facing the end of humanity at the hands of machines, why on earth would you nuke a machine base that is full of captive humans? You would think that rescuing ANY humans left alive would be the prime directive in the face of dwindling numbers. Sure, the majority of the captives weren’t necessarily freedom fighters, but they were human all the same. This was the primary moment of the movie that I had troubles dealing with.
In hindsight, I may have been too caught up in this notion. While it wasn’t fully explained away as such, this motive could actually explain a lot of things. I key theme throughout the film was that John Connor was not quite the leader and savior of humanity yet; he was still a simple soldier looked at as a handy tool to the leaders of the resistance. Perhaps it was Connors drive to save these human captives it what proved that he was to be the savior of mankind in the end. As I said, this is merely a theory as director McG didn’t to any real lengths at all to prop up this idea. It is just something that you pick up on and it fits.
There are many small moments in this film that they managed to work in some of the past “Terminator” mythos. These moments are a nice little treat, such as when it finally dawned on me that Bryce Dallas Howard was the grown up equivalent of Clair Danes from “T3″, bits such as that. The more blatant examples weren’t too bad either, such as the CGI return of ‘Ahnold’ in is muscle-y glory. I rather enjoyed Anton Yelchin’s turn as Connor’s time-misplaced father Kyle Reese. He seemed to fit in well with the back story established by Michael Biehn back in 1984. His energy and drive was right for the character and he was pretty funny when needed as well. Christian Bale is a definite improvement as the enigmatic John Connor over the likes of Edward Furlong. The man is a good actor, that’s a given, however the movie didn’t seem quite as centered on him as the trailers let on. There are some good side plots that branch off of his main story line and the worked well so this isn’t a negative against the film. It just wasn’t what I expected to see from the early advertising campaign.
Aside from our main characters that were all acted well, “Terminator Salvation” suffers a bit from having too many side characters that are brought to the forefront for no real purpose. Take for example the gang of underground survivors led by the old woman at the gas station. There seemed to be a heap of good story here in both the group as a whole and the old woman leading them as well. Tension between the apparent leader and her subordinates but once captured, it is dropped to the way side with no further attention. Sure, you can’t spend too much time on these side plots or the movie would be four hours long. However, there are so many small moments of characters with a hint of solid story that are later forgotten, it detracts some from the main plot. One would think that forgoing these extras would allow more time to concentrate on the important parts.
“Terminator Salvation” for me lights squarely in the middle of the highly loved action/sci-fi franchise. It files to outshine the first two films but out paces “T3″ by leaps and bounds. There has been talk that they plan on making a new trilogy starting off with “Salvation” and that is fine by me. It’s not a spectacular film but it is an enjoyable film and would make a solid base to launch a new series. The wastelands of the future were laid out great, much like I’d expect them to look from what we only were told in words early on. As long as you get the major players back, I’ll be happy to come and cheer on John Connor once again. I probably won’t wait quite as long to do so next time either.