Terminator Salvation Review: Back On (A Slightly Different) Track

TERMINATOR SALVATION: On General Release Wed 3rd June 2009

Whatever you think about the decision to continue the franchise PA (post-arnie), you’ve got to admit Warner Bros have got some balls.

Tasking the salvation of one of the most popular and revered franchises in sci-fi history to a director who is accused of being unable to spell his own name (McG), let alone point a camera, was an incredibly risky move.

And while he hasn’t made a real Terminator movie (we’ll get onto that later), what has dragged itself out of the hyped-up, media-obsessed mire, is a competent and enjoyable action movie.

It’s 2018 and, as anyone that resisted the urge to walk out of Terminator 3 half-way through will know, the world has gone to pot. Skynet’s awakened consciousness doomed the world to nuclear Armageddon and now the human race is in a desperate battle against ‘the machines’ for survival.

Franchise constant John Connor decides to go on the offensive and with the aid of walking beefcake enigma Marcus Wright, attempts to rally the troops and bring down the robotic kingdom once and for all.

Only Wright is harbouring a secret that even he doesn’t know about that could turn the tide of the war for either side. Which will he choose? Cue dramatic Eastenders’ drums.

McG set out to reinvent the franchise and that’s certainly what he’s done, only to the point of creating something ensconced in the mythology, but bizarrely, emotionally detached from it.

While there are red-eyed stomping robots and actiony chase scenes aplenty, the whole dynamic has changed to the point where it’s all a bit vacuous. Up until now, the franchise was fairly defined:

Big scary killer robot chases weedy boy/scarily ripped pre-op. Shoot, scream, squish, repeat.

With the future already realised, this is much more of a straight war flick, with mini human/robot skirmishes along the way. Which, while entertaining in short bursts, has created a huge black hole where the audience should feel something to connect with.

This, coincidentally, makes Bale’s famous rant now hugely anticlimactic. There’s simply no singular dramatic moment that could have warranted Mr Method Actor getting so invested in the role.

Far more interesting is Heat’s 2010’s Sexiest Man Of The Year, Sam Worthington. While it could have been little more than a mirror-image of Bale’s manly macho growlathon, Worthington enthuses Wright’s character with a pathos and anti-heroic drive that captivates the camera. One to watch, definitely.

Say what you will about McG, but Salvation is chock full of some electrifying action sequences. It’s just a shame that with an ending that’s curiously devoid of heart (that pun will make sense after you’ve watched it), Salvation possesses as much humanity as the robots it aims to demonise.

Matt Risley