Jen Gets Terminated, Day 4: Terminator Salvation

We conclude our Terminator viewing series with this week's McG-helmed sequel, Terminator Salvation.

by | May 21, 2009 | Comments

Day Four: Terminator Salvation (2009)

It’s been a roller coaster ride revisiting the science fiction films Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), and I thank everyone who followed along with me this week. As we found out, the franchise that James Cameron began 25 years ago weathered a lot of changes through the years (from $6.5 million thriller to $200 million action pic, from Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s first “I’ll be back” to “Talk to the hand”) but what kept fans hooked from picture to picture were the core themes of the Terminator universe: humanity attempting to save itself, the strength of familial bonds, and the idea that we’re all in control of our own fates — even if the future seems rather bleak.

Today I turn my gaze upon Terminator Salvation, the third sequel in the Terminator saga. In it, we catch up with Resistance fighter John Connor (Christian Bale) in the year 2018; Judgment Day (as seen in T3: Rise of the Machines) has come and gone, leaving pockets of human rebels scattered across the globe, while the forces of SkyNet send new machines to harvest and kill. (Coincidentally — or perhaps, on purpose — SkyNet is based in San Francisco, the very same place where Starfleet Command calls home in the universe of Terminator Salvation‘s summer blockbuster rival, Star Trek.)


But John Connor isn’t really the main character of Terminator Salvation, a film that, like Terminator 2 before it, shifts its focus to a new protagonist: Marcus (Sam Worthington), a death row inmate who is executed in 2003 only to wake up in the present-day “future.” The lean, lethal Marcus teams up with a teenage wannabe Resistance fighter (Anton Yelchin), who also happens to be the same person that John Connor has been seeking out for a very special mission: Kyle Reese.

That’s the basic plot, anyway, and for the sake of your own experience of discovery I’ll omit details. Overall, Terminator Salvation is a watchable Terminator sequel, but not necessarily a great one. It features great performances, but also underwritten characters. It has a story that will satisfy and intrigue most Terminator fans, but it’s almost over-plotted. The post-apocalyptic world that director McG envisioned is perfectly dirty, dangerous, and harrowing — a well-crafted extension of the flash forwards to the future glimpsed in Terminator, T2, and T3 — but some scenes are strangely, distractingly, set bound.


That said, McG knows how to shoot a set piece. Take the gas station scene shown in Terminator Salvation‘s trailer, as Kyle, Marcus, and Kyle’s deaf-mute sidekick, Star, escape/battle a giant “Harvester” Terminator along with two feisty “Moto-Terminators” that detach from its legs; these bots are ruthless and agile, and not too far removed from another kind of other summer robot (in disguise). Yet this new take on the chase sequence — a staple of every Terminator movie — is absolutely thrilling and fresh.

Set pieces aside, Terminator Salvation has a bit of an editing problem. It’s rather obvious that the final cut was snipped at considerably from all angles, presumably for a shorter run time and (in one glaring scene-to-scene jump) to omit Moon Bloodgood‘s nude scene and hit the PG-13 mark. As a result, some characters seem one-dimensional; we’d like to see even supporting players cultivate their characters a bit longer. Then again, maybe it’s a scripting issue, since there are at least two or three superfluous supporting cast members (Common, Bryce Dallas Howard, and four-time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander, for starters) practically begging for more screen time on the periphery of the story.


Speaking of the cast, Sam Worthington (previously seen in the Australian flick Somersault) makes a great impression in the role that will likely introduce him to most American audiences. His brooding Marcus is alternately tough and self-loathing, a loner compelled to help others who is fantastically handy in a fight and pretty dreamy to boot. Worthington and Michael Ironside, as a Resistance General at odds with John Connor, are the only two cast members who really hold their own with Bale on screen; everyone else looks terrified just to be sharing the frame with him. (Even then, Ironside’s scene with Bale is on the phone — they’re not even in the same room.) Look forward to seeing Worthington in the upcoming Avatar (from James Cameron) and as Perseus in Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake.

Bale, unsurprisingly, delivers a solid rendering of the battle-hardened John Connor, although he’s so cold and single-minded (Must. Destroy. SkyNet.) that it’s hard to believe this is the same person who once played Missile Command in the Sherman Oaks Galleria and high-fived a T800. Yelchin, underused as Chekov in Star Trek, shows nervy strength as the dedicated young Reese.


The Terminator films have always remembered where they came from (whether you consider it the past or the future, or both), so fans get a fair amount of references. Thankfully, they’re integrated seamlessly into the plot and for the most part avoid forced comic moments, as seen in T3. Many are quite subtle, explaining how certain skills or things we’ve already seen in previous films originally came to be; one familiar line in particular is delivered with such perfect timing, the scene ends before it has time to turn campy.


Ultimately, I was superficially entertained but disappointed with this attempt at making a Terminator sequel; it feels appropriately bleak and gritty, but is unable to pull itself together as tightly as the first two films. And although Terminator Salvation is shaping up to be the worst-reviewed film in the Terminator franchise (get the latest reviews here), I actually think it’s a step up from the better-reviewed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines; it’s not only about humans battling their heartless pursuers, but about keeping faith in your fellow man. Now let’s just wait for the inevitable Director’s Cut to see McG’s best vision of the film, because there’s a better movie hidden somewhere inside Terminator Salvation.

