Terminator Salvation [Movie Review]

Quick Opinion:
The story takes a backseat, most characters do not get enough attention, and the plot fails to stand on its own without prior knowledge of the mythology. However, Terminator Salvation is exactly what is expected out of a big budget summer action film: an entertaining popcorn flick filled with spectacular action and superb special effects.

Clusterf*ck Score: [C]

Full Review:

Terminator Salvation seems to have an identity crisis. While not nearly as bad as most reviewers make it seem, the prequel/sequel (pre-sequel?) falls into a common trap: lack of individuality.

But of course, this is a Hollywood Summer movie blockbuster! And Salvation certainly delivers in this aspect. The special effects are quite impressive and the direction by McG complements the dry, lifeless art style of the movie. While not the most imaginative or convincing post apocalyptic world filmed on screen, it's believable enough to create a certain mood for the film. Another high point is not just the amount of action within the movie, but the creativity of the action. Many times I was really enjoying the action and was caught off guard by just how good it was compared to most requisite action within Summer blockbusters. These sequences are extremely well choreographed, and some of the best moments of the film are the exciting large-scale battles between planes, ships, and (of course) the Terminators.

For a Summer blockbuster to succeed at being more relevant than others, it needs a good cast. Salvation has a diverse cast, but only a few stand out. The popular Christian Bale is a good choice for the future messiah John Connor and is always fun to watch in a good action movie. But the real star of the flick has to be the superb Sam Worthington, who is bound to become a star after being included in this. His portrayal of Marcus Wright, the mysterious amnesiac who was supposed to be dead in 2003 yet wakes up in 2018, constantly shines above all others and steals every scene he is in. Another noteworthy mention includes Moon Bloodgood as Blair, a resistance fighter and love interest to Marcus. However, I am compelled to call out rapper/actor Common. While he has been in films before and done (surprisingly) well in acting, it is obvious it was purely a business decision to include him.

Yet many of the problems related to the acting in this new Terminator reboot can be traced back to one thing: a weak screenplay. First of all, the movie has an insane amount of action to the point where you can tell it is meant to stretch out the length. While the action is definitely a reason to see this movie, there should have been a balance between it and the story, which by comparison is non-existent. The film's main plot serves as a prequel to the first two Terminator movies and tells the story of the post Judgement Day war between mankind and the machines of SkyNet. Besides the inclusion of Marcus Wright, the whole plot of the film was already given by the previous films. It is as though the studio realized they were sitting on a story that was mostly developed and tried to inflate it into a two-hour Summer popcorn flick just to make a quick buck. Also, the total lack of character development is a big issue throughout the movie. The only character that gets any story is Marcus Wright while the other new characters fail to build any connection with the audience and are instantly forgettable. This even includes John Connor but because of his characterization in previous Terminator films he can technically be excused from this.

However, there is one thing important worth noting about the plot and that is the pure strength of the mythology of the franchise set by creator and famous director James Cameron. Because of the previous films' focus on the events of the future leading to the past, the events that occur throughout Salvation carry much more weight and importance than a typical science fiction blockbuster.

Maybe Terminator Salvation takes too much advantage of Cameron's previous work, which put sci-fi action blockbusters on the map, but at this point it was the film's smartest move. Without the previous Terminator movies, this could have simply been written off as a generic summer blockbuster. Yet the movie saves itself by imitation and is ultimately worth seeing. This can hardly be said for other big franchise movies this year (I'm looking at you, Wolverine) but in Terminator Salvation it works.



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