WWJD?….to the big production studios this might as well mean What Would James Cameron Do? Because really, the man can get things done.
His movies seem to magically blend plot, characters, and ahead-of-their-time special effects into a package that is both entertaining as well as meaningful. Not to mention, his movies make money without having to resort to gimmicks in order to get you to go to the theater (listen up Michael Bay). In other words, they’re good movies. Something that modern day studios have a difficult time achieving (cough….esp. Fox…cough), especially during the summer eye ball vacuum that is blockbuster season.
For that reason, I hold Cameron’s gritty original Terminator (1984) and somewhat more polished Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) in high regards. The bombastic Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) is passable, but only because it basically recycles the plot from T2. Terminator: Salvation (2009), on the other hand, is lacking the James Cameron factor in almost every regard. To find out what went wrong read on;
Synopsis: If you haven’t seen the other Terminator movies, you might be a little lost (still, the story rewrites so much of the original that it might not matter). Basically it is now the future and for some reason John Connor is NOT the leader of “The Resistance” as was promised in the other movies (yeah I know…WTF?!?). “The Resistance” has computers, subs, jets, and helicopters that are somehow unaffected by Skynet, the world-wide computer program/artificial intelligence body bent on killing all humans (also WTF!?!?). Luckily, resistance researchers have somehow found a way to disable machines that are controlled by Skynet. Unluckily, Skynet is now capturing humans and harvesting them in order to produce their newest killing machine, the T-800 (which looks like a human if you didn’t know). Also unlucky, Skynet is also trying to find and kill Kyle Reese, who would eventually be sent back in time to save Sarah Connor, John Connor’s mom. On the side, we have Marcus Wright, an executed convict, who finds himself alive again in a hole in the middle of a desert with a bunch of machines (yeah…wasn’t very clear in the movie…I’ll go with WTF!?!?). And because of certain events that come as a surprise to no one watching the movie it happens that Marcus Wright and John Connor have to work together to save Kyle Reese and try to shut down Skynet. What results is a cross between Lord of the Rings and Matrix:Revolutions but no where near as entertaining.
Acting: Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, American Psycho) “stars” as John Connor, Sam Worthington (Harts War) plays Marcus Wright, and Anton Yelchin (Charlie Bartlett, Star Trek) portraits Kyle Reese. Sam Worthington steals the show, even if he doesn’t have much to work with. Anton Yelchin does an adequate job, but lacks the depth and witty determination displayed by Michael Beihn when he took on the character in the first film. Christian Bale is grumpy in this movie…its almost sad really. Its like he’s channeling his scruffy-voiced Batman in order to appear tough. And we’re all aware of the tantrum he threw onset. I don’t blame him, he was probably pretty frustrated, and after watching the movie that’s exactly how I felt. The other so called “characters” in this movie don’t really matter. Moon Bloodgood (Pathfinder) is there to add some estrogen/sex appeal, and I actually thought she did better than Christian Bale, even if her character makes no sense. Common (the musician) is in the movie for no reason what so ever. His character does nothing to advance the story and he’s probably in the movie only to add some sort of street cred. Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village) as Connor’s wife and a def girl (?) also both have no point being in this movie. Finally, Helena Bonham Carter (she’s in about every Tim Burton movie…) is in this movie exactly twice, providing nothing more than a common link between the beginning and the end. (15/25) (7 of those points for Sam)
Script/Plot: As you can tell, there are San Fransico-sized plot holes and pointless characters abound. The script basically ignores details from previous films, trying to make up for this by playing “homage” with corny lines, plot devices, and a little “surprise” for you towards the end. The themes seem half developed. What about Marcus Wright’s transformation from convict to hero? What about “The Resistance’s” reliance on technology when it backfires on them? What about Connor’s wife’s pregnancy, how can a human find its place in a world of machines? WTF!!!?! (10/25)
Direction/Cinematography: I’ll give McG some slack, even though I believe its the director’s job to make sure everything about his film comes together. Obviously the actors were unmotivated and the script was lacking. Style-wise this film doesn’t break any new ground as far as I see. It ditches the dark metallic emphasis on blues and reds from the first 2 films for a washed out, brownish overtone. Its okay, its just not what I envisioned when watching the scenes from the first 2 movies that took place in the future. McG, like other directors these days, seems to not be able to afford a tripod, which bugs the hell out of me. For the most part, the shot selection was fairly conventional, but McG has yet to figure out how to move the camera in a way that enhances the special effects instead of compromising them. (16/25)
Special Effects/Music/X-Factor: Overall, the special effects were only adequate. Few things looked spectacularly good, but I’d consider the action scenes interesting. T2‘s action sequences are classics, and nothing in this new film could match. T3’s asphalt-crumbling wall-crashing machine-vs-machine action sequences are still the most jaw dropping in the series. Terminator: Salvation does introduce several new killing machines to the mix, and they are interesting and exciting to watch, but nothing we haven’t really seen before in other movies. Music was….well not great if I recall. (20/25)
What kept me watching it: Sam Worthington steals the show, and the action scenes help keep the audience’s mind out of the story.
What killed it: It doesn’t make too much sense, has too many pointless characters, and lacks any sort of depth. Most important, it ruins the John Connor character that took three previous films to develop.
Summary: Why are you trying to reboot a movie franchise that didn’t need it in the first place?
Final Rating: (63/100) = D