IGN Blu-ray Review: Terminator: Salvation Director's Cut

"Come with me if you want to live, and watch a bad movie. But mostly live."

by | November 30, 2009 | Comments

For every movie that ends with a hero walking off into the sunset — no matter
how perfect or appropriate the ending — somewhere, Hollywood is thinking of the
sunrise, the following day, the realm of the ever-after, where the sequels live.
“What if Butch and Sundance jumped… into a river!? And made their way down
toward… the jungle!?.” It’s simply not in the nature of the industry to let a
good thing die. Better, one assumes, to let it wither, slowly, in the hopes of a
great and final gasp. And, as if by accident, we are somehow entertained along
the way, perhaps we’ll come along, hopeful yet reluctant, for a fourth, or a
fifth, or a sixth film in any given franchise.

Terminator Salvation is much the same way, entertaining but ultimately
unnecessary, despite the promise of the robot apocalypse we’ve hungrily
anticipated since Kyle Reese first spoke of it to Sarah Connor. And on the
surface, it all makes sense — to illustrate the future war and reveal a portrait
of the world-weary, battle-hardened John Connor, rapidly approaching the time
when he must decide to sacrifice his father in order to save himself.

On paper, the idea of a full-length movie devoted to those too-brief glimpses of
conflict shown in the first and second Terminator films seems like a fascinating
notion. We have the visual effects now to expand upon the future in a way that
director James Cameron never had available to him, and certainly the war between Skynet and the Resistance would provide for an action-packed, visually-stunning
sci-fi/action film. And while the aesthetic reasons to make this sequel — the
first in a proposed trilogy — seem firmly in place, true fans of the franchise
are bound to ask whether there’s a strong enough narrative reason.

Given what we know at the end of Terminator 2 — arguably a masterwork of the
genre — was negating that film’s conclusion in order to set up this
post-apocalyptic vision ultimately worth the potential sci-fi sacrilege? Sadly,
the answer to that question remains unclear.

Score: 6 out of 10 [rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=63&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Video and Presentation

The harsh, permanent grays of Skynet’s future are given a solid 1080p transfer.
Image detail is top notch, with every pore on Christian Bale’s pissed-off face
in close-up coming through, and every servo and piston on the Terminators
appearing with photorealism. The dark color scheme and frequent night scenes
would normally create havoc on the black levels, but not the case here. Black
levels are relatively consistent and colors are strong, despite the movie’s
bleak aesthetic.

If there are any complaints with this transfer, it’s that they are too digital
in some places and too soft in some scenes. Kyle Reese’s wannabe inspirational
speech inside the Harvester appears muted color-wise, as does a scene where
Reese is outrunning a very mean T-800 model. The transfer’s best scenes are
early on, such as the opening titles and the one-take that follows John Connor
down in a helicopter in the wake of a nuclear blast’s EMP. The Harvester and
Hunter-Killer sequence is the standout showpiece for this transfer. From the
fire reds of violent explosions to the charred skies that the H-K hovers
against, this sequence will make you glad you splurged on Blu.

Score: 8 out of 10 [rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=62&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Audio and Languages

The bullet-ridden landscape and the constant concussion of explosions and
weapons fire provides Salvation with a balls-to-the-wall DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
track. Lossless audio lends itself well to every aspect of the film. Danny
Elfman’s electronic-heavy score hits all the right notes in both the front and
surround channels. John Connor’s first field encounter with a metal torso is
full of bullet pings and the grinding of Skynet tech. And the final
confrontation with Skynet’s pet projects, in a factory that produces nothing but
shadows and sparks, is full of surround activity.

For fans of mixes with heavy bass, then you are in for a treat as this DTS track
literally rattles your face off your skull. Those who don’t like to feel their
guts earthquake while they watch a movie will take issue with being pummeled by
a merciless track that takes advantage of the dynamic sound field. From dialogue
to ambient sound effects, this mix is clear and consistent, just shy of
reference quality. DTS gives Dolby a run for their money here, especially if you
like your action movies to play at 11. And then some.

