Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Home Video: Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation
Directed by McG
Released May 21, 2009

The Terminator franchise holds the rare distinction of having a sequel that’s better than the original. In 1991, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” took the excitement and thrill of 1984’s “The Terminator” and took it to a new level, creating a classic villain in the form of the liquid metal T-1000 and using Ah-nuld to awesome effect. The franchise took a decade off, and then was resurrected in 2003 by a new director, Jonathan Mostow, with “Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines,” which proved to be a disappointing, unenthusiastic addition to the series. A TV show, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” aired on FOX for two years, coming to an end recently. Now, after all its predecessors, “Terminator Salvation” finally arrives, but the question is, who cares?

One of the things that made the Terminator films so successful and enjoyable was the presence of their leading star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was the villain in the first film and then the newfound hero in the next two movies. His presence, along with new Terminator Kristanna Loken, who brought an unexpected sex appeal to the killing machine, was part of the reason that T3 didn’t tank completely. Stars Nick Stahl and Claire Danes weren’t going to cut it, and with skilled director James Cameron out of the picture, there needed to be something dependable. The newest Terminator entry is lacking in both Schwarzenegger and Cameron, and the burden to carry the film then goes to two surprising heirs to the Terminator throne: McG and Christian Bale.

McG has an action background, guiding tough chicks in “Charlie’s Angels,” and also has a good connection to the younger demographic due to his work on shows like “The O.C.” Bale is able to bury himself in a role so deeply that he’s unrecognizable on the other side. Unfortunately, their qualifications aren’t right for this film. McG isn’t capable of directing a compelling story, and as a result this is a dull bore from start to finish. Without a finely written role, Bale bombs as he tries incredibly hard, physically straining his face in every scene, to put the utmost effort into a part that might best be underplayed by relaxing a bit. As a result, the real breakout stars of the film are Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) and Moon Bloodgood (“Burn Notice”) as resistance fighters with a slightly more optimistic outlook on trust than the famously cautious John Connor.

“Terminator Salvation” suffers mostly because it doesn’t have a coherent villain or an interesting story, and its attempts to examine the fusion of human and machine fall miles short of previous efforts to probe the idea. The need to incorporate token lines from previous films like “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live” are tiresome and inappropriate. To its credit, it’s the first Terminator project that doesn’t invoke time travel but rather seeks to protect time continuum in the present. Sadly, it’s not the least bit interesting. With the speedy cancellation of “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and the failure of this film, perhaps it would be best to put this franchise to rest.


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