The story behind Christian Bale’s casting in the latest installment of the Terminator franchise is as follows. Director McG approached Bale to play the role of Marcus (the role that eventually went to up-and-coming Aussie actor Sam Worthington). Instead, Bale asked to play John Connor and insisted that the storyline be so airtight that it would hold up without special effects.
In that regard, Terminator Salvation succeeds. I couldn’t find any plot holes in this two-hour installment. However, Salvation takes itself a little too seriously, lacking much of the fun of the previous installments.
The film, which serves as both a sequel and a prequel, is set in 2018, fourteen years after the events of Terminator: Rise of The Machines. We are introduced to a thirty-three year old John Connor. A mid-ranking officer in the human resistance, Connor is viewed as the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy by some, and a delusional fake by others. He spends much of his time reaching out to far-flung members of the resistance via radio.
Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger, Marcus, wanders around in the wasteland that used to be Southern California. He encounters two lone members of the Los Angeles based resistance, a teenaged Kyle Reese (an absolutely adorable Anton Yelchin) and a mute Star (an even cuter Jadagrace). While they make their way to John Connor’s camp, Kyle and Star are captured by Skynet, which is holding large numbers of humans as hostages.
While Marcus makes his way to the Resistance, he crosses paths with Blair (Moon Bloodgood), a resistance fighter who gets shot down during a dogfight with Skynet. They hike for two days in order to reach camp. I can’t give any more plot details without revealing the ending, but let’s just say that there is a lot more to Marcus than originally meets the eye.
I wanted to like—no, love—this movie. After all, I am a huge fan of the Terminator series, and I have nursed a crush on Christian Bale since I first saw him in the satirical, but incredibly controversial, American Psycho. And I did like the fact that the movie dealt with heavy existential questions on what it truly means to be human.
However, the film never thrilled me. Salvation is too flawed for that. In fact, I found myself fidgeting in my seat despite the lean 130-minute runtime. The opening sequence gave away too much information about Marcus, which allowed me to make a fairly accurate guess at what his role in the story was. If McG had dealt with Marcus’s back story in flashbacks, the plot twist that occurs near the end would have packed much more of a dramatic punch. The cinematography is downright boring—you can only sit through so many shots of a barren sun-scorched landscape. The movie is often overpowered by Danny Elfman’s blaringly dramatic score. The dialogue is leaden in numerous spots with Bale using his creepy Batman Begins voice one time too many; several actors (Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, and Jane Alexander amongst others) are wasted. The CGI cameo of the Governator himself inspired yawns, not gasps of surprise. And, in my not-so-humble opinion, not allowing John Connor to die at the end of the movie was a cop-out.
That said, only check out this film if you are a fan of the series and are eager to see which loose ends do and don’t get tied up. Otherwise, skip it.