Score: 9 out of 10
[rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=61&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Extras and Packaging

Here’s the thing: The extra features on 3-disc sets should never number less
than the number of discs you are paying for. Terminator Salvation is a big
summer movie and yet the lackluster run of extras here are more suited for non-tentpole
releases.

With only two featurettes, and a distracting picture-in-picture visual
commentary, Salvation feels like its producers misplaced the bonus feature
budget. Disc One features the director’s cut (which includes Moon Bloongood’s
nude scene and a few more violent cuts to the action). Disc Two has special
features and the theatrical cut and disc three has the digital copy of the
movie.

Skynet sends us the following bells and whistles:

  • “Maximum Movie Mode” Feature
  • “Reforging the Future” Featurette
  • “The Moto-Terminator” Featurette

McG, for better or worse, hosts the “Maximum Movie Mode” feature, which is
hybrid of picture-in-picture commentary and a timeline highlighting key events
and people within the Terminator universe as they appear. McG stands before two
monitors that provide behind-the-scenes looks at the film’s set pieces and the
various production members responsible for them. The creation of special effects
and this future’s production design are consistent topics of the feature, along
with cast and crew interviews and B-roll from the set. We would prefer a
standard audio commentary, if more nothing more than to hear McG address certain
story faults and overall fan reaction to the film post-release. “Movie Mode”
offers us a peak behind the curtain, but it doesn’t give the man on stage a
chance to comment on his magic tricks.

All of the above cutaway segments are in 1080p and can be accessed on their own
via “Focus Points”.

“Future” is a rushed production documentary, which runs less than 20 minutes and
burns through the development of the film. Little time is spent on
pre-production and the development of the script, with the thrust of the
featurette devoted to many of the topics covered in “Movie Mode.” Various
producers and special effects technicians dominate this feature, and really
enjoy talking about the various Terminators that had to be created (Hydrobots
FTW!) and the task of bringing back Arnold’s Terminator model from the first
film. Surprisingly, the most significant insight gleamed here is the
production’s use of practical effects whenever possible, such as using a mix of
rubber suits and blue screen to create a walking, rubbery T-600 model.

This featurette feels like it should be longer; one would think that a
production as epic as this would have plenty of making-of footage to fill a
feature-length doc that’s customary nowadays. We got more from Internet news
stories and Wired magazine pieces than we get here.

Terminators transforming and rolling out as sentient death bikes is the subject
of “The Moto-Terminator.” Here, we see how CGI and practical effects were
employed to give the movie its standout action sequence.

While we admire the effort to make the main feature here more interactive, we
can’t help but think how a commentary with the talky director would have better
serviced this 3-disc set. Warners should provide more extras given the
pricepoint and the real estate 3-discs afford.

Score: 6 out of 10[rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=60&legacy=1[/rtimage]
The Bottom Line

McG’s Terminator: Salvation boasts a very expensive idea at its core – how the
beginning of the Future War unfolds – that could have been a good movie, but
instead falls somewhere below Terminator 3’s mediocrity.

The main character only exists to give John Connor his heart, literally, and
that’s a problem when the “in” to your movie is not the guy responsible for
saving what’s left of humanity from the machines hell bent on wiping them out.
Also a problem are the limited special features on this 3-disc set. Any home
video release that comes with more than one disc should come with more than two
rush-job featurettes and an intermittent video commentary hosted by the
director. No deleted scenes? No standardized extras? Rack your shotgun, Sarah
Connor-style, and target practice on this Blu.

The picture is shiny, the sound is deafening, but the overall presentation is
surprisingly thin for such a robust blockbuster’s Blu-ray debut.

Overall Score: 7 out of 10 (not an average)[rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=59&legacy=1[/rtimage]
For additional IGN coverage on Blu-ray, including more reviews, news, and
previews, visit bluray.ign.com. And for RT’s
own coverage, visit our Blu-ray
HQ
.

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