Read More “Jen Gets Terminated” Installments:

Tag Cloud

Marvel Grammys Showtime E3 natural history Red Carpet Comedy Central Premiere Dates comedies comics GoT Animation PaleyFest The Academy sports ITV Mary poppins Film hidden camera Podcast Winter TV dogs space FX CW Seed BET Shondaland DC streaming service Netflix Christmas movies cancelled Turner Classic Movies Broadway theme song San Diego Comic-Con Logo Box Office casting stoner rotten Disney Plus worst HBO Comics on TV sequel YA Black History Month best TNT stop motion Marathons batman OneApp Music Nickelodeon witnail BET Awards halloween tv Disney period drama The Witch women harry potter nfl indiana jones venice justice league razzies superhero werewolf crossover franchise Trophy Talk Hallmark Christmas movies psychological thriller 2019 American Society of Cinematographers DGA Bravo TCA 2017 YouTube The Walt Disney Company OWN jamie lee curtis cartoon Tubi revenge TLC ghosts zombie Comedy Vudu Creative Arts Emmys Esquire nbcuniversal Teen Sundance TV all-time Holiday Rocketman Adult Swim obituary Television Critics Association Exclusive Video USA Mystery Disney streaming service 2021 romantic comedy 72 Emmy Awards films Trivia french facebook 21st Century Fox ViacomCBS Sundance Now FOX Opinion Cosplay robots prank Baby Yoda spanish language YouTube Premium Calendar Cannes Pride Month comiccon unscripted Watching Series Chernobyl cats Tumblr diversity Fall TV Lucasfilm serial killer golden globes remakes Paramount Network First Reviews LGBTQ toronto Lionsgate CMT romance football italian Dark Horse Comics See It Skip It Travel Channel SundanceTV TCA Awards monster movies zero dark thirty Heroines parents TBS Netflix ESPN rom-coms 99% Syfy A&E BBC zombies concert Biopics Rocky Polls and Games spanish name the review TV Mudbound USA Network Video Games Drama Pixar satire Spring TV blaxploitation game show Fantasy TV renewals stand-up comedy video criterion Countdown Apple TV+ dramedy comic books SDCC Academy Awards Amazon Studios Valentine's Day MTV Disney+ Disney Plus Walt Disney Pictures composers New York Comic Con TV Land Ellie Kemper breaking bad Musicals jurassic park ABC Signature festivals toy story what to watch TCA Winter 2020 Family canceled comic VICE ABC book cancelled television reboot anime TIFF Amazon Prime Video A24 Legendary Superheroes docuseries Holidays discovery RT History Discovery Channel Nominations indie Endgame Country television Nat Geo australia Apple Masterpiece Film Festival Action 71st Emmy Awards Women's History Month Christmas Spectrum Originals The CW Musical spain Hallmark Thanksgiving singing competition Pet Sematary aliens Sci-Fi cults adventure Trailer cars anthology tv talk 2015 travel Fox Searchlight mission: impossible AMC social media NBC elevated horror 20th Century Fox Song of Ice and Fire CNN documentary independent spy thriller BBC One Disney Channel critics Best and Worst Apple TV Plus screenings Election Superheroe Emmys a nightmare on elm street mockumentary Awards WarnerMedia free movies TruTV Television Academy versus supernatural cancelled TV series king kong Funimation halloween IFC Films Shudder GIFs Lifetime LGBT hollywood worst movies NYCC Ghostbusters 2018 The Walking Dead El Rey 2020 emmy awards Anna Paquin Rom-Com blockbuster MCU kong Horror south america cancelled TV shows Pop WGN biography rt archives movie Cartoon Network archives Marvel Studios boxoffice transformers FXX Summer APB Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt quibi TCM mutant Peacock james bond Universal The Purge sitcom Britbox Hulu classics child's play Brie Larson BAFTA reviews Acorn TV crime thriller award winner political drama teaser twilight finale FX on Hulu Columbia Pictures PBS vampires technology children's TV police drama Arrowverse psycho IFC Quiz Epix Star Wars DirecTV hispanic History Rock Amazon Prime Ovation historical drama DC Universe fresh trailers Certified Fresh VOD 45 Mindy Kaling President HBO Max MSNBC screen actors guild blockbusters The Arrangement Avengers die hard Kids & Family game of thrones godzilla Paramount Plus spinoff BBC America National Geographic slashers sequels nature christmas movies Amazon based on movie streaming disaster HBO Go Oscars 2017 cops Martial Arts Captain marvel rotten movies we love dark Winners thriller Sneak Peek kaiju strong female leads Stephen King Mary Poppins Returns CBS All Access Western pirates of the caribbean crime Binge Guide binge cinemax Fox News DC Comics scorecard news First Look CBS Photos black documentaries Crunchyroll Sony Pictures 007 deadpool video on demand boxing Lifetime Christmas movies Comic Book latino Mary Tyler Moore true crime Extras docudrama festival TV One talk show miniseries canceled TV shows Crackle ABC Family TCA Star Trek ID adaptation japanese foreign Marvel Television Sundance Year in Review dragons Tarantino renewed TV shows Reality E! telelvision sag awards 2016 Tomatazos scary movies series Food Network Writers Guild of America war golden globe awards Awards Tour Set visit Toys asian-american universal monsters Hear Us Out Schedule medical drama 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards GLAAD superman Paramount Classic Film spider-man joker kids chucky politics Elton John Alien Interview Character Guide Chilling Adventures of Sabrina fast and furious PlayStation doctor who movies VH1 Pop TV X-Men dc animated laika Pirates RT21 science fiction Super Bowl Reality Competition Infographic Turner Spike SXSW Starz popular YouTube Red crime drama richard e. Grant 24 frames Warner Bros. green book Black Mirror directors Emmy Nominations dceu 4/20 hist cooking ratings Freeform