Saturday, August 1, 2015

Franchises: The Terminator. Terminator: Salvation (2009)

For the life of me, I can't remember when I found out that this movie was on its way. I was pretty sure that there would be another Terminator movie to follow up on the third film's surprisingly bleak ending, and I also knew that if such a film did happen, it would have little-to-no involvement from Arnold Schwarzenegger since he was now governor of California, but the years passed without much news about what was going on save for rumors here and there, such as that James Cameron might return and that Arnold may have some involvement after all. Somewhere along the line, probably around the time of the release of The Dark Knight, I found out that a fourth movie was coming, that it would take place in the future during the war with SkyNet, and Christian Bale, who now had some box-office clout, would star as John Connor. That November, I saw some footage from the film when Reelz Channel showed a trailer for it during one of their shows and my reaction to it was mainly just, "Eh." I was interested in seeing it since it was a new Terminator movie but the absence of Arnold, which had me wondering how it could work, and the film's rather bland visual style didn't exactly get me hyped up for it, although the effects did look good. And in the months prior to its release, it managed to generate a couple of controversies that would eventually overshadow the movie itself for a lot of people, myself included, not the least of which was that audio recording of Bale ripping the cinematographer a new asshole and a half for walking around on the set while he was trying to do a scene. I'll talk more about that presently but I think it's safe to say that's the thing that everyone remembers from this movie and it's not even an actual part of it. And then, the movie got a PG-13 rating, which angered a lot of fans to the point where I heard some refer to it as Terminator: Pussification or Wussification and such. I did think it was odd, given the violent, hard-R nature of the previous films, especially the first two, and it would no doubt take a lot of the bite out of the franchise, but I wasn't too concerned as long as the movie was good, which I quickly began to hear wasn't the case when I caught a glimpse of some reviews when it was released. "Predictable," "rambling and disjointed," "tired," and, "it's not the same without Arnold," made up the majority of the general opinions I saw concerning the film but, since I'm someone who doesn't put much stock in reviews, save for people who I know have the same tastes as me, and has to form his own opinions, I reserved judgment until I saw the film for myself, which I did while it was in theaters.

After my first viewing, I thought that the film was just okay and not quite as bad as people were making it out to be but, at the same time, I had no desire to see the film again and as time went on, its details rapidly disappeared from my mind. Once I did see it a second time, which wasn't until 2014 when I got the Blu-Ray cheap and I only did that because I knew I would review this series at some point, my opinion of it dropped even lower than it already was and now, I can say that this is not a good movie at all. The only things about it that I can compliment are the special effects and the action scenes but even those aren't nearly enough to hold my attention (hell, when I wached the movie again for this review, I was more interested in removing dead skin from the bottom of my foot than paying attention to the big truck chase near the beginning!), which really sucks because everything else is as forgettable as you can get. The characters are horribly bland and unengaging, the story is boring and convoluted, the film's very look, even though I know what they're going for with it, adds to the fatigue, even though there are a number of action scenes, it drags horribly and feels much longer than its 115-minute running time, and worst of all, there's no personality or heart to it at all. Therefore, and despite the fact that I have not seen Terminator: Genisys yet at this point, I'm going to say right now that this is the worst Terminator film in my opinion and this review is probably not going to be that good because even though I just watched it again before starting this, it's already starting to leave my brain. It leaves that little of an impression on me.

In 2003, convicted murderer Marcus Wright is put to death by lethal injection but not before agreeing to give his body to Cyberdyne Systems for medical research. Shortly afterward, SkyNet becomes self-aware and initiates Judgment Day, wiping out the majority of humanity with a large-scale nuclear attack. By 2018, the war between SkyNet and the human resistance is in full-force, with John Connor leading one of the divisions. After becoming the only survivor of an assault on a SkyNet base where he and his battalion find human prisoners and the plans for the T-800 Terminator, John meets with General Ashdown, leader of the Resistance, who tells him that they have discovered a radio signal that they believe can shut down SkyNet's machines. With this knowledge, they plan to attack a base in San Francisco in four days, mainly because it's been discovered that SkyNet has a list of people it plans to kill to cripple the Resistance, one of whom, along with John, is his future father, Kyle Reese. Meanwhile, Marcus Wright, having emerged from the ruins of the destroyed base, makes his way to the ruins of Los Angeles and meets up with Reese and his friend, a mute kid named Star, who save him from a T-600 and tell him of Judgment Day and the war against the machines. Upon hearing a radio broadcast that John sends out to give hope to others, as well as to get Reese's attention, the three decide to try to find the Resistance but on the way are attacked by the machines, with Reese, Star, and others taken prisoner, while Marcus manages to escape and meets up with Resistance fighter pilot Blair Williams. The two of them head to John's base, but when Marcus is injured by a magnetic land-mine on the base's outskirts, they discover that he's a cyborg and immediately distrust him, with John ordering him to be destroyed. Blair, however, helps Marcus escape, and when he saves John's life during the skirmish that follows, John decides to let him live if he helps him infiltrate SkyNet's San Francisco headquarters and save Kyle and everyone else there before the Resistance destroys it in their attack. Marcus agrees but when he gets in, he begins to learn that this plan may have been what SkyNet was counting on all along.

The Terminator franchise, despite very, very lucrative, has never been able to find a permanent production company or studio home in the thirty plus years that it's been active, bouncing from Hemdale and Orion Pictures to Carolco Pictures, C2 Pictures, the Halcyon Company, and finally, in the case of Genisys, Annapurna Pictures and Skydance Productions, as well as being distributed by a variety of studios like MGM, TriStar, Warner Bros., and Paramount, not to mention Universal's share of it for their theme park attraction (it's amazing to me that you can actually get a Blu-Ray box set with all of the movies). Each time a new film has been developed, it's had to go through a mishmash of legal issues concerning who has the rights in order to get made, resulting in the movies have very long gaps between them. Terminator: Salvation's development was one of the most troubled, with the rights passing from Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, who were feuding, to the Halcyon Company and said company then getting into a lawsuit with MGM when the latter decided that they wanted to distribute the new film and their negotiations broke down to the point where a court injunction was needed; in addition, the screenplay went through constant rewrites once the dust finally settled, which is undoubtedly a big reason why the story is such a mess. John Brancato and Michael Ferris, the writers of Terminator 3, are the only ones credited with the screenplay but their draft was rewritten by Paul Haggis, whose work was then revised by Shawn Ryan three weeks before filming, and then Jonathan Nolan, brother and constant writing partner of Christopher Nolan, came in and did some rewrites during filming, with Anthony E. Zuiker also contributing to it. This constant tinkering was mainly done to accomodate Christian Bale, who was originally meant to play Marcus Wright but decided he wanted to be John Connor, who was not a major character in the earlier drafts, instead, leading to the role being expanded. It also didn't help that the original ending, which was quite bleak, was leaked onto the internet, with Warner Bros. then deciding that the entire third act needed to be changed. So much tinkering and last-minute changing of a script can severly damage a film's potential (look at all the crap Alien 3 went through) and, although not impossible, it's very hard to pull a genuinely good product out of such a situation, especially if you don't have a very strong guiding force, which this film certainly didn't in my opinion.

