Terminator Salvation (2009) – McG

The final stop with the Sc-Fi Chronicles book for me with the Terminator franchise, as I’ve now had a chance to cover all of them, is this interesting entry from the same pair of writers who gave us Rise of the Machines.

This one could have been alright, though I feel McG was probably the wrong choice as a director, he’s fine with a moderate action beat, but his handling of characters has always been less than stellar when it comes to directing.

The biggest problem with this film is that whoever was in charge of marketing let the biggest plot point, and reveal out in the trailers. There’s no stunned revelation, because everyone is waiting for a beat to happen that they already know is coming. There’s a complete lack of drama because of this.

Christian Bale takes on the role of John Connor. The fact that he is trying to prove himself a leader of the Resistance is an interesting twist, because not everyone believes what he knows about the Machine War, including the always enjoyable Michael Ironside who plays General Ashdown.

We are obviously in the early days of the Machine War, and Connor is intent on testing a new weapon for the Resistance.

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Meanwhile, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) who was a prisoner executed by the State just before the War began (and signed his body over to Cyberdyne) finds himself wandering a new world filled with violence, and terror. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen the trailers you already know who Wright is.

He ends up connecting with a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and Star (Jadagrace Berry) who are on the run from Skynet and the Terminators. He’s a high-profile target. If he can be eliminated before he travels back in time, Connor will never born.

Bryce Dallas Howard takes over the role of Kate from Claire Danes.Sadly she is given far too little to do, and feels wasted in the role.

And the viewer is plunged into something they have never seen before: the entire film is set during the Machine War, something we have never seen to this extent before. We are introduced to a variety of Terminators, and consequently, there are some nice action beats featuring robot designs that we’ve never seen.

But the story is thinly knitted together, and no matter how strong the cast is, and it is fairly solid, there isn’t enough narrative (or its poorly executed) to carry the Terminator franchise forward in an interesting way.

The final half hour of the film is one action beat after another, but with no emotional connect to the characters, the viewer isn’t really worried about what happens to them. If they had taken their time, like Cameron did with the first two films, build the world, the characters (and stop recasting them all the time – that definitely tears away at the continuity of the film) and get us emotionally invested in them, we may have been more on edge or involved when things start to happen.

Oh well.

The future is not set, and there is no fate but what we make…

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