Following up the legendary first two Terminator films was no easy task. Without series creator, James Cameron. many fans found “Terminator: Rise of the Machines” to be lacking the depth, action, and character of the earlier films. When Director McG was announced to continue the war between humanity and the machines in “Terminator Salvation” fans feared that the series might become a campy action film in the vein of the directors “Charlie’s Angels” films. Thankfully for fans, the film more than delivers and continues the dark and intensely human story about the battle for humanities’ survival against the ruthless computer network, Skynet.
The film opens in 2018 where John Connor (Christian Bale), is involved in a raid on a Skynet facility with a group of fellow soldiers. The team is attempting to gain sensitive information from the main servers about Skynet. Along the way, they discover many human prisoners are being kept by the machines and learn what they believe is a weakness in the network that will allow them to defeat Skynet once and for all.
In the aftermath of the mission, John is debriefed by the human leadership and learns that their names are on a Skynet kill list and ironically John is #2 on the list behind someone named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). While the name does not ring any bells with the command staff, John knows the name all too well and how his future, and all of humanity, hinges on this person staying alive.
At the same time, a man emerges named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), who meets up with Reese. Together they flee from a an array of deadly machines intent on capturing Reese. In a spectacular action sequence, Reese and Marcus battle a giant machine as well as Hunter Killers and cycle-like assassins that are as relentless as their terminator counterparts. Separated from Reese by the enemy, Marcus meets a resistance pilot named Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), who convinces him to return to the resistance camp where John Connor can help him locate Reese.
Fates collide and a shocking secret is revealed that causes division in the resistance and places Connor at odds with his chain of command. As a pending strike on Skynet looms, Connor is forced to undertake a desperate mission to save the future, one that challenges much of what he believes and rocks the very foundation of the resistance. What follows is an intense series of events and an explosive series of action scenes that should delight fans of the series and sets the stage well for future films.
Bale brings his signature intensity to Connor, smoothly moving between the action and dramatic scenes well, something he’s had practice with as Batman. Worthington was a very pleasant surprise. His character not only has an interesting back-story but provides a great compass for the storyline. I did have some questions about how, in a post-Apocalypse setting, things like water were free from fallout, as were blasted out cities, and how military planes and ships survived without having their chips scrambled by a nuclear pulse. That being said, the film works very well. A strong cast and good action were well blended with great effects to create a winning formula. I did wonder where the plasma rifles that were shown in the earlier films were, but did remember that those were shown in a time 11 years in the future from this film.
Of great significance in James Cameron’s earlier films was the way he deftly combined action and real characters with a complex storyline. “Terminator Salvation” is not as deep as the first two films but it also does not rely on explosions of CGI effects to carry the story. At the core of the film is a bleak but human drama about love, sacrifice, survival, and determination. While some may have issues with the dark tone of the film, it is important to remember that this is about humanities’ struggle against extinction. McG keeps things moving at a brisk pace and has crafted a slick and enjoyable film that has many clever nods to the source material without ever being disrespectful to the franchise. I am looking forward to see what future films in the story will offer, as truly the battle for humanity has just begun.
4 stars out of 5
You can read more articles by Gareth on his website,Skewed and Reviewed.