This is going to sound so snobbish but, truthfully, when I first looked up information on Terminator: Salvation and found that the film's director was simply named McG, I thought, "Oh, God, we're already in trouble. That just screams music video director." I acknowledge that was very petty of me and, even though he did indeed direct music videos at one point, I have since learned that he was nicknamed that by his mother in order to distinguish him from his uncle and grandfather because they all had the same first name, but it just didn't sound like the name a legitimate filmmaker would go by. My opinion of his legitimacy went down even further when I found out that he'd directed those Charlie's Angels movies, which I have never seen nor do I have any intention in seeing due to what I've heard, the bits I've caught, and my general taste in movies, making me wonder why in the world anyone would chose him to direct a Terminator movie. Think about it: we've gone from James Cameron, one of the best directors of his generation, to an okay director like Jonathan Mostow to the guy who did the Charlie's Angels movies. This franchise is just zipping down the food chain, is it not? And I tried to put all of this possibly unwarranted prejudice aside since I hadn't seen the film yet but, once I did, I thought, "Yep, that's what I thought a Terminator movie directed by this guy would be like." In case I haven't made it clear enough, McG is not a director I'm at all impressed with. He comes across to me like a less offensive Michael Bay: a director who, due to his music video background, cares crap all about story and character and is only concerned with the visuals, which aren't even that good in this case, and blowing stuff (tell me that the one action scene doesn't look like something out of one of those Transformers movies). And I think the fact that Christian Bale, normally a superlative actor, gives such a lackluster, uninspired performance here, speaks volumes about McG's ability, or lack thereof, to get performances out of actors, even really capable ones. I said he's less offensive than Bay because at least he doesn't put in stupid, frat boy-level humor, so I guess that's something, but it's not enough to put him above other blah directors like Bay and Brett Ratner in my eyes. He's only directed a couple of films since Terminator: Salvation, This Means War with Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine and 3 Days To Kill with Kevin Costner, neither of which did particularly, especially the latter, and has been dropped from other projects he's tried to develop, like a remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ouija, and R.I.P.D., as well as the fifth Terminator movie. I could be wrong but, given everything I've read, I have the sneaking suspicion that McG's career isn't going to last much longer.

"Kick your fucking ass! I want you off the fucking set, you prick!" "Think for one fuckin' second... what the fuck are you doing?! Are you professional or not?!" "Then why the fuck are you walkin' through, 'oh, da, da, da, da,' like this in the background? What the fuck is it with you? What don't you fuckin' understand?" "Oh, good for you, and how was it? I hope it was fuckin' good because it's worthless now, isn't it? Fuck's sake, man, you're amateur." "I'm gonna fuckin' KICK YOUR FUCKIN' ASS if you don't shut up for a second, alright?! Do you want me to fuckin' trash your lights? You want me to fuckin' trash 'em?! Then why are you trashing my scene?" "I ain't walkin' on this set again if you're still hired." Okay, you get the point. Like I said at the beginning, this is by far the most well known thing to come out of Terminator: Salvation. People who've never even seen the movie know of this sound byte of Christian Bale going off on DP Shane Hurlburt when he made the mistake of walking around the set for the second time in a row while Bale was trying to do a very intense scene. The audio went viral months before the film's release and promptly overshadowed the movie itself, causing a bit of a fallout between Bale and some moviegoers who felt that he had been revealed to be your typical asshole movie star and leading to an internet remix called Bale Out. While it didn't make me hate him, I was still pretty shocked when I listened to the audio and did feel that he's got some serious anger problems, especially when I learned that around that same time, he assaulted his mother and sister in some way while in London for a premiere of The Dark Knight. Learning what an intense, committed method actor he is (he never drops his American accent during that rant), however, made me understand the outburst better, and the same goes for that alleged assault when I learned that there's some bad blood there. Plus, if that was the second time that DP did that, then he should have been called out on it... but not as harshly and violently as Bale did. It's all water under the bridge now, though. Bale apologized (one of the few celebrity apologies that felt sincere to me) and is still an in demand actor, so it didn't hurt his career one bit. Plus, when you win an Oscar, I think people are more willing to forgive you for anything you've done, especially when you make fun yourself in the process, as he did.

As you can tell, I'd much rather talk about that than Bale's actual performance as John Connor because it is without a doubt one of his weakest. It is nice to see John being very proactive after two films where he's been little more than a VIP that needed protecting, shooting Terminators and blowing stuff up, and I also like that he gives any other survivors hope with his radio broadcasts, assuring them that there is cause to keep going, akin to what Franklin Roosevelt did during World War II, and giving them advice on how to fight the T-600s, but other than that and how much he values human life, I don't have much to say about him. Bale may be a great actor but if he also doesn't have a good director to back him up, he can be very lackluster and that's what happens here. All he does as John is scowl throughout the entire film, as just about everyone else does, and, when he's not screaming orders, talk in a raspy, Clint Eastwood-like voice that may not be as distracting as his Batman voice but is still cliched and sounds like someone trying to sound tough instead of someone who actually is. They try to give John an arc in that he's not yet the leader of the Resistance at this point, is seen by some as a false prophet while others do follow him, going for the Christ allegory (although I remember that only being brought up in one scene with his superiors, I think), and has to deal with superiors who want to win the war through any means necessary, including sacrificing human lives, which he will not bring himself to do, as well as learn to trust someone who is part man and part machine, but none of this is played out in a compelling way. For instance, it seems by the end that John is going to become the leader but only because General Ashdown got blown up along with his nuclear submarine headquarters. Even if these issues were resolved in an interesting manner, John is so dull here that it wouldn't matter. There are some really good moments with him, like when he tells his wife that the appearance of Marcus, an apparent machine who believes 100% that he's human, has made him question all that he knows about SkyNet and what his mother has told him and that, if he's telling the truth, his future father is going to be wiped out when the Resistance attacks the main base, as well as when he talks over the radio abot how there's no point in winning if they're going to fight like machines, and I also like when he discovers that the signal they plan to use on the machines does indeed work and he goes, "Holy shit," but moments like that are few and far between. Some of the dialogue he's given is really melodramatic, like, "The devil's hands have been busy," "Nobody's shot you in the heart, and I see that thing beating a mile away," and, "You and me, we've been at war since before either of us even existed," and his raspy voice doesn't help that either. Again, I like some aspects of his character, especially how he's willing to risk his position and his life to save the human prisoners at SkyNet, particularly his future father, but for the most part, this is the most boring portrayal of John Connor that's ever been put to film.

Marcus Wright could have easily been the most interesting character in the entire film: a convicted killer who is put to death and wakes up years later to find himself in a decimated world and, most distressing of all, learning that he's turned into a human/machine hybrid experiment by SkyNet. He's trying to come to terms with where and what he now is throughout the film and is looking for a way to make amends for the horrible things he's done in the past, which he decides to do by helping John get into SkyNet and save Kyle Reese, only to learn that he was part of SkyNet's plan to kill John all along. Ultimately, he gets his second chance by giving John his heart after the latter is mortally wounded during the climactic battle, making for a noble reworking of the scene at the beginning where he was put to death the first time. This could have made for some interesting stuff, especially given how his appearance is something of an inverse of the previous Terminators arriving into the past from the future, but, like John Connor's arc, it's played out so poorly and Marcus is played so blandly by Sam Worthington that it doesn't matter. Like Bale, he mainly talks in a monotone, melancholy voice and almost never changes his expression, and goes on constantly about the mistakes he's made in the past, whether people deserve a second chance or not, and what his will be. It gets tiresome very quickly and his coming to terms with what he now is hardly feels like a struggle at all. Except for a moment when he tells John that he doesn't know what he is and that he needs to find who did this to him, not much is said about it and Marcus doesn't seem all that tortured except when he melodramatically yells, "No!" twice in a row when he first discovers what he is (it didn't sound good when Darth Vader did it at the end of Revenge of the Sith and it doesn't sound good here either). And as for the scene when Marcus finds out that he was a vital part of SkyNet's plot to kill John? Whatever. All he does is come close to crying as the plan is explained to him and becomes more determined than ever to help John. Yeah, that was a real emotional struggle. Worthington does well in the action scenes but he just feels flat for the most part in the dramatic ones, save for a moment when he hears a song that his brother used to love, and like Bale, he has a number of corny lines, like, "If you're going to point a gun, you better be ready to pull the trigger," "Everybody deserves a second chance. This is mine," and his last monologue about the difference between humans and machines, that are made worse by the tone of voice he uses. And unlike Bale, there are a number of times when I can hear his real, Australian accent slip through.

One person who manages to come out of this movie fairly well is Anton Yelchin as the young Kyle Reese. Not only does he look a lot like a young Michael Biehn (in some shots, the resemblance is so close that it's kind of scary) but he's also one of the few characters in this movie who has more than one or two emotions and facial expressions. While he is intense and serious most of the time, there's also a bit of levity to him in his interactions with Star and Marcus, like when he says one of the few funny bits of dialogue in the movie when he tells Marcus that what he's eating is a two-day old coyote and then adds, "Better than three-day old coyote," and when they hear John Connor's radio broadcast and he enthusiastically says, "John Connor. We gotta find this guy." I also like how he's a rare calm and rational person in this insane world, trying to keep everyone calm when they're captured by the machines, saying that they only have one job: to stay alive, both in their heads and in their hearts. It's also a sign that he's someone who believes implicitly in the Resistance and what it stands for. He very much wants to be part of it, but he still has a lot to learn, being rather unfocused despite his determination, and as such, he feels that he has to earn the right to wear one of their uniforms instead of just taking one whenever he finds it. It's obvious that he admires John a lot, even though he doesn't meet him until near the end, and when John makes him an official member of the Resistance at the end, it feels like he would indeed die for him as he said he would back in the original film. The only downside to Reese here is that, for most of the film, his role is similar to John's in the preceeding films: he's a VIP who needs someone's help to rescue him. He does get to kick a little bit of ass before he gets captured as well as during the climax so we know that he's capable but it would have been nice if he got to do more. Still, I like Yelchin's performance enough to where I wouldn't have minded seeing more of him in future sequels. As for Star (Jadagrace Berry), this mute, nine-year old girl that's with Reese, I don't have much to say since she doesn't do anything that significant and the only thing memorable about her is that she's an embodiment of the war's effect on the human race in that her muteness is due to severe trauma from being born in this hellhole. She also has the ability to sense when a Terminator or other machine is nearby, which is never explained further and that's probably for the best because it could have easily taken the story into fantastical territory.

Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood; what a name), the Resistance fighter pilot who befriends Marcus, is another fair character in how she's one of the few who trusts him even after it's revealed that he's a cyborg and puts her life and position on the line in order to help him escape. I don't like that the two of them become something of an item because of how cliched that is, even if it ultimately doesn't go anywhere due to Marcus' sacrifice at the end, but I do like her being able to see Marcus as a man and not a machine and her having a case of survivor's guilt adds a little bit of depth to her (although it wouldn't have hurt to have a little more). Plus, it's nice to see another tough female character who can both take care of herself and also has a moral code, stopping Marcus from killing one member of this gang that jumps them when they're on their way back to Connor's base. That's a lot more than I can say for Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate, who leaves no impression whatsoever other than she's the base's physician (ignoring that she was a veterinarian in the previous film) and is apparently pregnant. She has to be the blandest person in the film, which is saying something, showing so little emotion even when John is confessing to her his need to find Reese before SkyNet does and the doubts he's now having about their enemy due to Marcus, and she also doesn't show all that much affection for him other than a few hugs and kisses here and there. Maybe if they had gotten a better actor, like bringing back Claire Danes, more could have been done with this really small role but, as it stands, she's a very weak link. I also don't have much to say about Barnes (Common), John's right-hand man, other than they just barely scratch the surface with his character by giving him a reason to hate all machines, including Marcus, due to the death of his brother (Terry Crews), doing nothing with it except having him torture Marcus a little bit when they have him chained up. There's nothing else I can say about him other than his undeniable loyalty to John, which goes for everyone else in his unit. Helena Bonham Carter is someone you would not expect to see in a Terminator movie but she's hear for all of five minutes as Dr. Kogan, a cancer-stricken Cyberdyne scientist who is the one who convinces Marcus to donate his body to the company for scientific research, leading to Marcus being turned into the cyborg. During the climax, SkyNet uses her face and voice to talk to him and reveal what its purpose for him was, which initially made me think that she may have been in on it from the beginning, as well as just that it's Helena Bonham Carter, but, as interesting as that could be, it's unlikely given how SkyNet also makes use of John and Reese's faces and says that it was believed that Kogan would be the easier person to use to communicate with him. Michael Ironside is one of those actors whom I always enjoy seeing and, even though his role is very limited, I like that he got to be in a big, Hollywood movie like this. His role of General Ashdown is one-note: the typical stern leader who wants to accomplish his goals and end the war no matter the cost, even if he has to kill innocent people, and has no time or patience for John's morality, saying that leadership has its costs, but Ironside is so entertaining to watch that he makes it work for what it is. And finally, I thought that they just got some random woman to voice Sarah Connor in the audio tapes that John listens to during the film but, according to IMDB and other sources, it is Linda Hamilton again, which I thought was a nice gesture on the filmmakers' part.

