Terminator Salvation (2009)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Go, Go, Gadget!

You know how all of the Terminator flicks start the same way? Usually with some kind of flash-forward of what the future looks like with some serious monologue over the video? You ever wonder what it would be like if they did a Terminator flick that actually focused on the future aspect? I’m sure most of us thought that would be interesting, but that would involve changing the format up a lot, which is obviously a huge risk. I, for one, didn’t mind the future scenes as just an introduction type of thing, because the format of the other Terminator films are too good to ignore. So they came out with Terminator Salvation, an answer to that original question. So what do you think? Good…bad…weird? Tell you what I think – okay…but weird.

So in the year 2018, the world has already gone down the toilet. Skynet’s system became self-aware and terminators everywhere began to kill. John Connor is a part of the resistance, but his story has become a type of…messiah-complex ordeal. Not everyone believes that he is the savior to mankind. He has his teams and the rest of the resistance has theirs. Meanwhile, a man arrives from out of nowhere with a mysterious background and unknown mission. When Kyle Reese, Connor’s future father, is targeted by Skynet, John Connor and the mystery man must infiltrate Skynet to take him back before he is murdered and the future is re-written…without Connor.

I guess the first thing I should talk about is if it is convincing or not as the future seen previously in the Terminator series. Yes and no…the previous films clearly showed laser-bullets, while these guns are clearly more modernized, but I can understand that. For the most part, it’s convincing. It looks and feels like a futuristic war where hope is almost lost against a variety of robot-looking villains. Just as you would expect, actually. The visuals are strong, expensive, and clearly the best out of the franchise. So as far as what it looks like and sounds like in terms of movies in general…it’s pretty amazing. In terms of the Terminator, we may have an issue.

With three films dragging behind this one, Terminator has become a household name. We all understand how the structure works with these films in general. You have a time period that correlates to when the movie is released/before Judgment Day. Two people are sent into the past – a terminator, and a character sent to save John Connor from being killed and ensure his survival overall. Don’t forget that humor. Even though the first one basically had no humor, the other films in the series were praised for it, immediately helping their overall success. Terminator Salvation wasn’t a time travel flick, the whole thing took place in the future, but somewhere deep inside, we did have two sides going after the same person. That person was Kyle Reese…however, the problem is that plot was there, but the focus wasn’t very strong. Instead, we have a stronger focus on this weird guy played by Sam Worthington. Not only that, but we didn’t really get a single antagonist. There were dozens of different terminator creatures, but not a single main baddy…you might be able to say there was, but if you’re thinking what I’m thinking…that totally doesn’t count.

Apart from structure, there is heart. The main Terminator flicks had something in it that made us want to return time and time again. Something that connected all of them together. It wasn’t so much of what it was about or who was in it as much as it was about how the movie made us feel. Each of those movies gave us a similar feeling that made our gut tell us – oh yeah, this is a Terminator movie. That feeling was not there at all here. They tried to force that feeling, I could tell in a few scenes, but all in all, this feels like an entirely separate film about robots in the future. That being said, had this film been called anything else and was about robots in the future…it would have been really freaking good. That’s why I think the film is underrated. It doesn’t exactly have the Terminator soul, but it is still a pretty well-done flick.

Now…there’s this matter with Sam Worthington. I’m gonna have to spoil you from this moment onward, because I think it’s something I need to say. His character from the get go was mysterious. In prison, he gave his body away for science. That right there should be obvious as to what his secret is…he comes back randomly in the future…looks exactly the same…was on death row, what happened. Yes, he is a Terminator, but with human organs. That was cool, no doubt, but part of what makes the Terminator so great is learning what it’s like to be human, and getting it wrong so many times. I don’t know, I like his acting, but you expect stuff from the main terminator…and first and foremost, you need to know he is one.

What I am happy with, I will say, is that they didn’t ignore the messages of the other film. I’m talking the value of human life. John Connor is a leader, we need to be assured now and then that he is a true and noble guy that people really do need to follow. The message is loud and clear here, as he makes a speech about decision making in the military versus what the machines would do in the same situation. What makes us different, better…even since he was a kid in Terminator 2, you felt that message, and I think it’s great that it hasn’t been forgotten.

Terminator Salvation is hardly a film fits in with the heart of the rest of the series. It has its moments, but for the most part, it’s pretty much a neat-looking futuristic robot vs. people movie.


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