Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Terminator Salvation

directed by McG

Terminator Salvation poster  
Audiences may wonder what the fourth movie in the Terminator series has left to offer, when so much of this tale of robot paranoia has already been told. Is there life after Judgement Day for the shreds of mankind that survive? And more importantly, is there life in this movie?

"Salvation" in the title suggests a spectacular end to the story, perhaps a way to save humanity from the increasingly sophisticated robots. But the film begins with a rather more modest salvation. In 2003 Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) faces death row for a triple homicide. Penitent, he agrees to donate his body to science after Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham-Carter) persuades him that he'll be helping to find cures for diseases. The trouble is, she works for Cyberdyne.

In 2018 John Connor (Christian Bale) is fighting a losing battle. The resistance face ever more advanced robots, and mankind is getting wiped out. Connor isn't yet the leader of the resistance, but he's gaining respect and people are inclined to follow him. After listening to tapes left by his mother he sets out to find Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the teenager destined to travel back in time and save his mother. Without Reese, in theory Connor will cease to exist.

At this point in the story the timelines are already quite tangled, and the plot could easily have become bogged down with the possibilities and hazards of time travel. Instead the focus is on scary new Terminators, and lots of them. Terminator Salvation ups the stakes with robots the size of a house, snake-like hydrobots that can swim, motorcycle terminators, tank-like vehicles, and more. The machines have grown cunning, and they are constantly evolving new models. The resistance must find a weakness they can exploit before the machines become unstoppable.

Christian Bale plays John Connor as an intense, headstrong fighter. It's a world away from Nick Stahl's performance in Terminator 3 : The Rise of the Machines, and much more believable. If anything he's a little too serious, although that's down to a script that's really quite dry. There's none of the humour that made the first two movies so outstanding. The classic lines "I'll be back" and "Come with me if you want to live" do turn up, but they sound wrong coming from the characters who say them. It's as though Terminator Salvation has little to offer beyond the repetition of past movies, rather than providing quotable lines of its own.

There is one funny moment, when a Terminator in the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-101 model makes an appearance. I'm not convinced this scene was meant to make us laugh, though.

As the machines evolve some of them appear more human, and some of them take on more human behaviours. The underlying question is no longer whether we will destroy ourselves through our own aggression, but whether our creations, however monstrous, can be redeemed. However in spite of making a slightly different point the movie still feels a lot like it's retreading old ground. There are a few new characters, sure, and the machines do look different. But it's the same old recipe of big explosions and death-defying stunts we've seen before, all to the thumping tattoo of Brad Fiedel's score. It's loud and exciting, but it's also the kind of film that doesn't stay with you any longer than the adrenaline rush it provokes.

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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Can John Connor save mankind from Judgement Day in the third movie in the Terminator series?

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson