It’s review time!
Considering my wildly enthusiastic rants over the past few weeks, I suppose it’s a forgone conclusion that I liked this movie.
And I abso-freaking-lutely did.
But I have plenty to say about it, so here goes…
Terminator Salvation is easily the second best Terminator movie ever made. Way better than Terminator 3, even better than Cameron’s initial Terminator 1, but just shy of beating out the indomitable Terminator 2 for the top spot. And that’s okay. In my books it would take a filmmaking act of God to surpass that movie.
So what makes Terminator Salvation work?
Well for starters, McG has perfected his trademark stylized action sequences. In Charlie’s Angels 1 and 2, McG experimented with very detailed, long-take action scenes that often relied heavily on computer-generated effects and came off looking slightly cartoony. In Terminator Salvation, McG has erased any of the silliness that plagued his earlier work to create some of the most suspenseful, hyper-realistic one-take action scenes ever captured on film. It reminded me of Children of Men… but, you know, with robots. Truly some of the most amazingly choreographed sequences I’ve seen in a long time. There’s a particularly notable scene at a gas station that’s orchestrated so well it’s downright uncomfortable to watch.
Furthermore, the movie is led by a very strong cast. Right off the bat, I should mention that Anton Yelchin really surprised me, and I suppose I owe him an apology for doubting him. He nails the headstrong teenage attitude of young Kyle Reese without coming off as annoying, which is no easy feat (I’m looking at you, cast of Harry Potter). Sam Worthington also knocks one out of the park as the deeply confused robo-human with a shady past. The guy’s got enough chutzpah to share the screen with Christian Bale, but he’s also got the chops to play the romantic lead. That being said, if Mr. Worthington wants to continue acting in Hollywood, he needs to work on his American accent.
And of course Christian Bale is Christian Bale. If you’ve seen the new Batman movies, you know what to expect. The man is the 21st century action hero.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Terminator Salvation is not without its share of flaws.
For one, I was slightly irked that we didn’t really see anything we haven’t seen before. As I’ve been saying for weeks, I’ve been waiting to see the future war against the machines since I was 15, but what we see in Terminator Salvation doesn’t really advance the master plot in any significant way. John is still waiting to take the reigns as leader of the Resistance, and Skynet is still years away from facing any serious threat from the puny humans. Of course the ride we get is incredibly fun, but I was hoping to head a little further into uncharted territory. That being said, they sure have set things up for an exciting new wave of sequels.
There are also some other picky film critic things that I would be remiss if I didn’t point out. For example, the dialogue is a tad awkward in points (try not to laugh at Marcus Wright’s opening exchange), which shouldn’t be a problem for a Terminator movie, but I guess I was expecting more considering the caliber of writers who worked on the script. There were also some sci-fi nerd issues I had regarding Skynet’s actions… How did it know certain things about the Connor family? Why did it dillydally with Kyle Reese? The answers are all there, I suppose, but it would have been nice to see things spelled out more clearly.
All in all, though, Terminator Salvation is a Terminator fan’s movie. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just another reboot. Far from it, in fact, Terminator Salvation achieves the seemingly impossible goal of creating a movie that’s deeply entrenched in continuity and fan-service, but also manages to create a jumping-on point for new audiences. Furthermore, McG is a man who loves movies. Listening to him in an interview yesterday, it was clear that this is not a guy who’s trying to make the next great art flick. The man has no pretentions. He knows he’s making popcorn blockbusters and he loves it, and that’s why this movie is so darn entertaining, despite some obvious problems. If I had to sum it up, I’d say this: the man put a Great Escape reference in a Terminator movie, and that should only happen in my dreams.
So go check out Terminator Salvation. It lacks some of the depth of T2, but it’s got more than enough to make up for it, and you won’t be disappointed.