, 115 min, 2009
Christian Bale (John Connor), Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright), Moon Bloodgood (Blair Williams), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Serena Kogan), Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese), Jadagrace (Star (as Jadagrace Berry)), Bryce Dallas Howard (Kate Connor), Common (Barnes), Jane Alexander (Virginia), Michael Ironside (General Ashdown), Ivan G’Vera (General Losenko (as Ivan Gvera)), Chris Browning (Morrison), Dorian Nkono (David), Beth Bailey (Lisa), Victor J. Ho (Mark (as Victor Ho)). Directed by McG and produced by Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek, Jeffrey Silver. Screenplay by John D. Brancato (as John Brancato) & Michael Ferris.
It has come down to this: the human resistance movement fighting against the overpowering force of the machines have become…machines. Oh, the irony abounds. Here is a sequel that starts promisingly and quickly descends into a relentless sea of excess and monotony (I believe that will be the title of my autobiography someday). Yes,Terminator Salvation is the bloodless (pardon the pun) fourth installment in the popular Terminator series.
The film opens in 2003 at an institution where Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) has (presumably) done something immeasurably wrong and is awaiting execution. He is being talked to by Dr. Serena Kogen (Helena Bonham Carter, for reasons passing understanding), who hints that he can have a future after death – one that will be redeeming.
Flash forward to 2018, and Southern California has been decemated by the war between the “Machines” (Terminators, computers, etc.) and the Human Resistance movement, basically led by John Connor (now played in his fourth incarnation by Christian Bale; call this John Connor, version 4.0).
Apparently, thanks to the tapes left by his mother Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton in the original 1984 James Cameron version of the series), John has become quite the leader and resistance fighter, commanding various co-horts (played by, among others, Common and Bryce Dallas Howard). His leader is the cantankerous and skeptical Michael Ironside, restrained to the point of coma here in what could’ve been one of his trademark scenery-vomiting performances.
Meanwhile, Marcus Wright wakes up in the future, unaware of his time or surroundings (without explanation), saves a beautiful young resistance fighter called Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), and runs into a young mute black girl called Star (Jadagrace) and her companion, young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, pulling double-duty in summer sci-fi action blockbusters/reboots after appearing as Chekov in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek a couple weeks previous).
The twist: Reese is Connor’s father (for viewers of the 1984 film, you’ll recall him being played by Michael Biehn). How did a young Reese end up in the future, where his son is now older than he is? What does this do to every event preceding this film? Who cares?
The film is well-made, if chaotically directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels), a once competent filmmaker (We Are Marshall) when he chose to be. Here, he’s settled for a screenplay by John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris (The Game, The Net) that is utterly lacking in real plot, human dimensions, or emotion. This is basically two hours of violent, loud special effects padded out by occasional snippets of non-yelled, growled, or whispered dialogue.
His actors meet him half-way with performances that barely register as such: Bale showed more emotion as the soulless social vampire and serial killer in American Psycho (2000) or even in his portrayal of the latest incarnation of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008); Bonham Carter can be one of our best actresses when she puts her mind to it, but the material fails her here; Yelchin has never been terribly engaging to me (though he got some laughs as Chekov in the recent reimagining of Star Trek); Worthington is unfamiliar to me and will likely remain so after this. The best impression (and it’s minor) is made by Bloodgood as the rough and tumble female resistance fighter saved by Wright.
Truth in reporting: I almost fell asleep during this movie. It becomes monotonous and quite boring for an action film. In the end, this is two hours of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Note: The voice of Linda Hamilton appears uncredited.