Monday, 15 June 2009
A lot of elements went into making the first (and to a slightly lesser extent, the second) Terminator movies classics of the SF / action genre... and pretty much all of those elements are nowhere to be found in Terminator: Salvation. Which doesn't automatically make it a bad film: equalling the first Terminator is a pretty tough act, and within the tight confines of the 21st century action movie franchise there's plenty of things even a movie with 'Terminator' in the title just can't get away with.
What ends up making Terminator: Salvation a bad film - and it's one of those films that has you leaving the cinema thinking you've just had a pretty good time, only to discover that as the hours pass it melts away like a T-1000 dunked in molten steel - is the fact that despite being the first film set entirely in the machine-dominated future only hinted at in the earlier films, there's just no point to it. Again, not a new development: even the second film didn't really have much reason for existing apart from reminding us that director James Cameron was the most kick-ass action dirctor on the face of the planet. But at least the other films (even the much maligned third one) managed to come up up endings that had a bit of weight to them. This ends with our heroes going off into the sunset (seriously), with the War Against the Machines at pretty much the same stage it was when the opening credits rolled and the whole thing feeling like you just watched someone running on a treadmil for two hours. Of course, a few things do happen to space out the various action scenes between man and killer machine: it's the future, killer robots roam a post-nuclear world, and while resistance hero (but not yet leader) John Connor (Christian Bale) grits his teeth between killing robots, former death-row inmate Marcus (Sam Worthington) wakes up after fifteen years dead and wonders why everything's gone to hell. So actually, not a lot happens between the various action scenes. Luckily, those actions scenes are usually pretty good, with director McG showing some decent action chops without ever creating a truly memorable stand-out chase scene (the one thing all three previous films managed). The acting is actually pretty good too, though bad writing leaves just about everyone hamstrung to some extent. And some of the many, many, many callbacks to the previous films (seriously, if you liked a moment or line in the first two films, it's been tweaked and re-inserted here) are kinda fun. But without the time travel, memorable characters, sly humour, creepy horror, warm humanity and leather jackets that made the first film (and to a slightly lesser extent, the second one) so memorable, this is just another fourth installment in a franchise that should have wrapped up at least one film earlier.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #455)