By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Michael Ironside
Throughout the course of this generation’s modern day filmmaking, music video directors have certainly made their mark. David Fincher is widely regarded as a well-respected director, and Spike Jonze is an Oscar-winning screenwriter who happens to also direct very good films. So where does that leave sane era mainstay McG? With movies like the Charlie’s Angels films in his resume, he hasn’t done much to have the public move past his horrible professional three-letter moniker. Which is why when the making of Terminator Salvation was announced, it was shocking to see his name as being the one in the director’s chair. You knew right off the bat that the studio didn’t have too much faith in McG’s name, as they did their best in pre-press materials to hide his name from audiences. So why hire him to begin with? It is also very telling that Terminator Salvation put itself out there without a number attached. If the film’s writers (the same ones who wrote Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) wanted to explore other Terminator worlds with Salvation, why did they write it so incompetently?
I do like the feeling the film starts us off with. McG wants to call back as much as possible to the original source, and the beginning theme is a well done retread of the original’s opening credits. It was a great idea getting Danny Elfman to score this movie, as he does a brilliant job of mixing in original themes with previous ones. As the film starts, we are re-introduced to the final monologue of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. A monologue, I might add, that was meant to put an end to the day in its title. Yet it was nice hearing it here, as I started feeling like the movie was on the right track.
But I am sorry to say that almost immediately after that, there is very little right with Terminator Salvation. The moment I started checking out was when John Connor (Bale) gets attacked by a Terminator and the foley effects we hear are those of….Transformers. It was right then and there that I realized I was not in a Terminator film. It was a Transformers film disguised as the sequel to a movie that had already established its credibility with its first two entries. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was not much more than an expensive governorship ad for Ah-nold. But what Terminator Salvation accomplishes is nothing short of maddening. The love McG has for the franchise is obviously there. But that love can only go so far when directing a narrative addition to it.
Bale, who speaks barely above a whisper, gives perhaps the worst performance of his career as John Connor. Not that I was aching for the return of Nick Stahl, but this is the one role I felt Bale mailed it in. Which surprised me, as he usually brings at least a little of original gravitas to each role he takes. Carter, taking a little break from being Tim Burton’s muse, makes a bit of an impression with her minimal screen time, and Howard (playing Danes’ character from the last film) is barely in the movie enough to register.
The only member of the cast who brings a little bit of something interesting to the film is Worthington. I was with him and his emotions as Salvation’s twist was revealed. I also enjoyed his battle with metallic spiders in the water. But Worthington (who was hired at the suggestion of James Cameron) can only take a film so far with his dismal charisma.
Overall, I would recommend staying far away from Terminator Salvation. The reminders of previous entries (including an admittedly cool battle Worthington has with an original T-800 model and looks like a 1984 era Arnold Schwarzenegger) just made me want to reach over & put those in my Blu-ray player instead of this. The funniest part about this film’s entire existence is the tense suspense that the best entries of the series have in droves is almost non-existent because we have already been told that Connor saves humanity anyway. However, as hard as I’ve been on McG & his horrible handling of Terminator Salvation’s narrative, I do believe there is not a director alive who could have saved this script. And that includes David Fincher.