Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Movie Review: Terminator Salvation
Sorry for not getting this posted sooner, I am battling a bit of a cold and I just have zero energy. Anyway, enough of my whining excuses, onto the film.
I have to admit that I was very excited for Terminator Salvation. Christian Bale is one of those rare actors that can elevate a movie of a role by the tools he brings to a film. He can take a otherwise mediocre project and engage the audience into the action with his dedication to the role. That being said Terminator Salvation needed every bit of Bale to carry it across.
The plot of the movie is pretty simple, the year is 2018 and the machines have taken over the world. John Conner (Bale) is a soldier in the resistance, though not in charge or the organized troops. After a mission goes bad and he looses his squad, the resistance discovers a kill list intercepted from the machines. The top two names on the list are Conner at number 2, and Conner's father, Kyle Reese(Star Trek's Chekov, Anton Yeltsin) at one. Conner knows he has to find his father first in order to save the future, his present, so that he can be born.
In the meantime Marcus Wright( Sam Worthington), a convicted felon from the late 90's, wakes up and stumbles free from the same site that Conner lost his troops at. Wright managed to make it to LA, now completely controlled by the machines, and meets up with Kyle Reese. Not knowing what has happened, Wright wants to find out what happened to him all those years ago, since he was supposed to be dead. Unfortunately Reese is captured and Wright ends up with another member of the resistance. They head back to Conner, but Wright is hurt in the trip by a landmine, and they make a discovery, Wright is actually a Terminator with human parts. He is a robot, but still feels pain and has a human heart.
The information that he gives Conner forces him to attack Skynet central in order to free his father. Conner must battle the machines, and place his trust in the very thing that has tried to kill him since before he was born in order to save his father, and the future.
My biggest impression of this film is that it is a huge spectacle piece. I don't think that you should necessarily expect any revolutionary, its very much a formulaic Terminator piece. A human must team up with a machine to stop other machines and protect on person. I think that when Bale is involved on a project, expectations tend to exceed the actual possibilities of the film. This is by no means a bad film, and I think that some of the criticism is unfair. It's a big budget action flick, gun fights, explosions, man versus machine. Everything you kind of expect from a Terminator franchise.
I think the weakest qualities are both the writing and the direction. I think that many people where expecting a film more along the lines of the Dark Knight, and instead got just another summer action piece. The story is passable, but is nothing that you haven't seen in the previous 3 films. The director is McG, the guy behind the Charlies Angles franchise, and he isn't Chris Nolan. He brings the same things that guys like Michael Bay bring, which isn't necessarily bad, its just more on flash and less on substance. I think a tighter script and a director that is willing to take chances make have carried this film to a strong finish. Not to mention the films ending, which i won't ruin for you, I found uninspired and kind of trite.
One of the things I did like about the film was the casting. Christian Bale is quickly becoming the biggest star in Hollywood and anything he touches is going to get noticed. Surrounding him were very fine character actors. Sam Worthington is a relative newcomer, but is poised to take on bigger roles. Flashes of guys like Michael Ironside, Moon Bloodgood, and Anton Yeltsin where also very good. Bloodgood, most famous for her work on the canceled Journeyman show, brought a very tough femininity to her role. This marks Yeltsin's second blockbuster appearance in a film this summer, again playing a younger version of a famous character. First Chekov in Star Trek, second Kyle Reese in Terminator. My only complaint was the under-use of Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Conner, John's wife. She seemed almost tertiary to the story and I would have liked her to step up more into the action. I also liked that they even threw in some appreciation to the previous films, with some voice over work by Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner, and even an appearance (in a way) by the original Terminator himself Arnold.
Look, overall I did like this film. While it didn't rejuvenate the franchise like Warner Bros thought it would, it IS a very passable summer movie, and there are plenty of worse ways to drop a couple of dollars at the movies. It's almost worth it for the Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo alone. Other than the ending, the film is a decent action movie and I enjoyed watching it. If you're looking for some explosions and huge special effects sequences, Terminator Salvation isn't a bad take.
End of Line.