Terminator 3 did significantly bring the bar down from the first two movies with its instances of stupid humor but, if nothing else, at least that film had a personality which, as I've said many times by this point, Terminator: Salvation is sorely lacking. I understand perfectly that you're not going to find much levity in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is slowly but surely being snuffed out but still, it wouldn't hurt to have something so this movie wouldn't be as flat as it is. There's hardly any humor to be found here, which even the very dark and grim first film had, with Matt calling Sarah and, thinking that it's Ginger, describing how he's going to have a sexy night with her, Ginger's disgust as Sarah's pet iguana, and even the Terminator telling that motel janitor, "Fuck you, asshole," and when there is humor here, it's not funny. For instance, when Blair is helping Marcus escape, their intended escape vehicle gets blown up and when Marcus asks what's next, Blair says that her plan stopped there. My reaction is, "Was that supposed to be funny? If so, it wasn't." And even though I do like Reese saying that two-day old coyote is better than a three-day old one, that's still not saying much. In addition, just about everyone is so dour and overly serious, with little more than two modes to their facial expressions and voice (concerned and angry), making it hard to connect with anyone. It's so odd that when he became a man, John Connor lost all of the personality he had when he was younger, and the same goes for Kate as well. You could make the argument that everything they've been through has hardened them and that the situation they're in doesn't leave much room for them to be light-hearted and funny at times but, again, I have to point to how Kyle Reese has some charisma to him and he's grown up in the ruins after Judgment Day. If he can have some personality, why can't John and Kate. And the film's very look only adds to the soulless feel to it. I understand that the reason they desaturated the film was because it's supposed to take place in a world where everything has been destroyed and has suffered nuclear fallout and it does indeed work in conveying that feel that everything is covered with ash and that it's hot; it's just a shame that the majority of the people you're stuck with in this world have as much life to them as well. Plus, that technique had long overstayed its welcome by this point, making the movie, artistic reasons for it or not, get lost in the shuffle of other movies with a muted color pallete and dark shades of gray and black.

Speaking of which, let's talk for a bit about the setting. Having a Terminator movie that takes place during the war against the machines in the future was not only a good idea but an inevitable one. After three movies about a Terminator of some type being sent back to modern day to target a specific person and someone else being sent by the Resistance as a protector, doing yet another one would have felt extremely repetitive, and with Arnold Schwarzenegger not being able to be a part of it due to his political career, doing a movie in the post-Judgment Day years would have been the only logical way to get around that. Plus, it would allow the filmmakers to finally expand upon the nightmarish world that we've only seen glimpses of before. Unfortunately, what we got is a major letdown to people who had been looking forward to a film like this. First off, while we do get to see the burned out ruins of Los Angeles and the aftermath of Judgment Day, most of the film takes place out in the desert, which sucks because there's nothing to look at and it also doesn't have the same impact as the glimpses we got in the previous movies where we saw the machines reigning over what was left of the cities and the Resistance fighting desperate battles against them amongst the ruins. And the movie had a $200 million budget, so don't tell me that they couldn't afford to film the majority of it in those vast sets simulating destroyed cities that we do see at points here. What's even more disappointing, though, is that this vision of the future doesn't feel as dark and nightmarish as those glimpses of it we got before. Not only do we not spend much time in the ruins but we don't have the images of machines rolling over and crushing landscapes full of human skulls (we only get one shot of a T-600's foot crushing one), soldiers fighting and getting blown apart by the Terminators and the HKs, or people living in complete, hopeless squalor, pining for an end to this war that doesn't feel like it's ever going to come. What we do get of the latter, which is when Marcus, Reese, and Star come across these people taking refuge in a gas station and shots of other pockets of people when John gives his radio broadcasts, doesn't hold a candle to the horror that was shown in that vision of Reese coming back to his bunker after a patrol in the original movie. A big part of the reason why this world isn't as horrific as it could be is because of the PG-13 rating the movie is saddled with, when it should have been as hard of an R as you can get, like the fourth Rambo movie in 2008. That movie really shows that war is hell and this flick should have taken a cue from it, with soldiers getting turned into red goo when they go out and fight the machines, the Terminators stepping all over the remains of long-dead victims as well as maybe some more recently killed ones that are beginning to rot, and the refugees barely holding on. That scene where a big group of people are taken back to SkyNet in San Francisco and are herded into what is basically a concentration camp could have been absolutely horrific by itself, showing more people getting gunned down like nothing by those creepy-looking sentry Terminators when they try to escape, prisoners getting branded by lasers like the tatoo that Reese showed Sarah in the first movie, and going into detail what SkyNet has planned for them, which is cultivating their flesh for the T-800s (we only get a hint of it during a scene at the beginning). After seeing all of that, it would have been easier to understand why John and everyone else seem so soulless and detached. And if someone were to say that a movie this big with an R-rating wouldn't be feasible, look at how expensive T2 and T3 were and how well they did at the box-office with R-ratings. Bottom line, if you're going to do something like this, either go all the way or don't even bother.

