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Movie Review | Terminator Salvation (Extended Cut)

Christian Bale is John Connor in Terminator Salvation

Movie summary: In 2018, a mysterious new weapon in the war against the machines, half-human and half-machine, comes to John Connor on the eve of a resistance attack on Skynet. But whose side is he on, and can he be trusted? (IMDb)

Terminator Salvation is not a good movie and you shouldn't waste your time with. There, you have all you need to know. If you want more, I don't think there's any other way I have for describing other than being poor in every single way you can judge a movie's quality. The highest praise I have for it is that at least it isn't infuriatingly bad, just desperately poor.

And yes, that does mean I'm not excluding Christian Bale or Anton Yelchin - playing John Connor and Kyle Reese respectively - from criticism either. Bale's problem is that he just feels entirely miscast and delivers that he never looks like being happy with, while Yelchin suffers from having a barely-there character to struggle with. Despite their proven skills, neither man is able to elevate the material.

Then there's Sam Worthington as Marcus, who is one of the blandest and least interesting central characters imaginable for a blockbuster action movie and a performance to match. You have to ask questions of the directing as well as the acting here, because Worthington only uses about three facial expressions in the whole movie.

There's no nuance to his lines, with every piece of dialogue delivered in flat, almost monotonous tone with only the volume changing. Add in the fact that his character is almost always immediately competent at everything he does, never doubting himself for a second - even the big reveal about his true nature seems to affect him for a single sequence before he just accepts it and moves on.

And that's a lot like how Terminator Salvation felt to me: things happened and then the story moved on, not proving engaging on even the most basic level and just being there. For a movie with so much crap stuffed into its running time, it's incredible just how empty it all feels. There's no emotional core to hook you and I was entirely apathetic to everything I'd seen and heard by the time the credits rolled.

Also, this isn't even getting into not just this being a bad movie, but an even worse Terminator movie than Rise of the Machines. There's a whole ton of new stuff thrown at the viewer for the first time in one of these movies, none of which works, and yet there's an almost slavish dedication to maintaining continuity at times - it's just a complete mess of a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be.

Hell, with so many new types of Terminator and other Skynet machines introduced in a single story, it did feel like one of the Transformers movies - except much, much worse. Say whatever you like about Michael Bay's story-telling skills as a director, but at his movies usually look amazing to distract from whatever rubbish is on show - unfortunately, McG doesn't even have that saving grace as a director.

Terminator Salvation could've been shot in black and white and very, very little would've been lost thanks to how washed out the colours are. If you watch this movie and get confused about what scenes are taking place where, there's no need to worry - there's practically nothing to distinguish each location from the next.

As for the score, I have to hold my hands up and admit that I can't remember a single piece of music created for this movie, with only re-used snippets from the first two Terminators standing out as recognisable, distinct pieces of music with some kind of identity to it. Much like the rest of the movie, it exists and is then immediately forgotten about.

There are a lot of these guys in Terminator Salvation

Then there's a geekier kind of criticism/question I have for this movie, which is why the technology seems so decidedly non-futuristic? We've seen the war between humans and the machines before, along with the terrifying lethal energy weapons being commonplace and yet humanity is still using regular weaponry here. Then again, that isn't the biggest tech question I have,

Why are the Terminators and other machines far more advanced than the weaponry they use? It's a very weird schism that just doesn't make any sense - the machines are far more advanced than anything but the T1000 or T-X, yet their armaments are far, far behind. A minor issue that people coming to the series with this movie first (you poor, poor people) won't care about, but it just irritated me throughout.

This actually does cause another problem, because there is a hint of what could've been a great story early on that is forgotten about immediately: Connor discovers that the Terminators are evolving faster than they should be. This is a series that features time travel as a key part of the ongoing story, so a more insidious use of the technology would've been great to see.

Skynet ignoring Connor, his mother or anyone else related to him and simply sending a Terminator back to right after the start of its war with humanity, loaded with schematics of future models to give itself an even bigger advantage from the get-go, would've not only been a new twist on the classic formula, but would also explain why the weapons technology wasn't keeping pace with Terminator design.

One last thing to note is that it was the Extended Edition of the movie that I saw, although it looks like there's only three minutes difference between this and the Theatrical Edition, so there aren't any huge differences from what I can see. Apart from the problematic and completely unnecessary moment when Moon Bloodgood gets her tits out for absolutely no reason at all. Yeah, that happened.

I will just repeat that Terminator Salvation isn't anger-inducing or aggressively infuriating in it's shittiness, but there's not a single thing about I can recommend or honestly say that I enjoyed in the two hours I wasted watching it. It's like someone took the minimum pieces required to Frankenstein together a sci-fi action movie, slapped the Terminator brand on it and sent it out to die.

Terminator Salvation is not a good film in any way, shape or form. It might as well have been filmed in black and white for how washed out it looks, the story is nonsensical and the characters are just terrible. It tries to do something new, but is hamstrung by continuity which makes you wonder why anyone bothered to make this movie in the first place.


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