Review by Jack Foley
FOR all the scepticism surrounding Terminator Salvation once McG was announced as director, it’s not a terrible movie. Sadly, it’s not a great one either.
The much-hyped reboot is a solid if unspectacular blockbuster that succeeds in breathing new life into an ageing machine, but which ultimately suffers from the limitations suggested by its choice of director.
McG gives it his best shot and comes pretty close to delivering a reboot to rival the likes of Casino Royale and Batman Begins, but questions remain about the long-term viability of the franchise.
Terminator Salvation is set in the not-too-distant future  after the apocalyptic events of Judgment Day. It exists in a world where Skynet Terminator armies seek out the last remnants of humanity, while a resistance attempts to fight back.
Primary among them, of course, are John Connor (Christian Bale), the man destined to halt the rise of the robots, and plucky teenager Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the man who will later grow up to become John’s father.
New to the scene, meanwhile, is the mysterious loner named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a former Death Row inmate turned organ donor, who has a hidden agenda for taking on the machines.
At first, Connor and Wright are opposed to each other, but they slowly become allies as the full extent of the latter’s past becomes clear.
To be fair, Terminator Salvation has a lot in its favour. It takes the franchise into some interesting new directions and boasts a handful of cool set pieces and Terminator inventions.
Rather than sticking to the standard chase formula of the first three movies, McG broadens the movie’s scope to include numerous Terminator machines, from the familiar T-800 to sleek Terminator motorbikes and hydrobots that dwell in lakes like snake-like predators. He also keeps things combat-based, and has shot proceedings in a suitably washed out, grainy style.
In doing so, he still manages to include some nice nods to existing franchise mythology, its key phrases and cult figures (including an appearance from the original Terminator himself), which should keep the majority of fans amused.
But where James Cameron’s two originals often exhilarated with their seamless mix of action, groundbreaking special effects and emotion, McG’s entry feels too mechanical and cold. It also lacks a big moment or two that really takes the breath away.
The performances are OK, but while Bale brings his usual intensity and Worthington shows glimpses of potential, both are short-changed by a pretty average script that lacks any real passion.
Actresses such as Moon Bloodgood and Bryce Dallas Howard are given very little to do and for a movie that places so much verbal emphasis on the difference between man and machine, there’s very little heart on show.
The machines, meanwhile, lack the intelligence to convince they are a viable theat even though there are more of them. The film lacks tension and dramatic impetus – a shortcoming that McG ultimately attempts to compensate for by tossing in as many explosions as possible.
The end result is a film that easily surpasses the director’s previous work (which includes Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and We Are Marshall), and which is far better than we could initially have dared to expect, but which doesn’t completely convince that McG was the right man for the job.
Now that his own Judgment Day has arrived, McG’s Terminator underwhelms more than it impresses. It remains to be seen whether the trilogy he envisaged will now become a reality.
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 23, 2009
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