It may not involve time travel but that doesn't stop this film's plot from being quite convoluted when you learn what SkyNet's plan to kill John entailed. Even though this is before it had sent any Terminators back through time, SkyNet somehow knows that Kyle Reese is John's future father and it makes capturing him one of its top priorities in order to get John into the base. I'm not going to go into how it could know that because I'm tired of scrambling my brain with this time paradox crap but, in any case, it does and it takes additional steps to ensure that John would find his way into the main base in San Francisco. Marcus learns that he was turned into a cyborg with the sole purpose of gaining John's trust and luring him into the base with the promise that he could lead him to Reese. So, what exactly were the steps of SkyNet's plan? Create Marcus, put him in stasis, wait for him to release himself from the facility he was contained in after Judgment Day, hope that he just happens to meet up with and befriend Reese, have him try to save Reese but fail, somehow come into contact with John and get him to trust him to where he'll take the bait and head to SkyNet in order to save his future father? There are so many ways that this plan could have gone wrong, not to mention the questions of exactly when SkyNet first came up with this plan, why it didn't just send Marcus out once he was completed, why it didn't wipe away all traces of the man Marcus once was and simply program this cyborg to infiltrate John's trust, and how it expected for John to trust Marcus if he discovered he was a cyborg, which is what would have needed to happen in order for Marcus to convince John that he could get into the place. And what's more, once John is in the base, why doesn't SkyNet just kill him right then and there, like have a Terminator waiting to gun him down, since it knows he's coming? Was it also just planning on him stumbling across that first T-800 and hoping that would kill him? Since they put him in the cell where Reese was supposed to be held, I guess so, but that's still leaving an awful lot up to chance (it doesn't help that he does a miserable job of trying to kill John). I originally thought that the plan was for John to get blown up along with the base when the Resistance attacked using that signal it let them discover, which would have been kind of clever, but I guess not. And incidentally, giving SkyNet a voice and allowing it to tell Marcus exactly what it was planning, in a rather smug, sarcastic tone, no less, robs it of the terror and simplicity of the idea that the real villain of this series is an unknowable, all-powerful supercomputer that has no actual physicality other than cyberspace and has decided to destroy mankind for no reason other than survival, not to mention that coming out and telling Marcus his part in the plan before it's been accomplished, knowing that he still has the mind and will of a human and might not go along with this, makes it look downright stupid.

A big mistake that a bad sequel can make is remind you that you could be watching its much better predecessors and Terminator: Salvation makes it time and time again. There are a number of nods to the previous three films, some of which are done well and subtly, like when Marcus teaches Reese the trick to keeping a shotgun attached to your arm that the latter would use in the original film, but most of them are so blatant and obvious that they tempt me to turn this boring movie off and put on one of those other, better movies instead. Besides the most obvious ones, like Reese telling Marcus, "Come with me if you want to live," when they first run into each other and John saying, "I'll be back," as well as him using a radio that's playing the Guns N' Roses song You Could Be Mine from T2 in order to lure and take control of a Mototerminator, there are others like Marcus asking Reese, "What day is it? What year?" after they first meet, which is what Reese says to that cop upon arriving in 1984 in the first movie, and John getting attacked by a Terminator whose bottom half has been blown off during the battle scene after the opening credits, a reference to the climax of the original movie. (McG claims the latter was meant to show that John has learned from his mother's past experiences, which makes me roll my eyes.) It also doesn't help that you have Sarah Connor's voice on the tape recorder speaking virtually the same dialogue she did at the end of the first movie, you see the actual photo that John gave to Reese, and that during the climactic battle between John and the T-800, there's a shot of the latter's feet as he walks up a flight of stairs, just as there was during the climax in the factory in the original movie. I could go on but then I'd be nitpicking because those are the ones that really stood out to me and made me think, "I already don't want to be watching this and you're not helping by making me want to go back and watch the other movies, especially the first one." Plus, references are fine, but when you throw in as many as this movie does, it gets egrigious and distracting.

Going back to the film's setting, one aspect of it that is taken advantage of is that we get to see different types of Terminators and other machines rather than just the same old endoskeletons and the HK tanks and planes. Most notably, we get to see the older T-600 Terminators that Reese described to Sarah in the original movie, which are much bulkier than the T-800s that would replace them and don't do a very good job at passing for human, with their overdone sizes, unconvincing rubber skin that SkyNet doesn't seem to even bother repairing, and the metallic creaking noises that they make. They're also not the most effective killing machines, given how they tend to throw people around more than use their weapons and even when they do use them, it seems like they miss an awful lot (the T-800s you see here make the same mistake more often than not). But, like I earlier, those T-600s that act as sentries at the prison camp that the humans are taken to look very frightening due to the dark way they're lit, their vaguely humanoid shape, and their glowing red eyes. The other new types of machines that you see in this movie may brought to life in impressive ways but they're what look like they belong more in one of Michael Bay's Transformers movies, especially that big Harvester contraption that deploys motorcycle-like robots called Mototerminators. (For that matter, the Harvester kind of reminds me of the SDF-1 ship from Robotech but I digress.) While it is interesting to see SkyNet developing efficient ways to harvest humans, I have to ask how that enormous, noisy thing is able to sneak up on Marcus, Reese, Star, and everyone at that gas station in that one sequence. And while it is cool to see an enormous machine like that causing a lot of destruction (practical destruction, as well) and it and the Mototerminators do provide a pretty good action scene, not to mention that the latter do look cool when you see them up close, I can't get past how they feel like they belong in a different movie. There are also these little things called Aerostats, which are like a cross between an HK and a medium-sized blimp, that send signals to the Harvesters whenever they come across humans, and the humans are placed on these large convoy ships called Transporters, which look a lot like cattle trucks, to be taken to SkyNet. And finally, you have Hydrobots, these little eel-like machines that look an awful lot like an enemy that appeared in the Super NES game based on the original movie (in case you're wondering, I've never played that game myself; I know this from the Angry Video Game Nerd's video on it). I have mixed feelings about these things; on the one hand, it's interesting to see that SkyNet developed machines that could attack people in water and do seem to be fairly deadly but the way that one that John and his crew capture in order to test the signal on it thrashes around and crazily tries to attack John when he gets close feels a little too animalistic and not enough like a cold, emotionless machine, as SkyNet and its creations are meant to be.

I'll give McG credit that he did decide to do a lot of the film's special effects in the camera, building big models and sets to blow up, using real vehicles in the action scenes for the most part, and relying mostly on animatronics and makeup, resorting to CGI only when it was necessary. I said in my review of Terminator 3 that that was the last Terminator movie that Stan Winston worked on but it turns out that I was wrong because he did start work on the film (according to IMDB, he has a cameo as one of the people taken to the prison camp) before he sadly passed away in June of 2008. John Rosengrant and Charlie Gibson took over from Winston and the work that they did would have made him proud because it is fantastic. The animatronic Terminators, such as that severed torso that John fights at the beginning of the film, the T-600s, and the Hydrobots, as well as the practical Mototerminators, all look very impressive, and the same goes for the makeup used to simulate the damage that Marcus has endured throughout the film. Speaking of which, I'm actually not sure how much of that was real makeup and how much was CGI, which says something of the quality of the latter here. While there are effects that you can tell are computer-generated, like the big Harvester, certain shots of the Mototerminators, and the flying HKs, there are others where I can't tell what was practical and what was digital. For instance, Marcus' robotic arm and the bits of his endoskeleton that you do see? Apparently, those were digital creations, which really surprised me because I figured those were makeup and animatronic effects. And while there are moments during John's climactic fight with the T-800 endoskeleton where you can tell that it's CG, there are others where I absolutely can't decide if I'm looking at something that's animatronic or is a purely digital creation (the use of motion capture in these scenes helps sell it). That's a major step-up from the CGI in Terminator 3, much of which looked like what you would see in a video game. Since I've mentioned the endoskeleton, this would be a good time to talk about the effect they use to make the T-800 look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger when he's first unleashed. When I saw that in the theater, my jaw dropped. I had read that they were going to do something like that, putting a digital mask of Arnold's head from the original movie onto a body double (said double is Roland Kickinger, who actually played Arnold in the made-for-TV biopic on him, See Arnold Run), so that the Terminator we all know and love would have something of a presence here, but I never expected it to look as good as it did. That, however, was when I first saw it in a darkened theater; looking at it now on a Blu-Ray playing on a High-Def TV... it's a mixed bag. There are some shots where it looks really good and almost life-like, but then there are others, like in a close-up of him glaring at John after being whacked in the face, that look very wonky and artificial. Interesting and innovative effect overall, but it hasn't aged well.

