Thursday, May 21, 2009

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

I would like to draw your attention, if I might, to an article I wrote in April, where I predicted that Terminator Salvation would be celebrated by 80% of the critics viewing it. I went on to suggest if it couldn't impress more than 60%, I'd most likely skip it entirely.

And yet here we are. The movie has barely achieved half of the "minimum" I set: last I checked, it was at 33% - and falling.

From this I can only conclude that Sarah Connor was wrong, that we are pawns of fate, and that I was destined to see this movie. The future, it seems, is what McG makes of it.

And for that, I am kind of grateful. While it wasn't a good movie, I enjoyed it.

But no review of Terminator Salvation can start with this film, itself. No, words must first be spent on the franchise as a whole. I'm unsure whether this is a legal requirement or merely convention, but I've no wish to upset the powers that be.

I saw Terminator 2 a few years before I saw the original. I think there's little doubt that the second is the best of the franchise, though I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't have been better off without. While interesting, the themes continue to plague the series. The first, while a less impressive movie, has a richer mythology that was weakened by the weight the sequel placed on free will.

Terminator 3 was a mindless action flick with an admirable conclusion. As for the television show, I've only seen an episode or two. I've heard it turned into something very good, and eventually I'll most likely catch the series. There is a long list of programs which have priority, however.

Like most fans of the franchise, I've long wanted to see the future that was briefly touched on in the first two films. I've wanted to see the battles and wars that were promised. And, in this at least, Terminator Salvation did not wholly disappoint. While the epic war was nowhere to be seen, there were enough skirmishes to keep me entertained.

The robots, as a whole, were excellent, and this is fundamentally what I went to see. For all this movie's faults, humans fought robots in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And it was cool. The effects in general were impressive and well executed. Visually, I have little to complain about. On several occasions, I found myself wishing that Transformers had been given to McG rather than Michael Bay.

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the twists the plot took. Not all were welcome, but there was at least one major turn I wasn't expecting. The actors were well cast, too: in particular, it's refreshing to see a version of John Connor who does more than run and complain.

The movie is far less successful when it comes to scenes without robots present. While the filmmakers excel at creating action, they are far less successful at drama. The tragedy is that they tried.

That's not entirely fair: some of the Marcus scenes are at least partly effective. Since Terminator 2, all of these movies are required to have a cyborg with a soul, and he handles the role far better than I'd have expected. Still, if this movie earns a sequel, I sincerely hope they omit this trope.

Overall though, the dialogue feels forced. You've heard most of the best lines in the trailers, and, truth be told, they're generally better without context. The last five minutes are particularly awful. The phrase "unnecessary sentimental drivel" may actually be too lenient. But it's only five minutes, and this movie isn't about the dialogue or drama. The action scenes are exceptional, well worth the cost of a ticket.

While it's nowhere near the quality of Star Trek, Terminator Salvation contains some highly engaging action sequences, which is more than I can say for Wolverine. In addition, there is a scene towards the end reminiscent of Professor X's much criticized cameo. I'm happy to report, however, that where Wolverine failed, Terminator succeeds. Gloriously, I might add.

Terminator Salvation is a bad movie, but a good one at that. On a five star scale, where five is The Chronicles of Riddick, I'm awarding this three and three quarters.


Coffee Maker said...

Christian Bale is good but that new guy, Same Worthington, was great... in fact he pretty much stole the show

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