Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation
4 Lloyds – Not Family-Friendly
PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action
and language.
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

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The fourth installment of the Terminator series follows an adult John Connor, played by Christian Bale, as he attempts to organize a human resistance force which could prove to be humankind’s last true hope for survival in the war against their intelligent robot overlords.

Opening in the year 2018, Terminator Salvation finds John Connor’s certainty about the future shaken by the sudden appearance of a mysterious stranger named Marcus Wright. The strangers last memory is of sitting on death row, awaiting execution. Unable to determine whether Marcus was sent from the future, or rescued from the past, Connor begins to wonder whether there is still any hope left for the human race as robots grow more powerful and aggressive than ever before.

Then, in the midst of many questions, Skynet is preparing a devastating final attack designed to eliminate the human resistance forces once and for all. This leaves Connor and Marcus with no choice but to strike back at the cybernetic heart of Skynet’s operations.

Relaunch Mania Continues!

I have a feeling the 2009 movie season will be remembered as the Season of Relaunches. First we had the relaunch of X-Men with Hugh Jackman’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That was quickly followed by the relaunch of Star Trek. Now it’s time to relaunch the Terminator franchise. This fourth flick in the Terminator series introduces Anton Yelchin, (who also plays Chekov in the new Star Trek movie), to fill Michael Biehn’s shoes as a young Kyle Reese in what is planned to be a new Terminator trilogy from director McG.

Arnold Schwarzenegger blasted onto the big screen in the original 1984 launch of the Terminator franchise. Then, after the 2003 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, he retired from his Terminator role. Arnie’s Terminator machine does make an appearance in this new flick, but of course it’s a CGI appearance. Even though it’s CGI, there’s still something nostalgic about seeing the Governornator on the big screen in his famed Terminator role once again.

A Movie About Second Chances

I must admit I screened Terminator Salvation with a sense of reserve. I really didn’t know what to expect. I found the original series of flicks somewhat campy and very far-fetched. Aside from the Schwarzenegger hype, I really didn’t like the original movies. As a result, I had no idea what to expect with the relaunch of this franchise.

I’m happy to report this might just be the
strongest relaunch of the summer.

From a production standpoint, Terminator Salvation has a very edgy and somewhat grainy feel to it. While it’s not shot in black and white, the emphasis on gray tones to establish the fact that the U.S. is in a constant war with machines, emphasizes that we’re seeing a country at war. The hints at color, such as the red mark on the sleeve of a jacket establishing people as part of the resistance, helps add a subtle flair to the scenes as well. Then, when you add in some incredible special effects of brilliant colors, this is a great piece of film work. McG should be applauded for his directing skills.

While the earlier Terminator movies suffered from poor script writing, such is not the case with the relaunch of this franchise. The plotline holds well through the entire movie. It’s apparent the scriptwriters had more to go on than just cool special effects with a lot of explosions. The script is well thought out with a very strong plotline. All of the pieces, even those which may seem random at first, have a purpose with the plot. There are even a few surprises along the way. And, be sure to listen for the ever-famous – I’ll be back – line.

The acting is very strong in Terminator Salvation too. Christian Bale is a talent that never ceases to amaze me. Some may be concerned that he’s simply playing an unmasked Batman type character in the movie. Have no fear, such is not the case. Bale’s performance alone is well worth the admission price for this one. But then when you toss in Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright, the entire movie is taken up a notch. However, it doesn’t end there. The young Anton Yelchin is incredible in his Kyle Reese role. Then, last, but certainly not least, Yelchin’s sidekick for the flick, Star, played by newcomer Jadagrace Berry is a scene stealer. In the midst of the action, Berry’s portrayal of Star truly does bring a calming sense to the scene. Her eyes are very expressive and I’m looking forward to seeing more from this young actress in the future.

Overall, Terminator Salvation is a great movie. While the running time says approximately 2 hours, keep in mind that’s from the very beginning, to the last credit on the reel. Actual movie time clocks in at approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. For this type of movie, that’s the perfect length. I did not look at my watch once. I was glued to the screen for the entire time. There’s a nice balance of action here with enough breathing space in between to catch your breath from some of the incredible war scenes. But, even the slower paced portions of the movie intended as a release from all the action, move at a quick pace, keeping your interest. There’s simply no part of this movie that falls into the extraneous material category. It’s all worthwhile and great.

As for the rating, we once again find the need for another rating.

While Terminator Salvation does not need an R rating, it certainly needs something other than a PG-13 rating. There’s simply too much violence here for this movie to fall into the family-friendly arena. But, even in the midst of the violence, I once again must give kudos to McG and the scriptwriters. While there is a lot of action and violence, it’s not overdone, or simply put in for the sake of violence. Sometimes movies in this genre are just violent, for the sake of being violent. In those cases, and this is exactly what was present in the initial Terminator movies, the violence is there for nothing more than audience shock-factor. While Terminator Salvation contains a lot of violence, it’s not there for simple shock-factor.

In the end, I have to admit I really enjoyed this relaunch of the Terminator franchise. There are even a few “I didn’t see that coming” moments in the movie too. For me, that’s always a good thing. I am looking forward to what the future holds with these flicks.

Enjoy the show!
Dr. Rus

About the Author

Dr. Rus has 30+ years experience in the field of communication. He takes this experience, and his passion to encourage others to positively effect their environment, when providing insight and movie reviews.