As I said in my introduction, the action scenes in this film are well done and continue to hold up the series' standards in this regard (I like that McG doesn't resort to that shaky cam crap that plagues so many action movies nowadays and he manages to pull off a lot of stuff in very long takes, which is impressive) but, at the same time, the rest of it is so bland that it's not enough to save it or even keep me interested in some cases. After the opening scene of Marcus Wright's execution and a crawl that tells us of Judgment Day, we're thrust into the year 2018 and get a POV of a missile closing in on a SkyNet Research Center. It's fired upon by some automatic turrets once it comes across a number of satellite dishes over a ridge but it manages to hit its target, causing an enormous blast and shockwave that knocks over and damages a T-600 Terminator, while Resistance fighter jets zoom through the sky and get fired upon by the same turrets, one of which is brought down and crashes into one of the dishes. A helicopter deploys a squad of Resistance soldiers nearby, with a line of explosions occurring behind them courtesy of another bomber as more helicopters and troops arrive. One helicopter lands right on top of the damaged T-600 and John Connor then makes his entrance by stepping down out of the craft and shooting the Terminator right in the head. He then joins his team in the battlefield and repels down into an underground bunker, on a mission to transfer vital data from some Cyberdyne computers. After making their way through the claustrophobic, water-filled tunnels, they head into a laboratory where they find hostages in cages, grisly signs of experimentation on them, and upon hacking into the computers, design specs for the new T-800s. Upon trying to contact those left topside and not getting an answer, the leader of the mission sends John up to see what's going on. When he gets there, he finds those soldiers dead and spots an enemy aircraft taking off. He runs to one of the helicopters and tells the pilot to chase after the craft, only for the man to fall out of his seat dead when he nudges him. John takes to the air himself and hears over the radio that the others have completed their mission and are heading back up when an explosion from underground. The helicopter gets caught up in the enormous dust cloud it sends up and John loses control of it, eventually crashing it upside down. John unbuckles himself and crawls outside, getting to his feet as he watches a huge mushroom cloud rise in direction of the bunker. Suddenly, a Terminator that's lost its legs grabs him by the shoulder and flings him down onto the ground. It quickly crawls after him but John manages to kick it in the head, dodge its attempts to punch him, hold it back with his foot, and shoot it repeatedly in the head with a handgun, causing it to fall back. John gets to his feet but the Terminator grabs him by his belt and flings him against the helicopter. He quickly gets into the cockpit as the Terminator scuttles after him and manages to yank his boot off before crawling in after him. John quickly takes control of the Gatling gun on the outside of the helicopter and unloads it into the Terminator, blowing it back outside and destroying it. John falls backward, exhausted, and then quickly answers an attempted communication through the radio before heading to the extraction point. As night falls and a thunderstorm forms above the site, Marcus Wright emerges from the remains of the facility and later takes the uniform of a downed Resistance soldier.

After wandering around the desert for a while, Marcus comes across the wasteland that used to be Los Angeles. He walks around, shocked at what he's seeing, when he spots what appears to be a man at the other end of the street. He calls out to the figure, which is actually a T-600, and it immediately spots him. Seeing that he's not another Terminator, it walks towards him and opens fire with its minigun. Marcus is about to be hit when Kyle Reese makes his first appearance by tackling him out of the way and quickly motioning for him to be quiet. They take cover behind a beat-up old car as the T-600 continues walking down the street and shooting its minigun, blasting everything in sight to bits. When it stops in a certain spot, Reese hits a lever that lowers a container full of parts on a pulley system that, in turn, lassos the robot's foot and hoists it upside down. Marcus and Reese then run for cover, with the Terminator spotting and firing at them, messing up the side of a demolished building that they duck into. The machine then shoots its own foot off in order to drop down to the ground and begins firing a grenade launcher into the side of the building, as Marcus and Reese head further in and up some stairs. They meet up with Star, whom Reese signs something to and they run on to where she cuts the rope on another pulley, dropping the skeleton of a car onto the T-600 and although this doesn't stop it, it continues firing around until it shoots its own head, putting itself out of commission. Following a brief scuffle between Reese and Marcus, with the former telling the latter what the Terminator was, that the year is 2018, and that Judgment Day is what happened to the city, he suddenly yells for them all to get down. An HK hovers through the ruins, knocking down what's left of a building as it passes and creating a rumble that shakes their building as well as creates plenty of smoke. Once it passes by, Reese tells Marcus what that was and says that, thanks to him, it knows they're in the city.

Following the scene where John and his men test the signal on a struggling Hydrobot, the next action scene happens the following morning when Marcus, Reese, and Star find a jeep and manage to get it working. After they have a debate about where they're going, an Aerostat appears and they quickly pile into the jeep and drive down the rough hill up ahead before making it to the main road. They peel down the road, with the Aerostat in hot pursuit and when it gets alongside them, Reese desperately kicks at it, trying to make it go away, when it suddenly flies up into the air. Marcus takes the opportunity to throw something at it and knock it out, causing it to slam against the road. They finally skid to a halt after a short ways and Marcus decides to take the wheel in order to stay alive. This proves to only be a prelude to a much bigger sequence. Upon running into some refugees in an abandoned gas station and receiving some food from the old woman there, Star suddenly freezes and the place begins rumbling as an enormous, robotic hand smashes through the roof and grabs the old woman. Another person gets grabbed as everyone runs outside and you get your first look at the enormous Harvester towering over the station. Spotting their jeep, it quickly blows it up, the blast throwing Marcus and the others against the wall. As they get to their feet, the refugees frantically escape in their own vehicles, with one guy getting slammed onto the windshield of a car that comes screeching out of the station, only for one of them to get blown up as well. As the burning wreckage of that vehicle crashes through the roof of the station, Marcus tries to get a tow truck started while the Harvester blows up another one of the escaping refugee vehicles. Reese tells Marcus that they can't just run for it, and after the latter sneaks out of the truck and sees the Harvester dumping its hostages into a Transporter, he lets loose one of the valves on a tank and then uses the truck to push the tank through a wooden shack and into one of the Harvester's legs, knocking it down. Backing up from the tank, Marcus tells Reese to shoot it, which he does with his shotgun but, after three tries, it doesn't blow up. Marcus hits the brakes and yells, "Shit!" in frustration, when Star hands him a flare. Grabbing it, he turns the truck towards the road, lights the flare, and throws it towards the long trail of gasoline the tank left behind. The fuel ignites and the fire heads towards the tank and the Harvester, with the latter turning its attention to the escaping vehicle. It's about to fire its laser cannon at them when the tank explodes, destroying the station and everything around it in a literal fiery blaze of glory.

