Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Review: Terminator Salvation

Synopsis: The fourth installment of the classic sci-fi action story takes us into the future, as John Connor and the human resistance battle the forces of Skynet. But when a mysterious strangers enters their fold, will he be the key in destroying Skynet or the end of the human race?

Review: I had high hopes, like many, going into this film. As a fan of the franchise, I was looking forward to that "blown out of my seat" experience the other films of this saga have given me. Besides which, this is the film we've all been waiting for since the beginning, right? The future war! The resistance vs. Skynet! It couldn't possibly be bad, could it? Oh, you couldn't be more wrong!

This film lacked anything in the way of atmosphere or suspense. The mood of the film was extremely flat from almost the start and never really came to life. On top of that, I feel too much time was spent on the machines and not enough on John Connor and the humans (whom you'd think we should be rooting for). Sam Worthington's character, of the man made into a machine, never gained any sympathy or interest from me. The fact they gave away the "secret" to his character in the trailers, certainly didn't help that, either. His character's actions are schizophrenic, at best, half the time making little sense, if any, and almost never ring true. A major flaw, to be sure, with how much time he gets on screen.

Then you have Christian Bale, who plays John Connor as a "Batman-lite" affair. He uses the same kind of voice here, that he did in "The Dark Knight" and it just doesn't work. He portrays none of the charisma and leadership that we know the character is supposed to have. All the emotions we've felt for him in the past are all stripped away here, as he comes off like a whiny and self-absorbed jerk. Hardly one you'd want being the savior of the human race. None of the other resistance members get enough screen time to make any kind of impression on you, so you never develop any bond in what might happen to them. I don't know if the cast just didn't care about the film, or if the script just gave them nothing to work with, but there is no fire in any of the performances.

And even if the script doesn't let the actors down, it has more than a few problems itself. They never really explain why Sam Worthington's character is the one chosen by Skynet. The story never gives you any feelings of dread or panic, despite tons of action on the screen. And while those action sequences are well shot and choreographed, they lack any real excitement. It never gets your pulse pounding. Plus there are tons of little things in the film, like Connor's wife being pregnant, which get no explanation or even a passing mention. I mean, what's the point in doing that, if it doesn't mean anything? And why is Skynet herding people into camps (ala the Nazis)? Shouldn't it simply be destroying all human life, to protect itself and win the war? It is another plot point that makes no sense, nor is given any reasoning for, in a script filled with them. Worst of all, and the one major flaw that ruins the whole film for me, is how, after Skynet has captured Kyle Reese (played by Anton Yelchin, in one of the few decent performances in the film), it doesn't kill him immediately, but uses him as bait to lure John Connor into a rescue mission. This kind of thinking, in terms of revenge and greed, is an emotional human failing Skynet should not have. It is a machine. It should know the simple equation: "Kill Kyle Reese, John Connor is no more!" The only reason for it, is to provide the big end battle, where Connor faces the Terminator 101-model (with CGI used to show Arnold in his prime). It's all just a wasted effort and doesn't deliver any thrills.

Many folks blasted "T3" for some of the inconsistencies it had, but compared to this mess of a film, it was sheer cinematic brilliance! "Terminator Salvation" could truly be considered a franchise killer, on par with the fiasco that "Batman and Robin" was for the Batman one. Old school fans of this saga will not find this enjoyable, and any attempts to bring in new fans will be dashed at the overly-complicated back-story used to get them up to speed on this film. In short, this is a film that will appeal to few people, be they fans of these films or not. It is a complete waste of time, money and talent. And that is the purest definition of the term "whipped up movie," which this effort most assuredly is, that I can think of! It is easily one of the most disappointing films of the year.

Rating: 1 Star (out of 4)

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