Driving down the road, it seems like Marcus and the others are in the clear, when a laser blast hits the road in front of them. Looking back, they see the Harvester emerge from the flames unscathed and, stepping out onto the road, it lets loose two Mototerminators. Marcus hits the gas but the tow truck is obviously not fast enough to outrun the Mototerminators, which quickly catch up to them. Reese fires at one that gets alongside them while Marcus has to plow through a number of cars that have been left stranded on the road, hitting them so hard that they fly up into the air and slam along the road behind them, with one Mototerminator having to skid underneath one to avoid crashing. Coming to a blockade of cars, Reese tells Marcus to turn right as he gets on the back of the truck and shoves an oil drum down onto the road. He shoots it just as a Mototerminator gets right behind it and the blast causes the robot to lose control, skid along the road, and crash right through the windows of an abandoned bus up ahead, which Marcus avoided. He turns the truck around and heads back down the road and takes an alternate path down a dirt road, crashing through a metal gate and a parked car before getting back onto a blacktop. Reese wonders aloud what happened to the other Mototerminator when it comes screeching over an overpass and lands in front of them, hitting their windshield with some debris. Marcus uses an axe in the truck to smash the rest of the windshield when the Mototerminator turns its laser cannons backwards and shoots at them as it heads on down the road. Marcus tells Reese to get up into the cab when another Mototerminator appears from behind and shoots, causing Reese to lose his balance as he tries to climb up front. Marcus manages to grab him and pull him into the cab right before he would have been smashed against a school bus up ahead. Star loads a shell into a small grenade launcher they took at the gas station and then hands it to Reese, who manages to score a direct hit with it, with the Mototerminator then getting run over by the truck and flung into the side of a car behind them. The other Mototerminator is still in hot pursuit and shoots on of back-wheels, setting it ablaze. Marcus swerves back and forth along the road, slamming into cars, and then spying the truck's hook on the back, tells Reese to drop it. He does so and, after it bounces along the road for a bit, with the Mototerminator trying to avoid it, the robot finally gets snagged and is slammed back and forth between two cars and is then dragged along the road. Coming up a bridge above a very deep chasm, they watch as an HK flies over them, banks, and blasts the section in front of them. Marcus swerves to avoid the fireball and as he does so, the snagged Mototerminator hits a car and gets flung into the air, hitting one of the HK's motors. The craft begins spinning out of control and Marcus tries to drive away but the tow cable pulls them back and when they hit the edge of the bridge, Reese and Star are thrown out. They fall and are caught by the Harvester underneath the bridge and placed into the Transporter.

Seeing that, Marcus grabs the axe and jumps out of the truck as the HK blows it up, managing to land on the Transporter using the axe. He crawls up onto its side as the Transporter heads down the canyon, with the Harvester riding on its back and the HK following them. Yelling at Reese through the wall, Marcus tries to hack into it to free him and almost succeeds when the Harvester grabs him and slams him down onto the back of the Transporter. At this time, two of John Connor's bombers are heading back to base when they come across the chaos going on. Soaring through the canyon, they manage to take the HK out with missiles, it exploding against the canyon wall. Coming up on the Transporter, they fire at the Harvester with the Gatling guns and they cause it to drop Marcus, who slides down the Transporter's side and falls into the river at the bottom of the canyon. The Transporter deploys another HK that pursues the two Resistance fighters up ahead of the craft and the two of them attempt to fly out of the canyon and abort the run. One of the fighters is immediately destroyed while the other, flown by Blair Williams, tries to evade the HK but gets caught up in a rain of rubble when one of its laser blasts hits the canyon wall up ahead. Blair aims her fighter straight up into the sky and does a curve, with the HK right on her tail as she heads back into the canyon. With the machine closing in on her with a lock on, Blair has no choice but to eject, which she does right before her fighter gets blown away in a big fireball, with Marcus having to duck beneath the water to avoid a big piece of debris that gets flung at him in the river below. With the Transporter heading on to San Francisco, John decides that it's time to see if their signal does work.

There's a bit of a lull in the action for a while save for a few small scenes. After they meet up, Marcus and Blair begin the long walk back to John's base and find shelter for the night when a thunderstorm comes through. Blair is then ambushed by several guys whose intentions are clearly to beat her up and rob her... as well as perhaps do something else. One of them reveals that he's taken her handgun and pulls it on her when she threatens to beat him up, starting the fight. Blair whacks that guy in the face and knees the guy behind her in the groin when she gets knocked down from behind. One of the guys picks her up from behind and they prepare to do whatever to her when Marcus, who had been looking for something that they could build a fire with, runs up behind the guy holding her and cracks a board on his back, making him drop her. He easily overwhelms the man when he tries to fight him, shoving him to the ground, and when he turns around and one of the others punches him across the face, he socks him in the gut and follows that up by punching the third guy, giving the other a taste, and knocking the third one to the ground. When one of the other guys comes at Marcus, he grabs him and headbutts him. The guy he'd knocked to the ground grabs a shotgun but he runs up to him and quickly disarms him and knocks him back down, as well as makes short work of one of the other guys who tries to attack him from behind, punching him right in the face. Marcus then grabs a knife that one of the men dropped and prepares to kill the one who had the shotgun, when Blair gives the guy incentive to run away when she shoots him in the leg, angrily throwing him a bag of antibiotics afterward as she and Marcus walk away. Following that, we get a scene where John and Barnes attempt to test the signal on a larger machine by luring in an HK. They detonate an explosive by some abandoned cars in the valley and, sure enough, an HK comes in to investigate. When it hovers above the spot where the explosion occurred, Barnes switches on the signal. Nothing happens at first and John orders him to turn the signal up. When he does, the HK heads towards them when it finally takes hold and shuts the machine off, causing it to slam into the side of the cliff they're sitting on. Knowing now that the signal works, John blows up the HK with a bazooka and as the two of them run back to their truck, he radios General Ashdown and tells him that it is effective. He's then told that the attack on SkyNet will happen around the world the following day and that they have no intention in saving the people that have been taken prisoner to the San Francisco base, much to John's frustration. Speaking of which, following that we get a glimpse at what's going on there, as the people who've been taken prisoner are herded out of the Transporters and boxed into corral-like areas in pouring rain, with T-600 sentries on the walls, pointing their weapons at them. One guy who was freaking out on the Transporter earlier runs for the wall and tries to climb over it but is promptly gunned down, with the T-600 then turning its attention back to the other prisoners.

Following another brief scene at the SkyNet base where, as the prisoners are now being kept in a section in the base where enormous automatic turrets watch over them, Reese is identified and plucked out of the crowd, the next big action scene comes when Blair decides to defy orders and help Marcus escaped from John's base. Barnes, who is guarding Marcus as being suspended over a large pit by some chains, shoots him in the torso as revenge for the death of his brother at the beginning, when Blair comes in and tells him that John wants to see him. When he leaves, Blair lets loose the chain that's keeping Marcus suspended and he drops to the bottom of the pit. She slides down a chain to join him and uses a torch to cut him loose. Marcus thanks her just as Barnes walks into John's room and they realize that Blair tricked him. The alarm then goes off and Blair quickly blows open the mouth of a large air duct and the two of them crawl in, with Marcus having to use the cap to fend off the bullets from soldiers up above before he can do so. Barnes fires a bazooka down into the pit and Marcus uses his body to shield Blair from the fire that blows into the duct from the explosion. The two of them move on and reach the surface, only to discover that they've ended up back in the minefield that earlier revealed Marcus to be a cyborg. She throws a metal line out across the field and uses it to hit all of the mines alongside, causing them to explode and clear a path for them. They run through, with other mines exploding around them here and there, and they reach the jeep on the other side, only for a spotlight to shine on them. A guard in a sentry tower fires a bazooka at them and they quickly dodge the explosion that totals the jeep. They run for it, dodging bullets until they manage to take cover behind a concrete wall with a few large holes in it. Blair tells Marcus that she doesn't know what to do now since her plan was to use the jeep, and when Marcus peeks his head out from around the walls edge, it almost gets blown off by gunfire. Marcus says that he'll draw their fire so she can take out the light. He sticks his hand out and catches a bullet right through the center of it but it's enough for Blair to shoot the light out. A truck then drives up nearby and begins firing upon them, forcing them to run for it again, dodging a hail of bullets. Blair gets shot in the leg and Marcus has to pick her up and carry as they continue getting shot at, with another bazooka shell exploding nearby. They find temporary cover again and, after Marcus asks Blair if she's alright, she responds, "Let's just get you out of here," and the two of them head on, dodging bullets when a bazooka shell hits the ground right by them.

As the smoke clears, vehicles full of soldiers converge on the spot and find a person laying on the ground whom they believe to be Marcus but when they turn the body over it, they find it to be Blair, who managed to survive the blast. Marcus, meanwhile, waits behind a tree for a passing motorcycle and knocks the driver off to take it himself. With a bunch of soldiers in hot pursuit, he drives into the woods, zooming over a hill, but doesn't get much farther when he loses balance and crashes the motorcycle on the ground. With soldiers in the distance firing on them, and upon seeing that they've got Blair, Marcus runs for it. A helicopter comes in and John himself fires at Marcus with the Gatling gun as he runs through the woods, managing to dodge the bullets when one hits its mark and causes him to tumble to the ground. Seeing this, John and the pilot switch positions, as Marcus gets to his feet, trying to catch his breath. John then drops a lot of bombs along a line in the woods, the massive explosions obliterating everything. The chopper then comes in to check the nearby river, hovering above it as one of the soldiers drops a flare down into the water. John asks the man if he sees Marcus and he then peers down into the water, only for a Hydrobot to come shooting out and grab his face, causing him to fall in. The machine drags him down deeper while another springs up and crashes through the chopper's window at John. He struggles with it as yet another blasts right through the front, with the pilot promptly shooting it in the face. The helicopter swerves around in circles as John struggles with the one Hydrobot, while the pilot manages to kill the other with some well-placed shots. He then helps John throw it out and back into the water but the helicopter's hydraulics are out and it nosedives into the water, coming to rest on its side. John tries to help the pilot, whose side is the one underwater, but when he sees him get dragged down and blood rise up, he realizes that he's been attacked. John climbs up atop the helicopter and fires down at the Hydrobot with his assault rifle when it rises up out of the water in the cockpit, causing it to submerge. Hearing that it's still active, he jumps into the water as close to the shore as he can get, turns, and fires at it when it comes at him. He picks off two others that come at him from the right and another from the left but when he turns to face another, he realizes that his assault rifle is out of bullets and draws his handgun as it jumps at him. That's when Marcus erupts out of the water and grabs the Hydrobot, struggling with it as John gets to shore before finally slamming it onto the ground. John holds Marcus at gunpoint, ready to shoot him, when the cyborg convinces him that he can get him into SkyNet to save Reese. After a standoff, John agrees, gives Marcus a minicomputer to contact with him, and allows him to escape into the river, telling the others that he's gone when they catch up to him.

The climax begins when, after he's been relieved of command by General Ashdown and sends out a radio broadcast telling the other pockets of Resistance fighters not to attack SkyNet, John heads out to San Francisco. He heads out to a patch of a road and uses a boombox to play the Guns N' Roses Song, You Could Be Mine (that's probably meant to be the same radio he had in T2), attracting a Mototerminator. As it speeds towards his position, John rigs up a rope between two cars on either side of the road that sends the robot flipping down the road when it hits, slamming into the front of another car before it comes to rest. John is quickly upon it and is able to hook into its CPU so he can drive it like a normal motorcycle. Later on, Marcus manages to get past the perimeter of the SkyNet base and get inside, while John drives across the Golden Gate Bridge and waits for Marcus' signal. Marcus then enters the base's main hub, syncs up with the computer, disarms the turrets at the north gate, and, finding where Reese is being held, sends the information to John's own minicomputer. Marcus is suddenly bombarded with information leading up to SkyNet becoming self-aware and initiating the war and then seems to black out, while John is able to get inside through the area where the prisoners were corralled earlier, avoiding a patrolling T-600 as he does. While Ashdown learns that all of the Resistance units will not bomb SkyNet until John gives the order, John repels down into the section where everyone is being held and cuts the power, letting the prisoners out. Trying to find Reese, he tells them to run to the Transporter. At this time, Marcus awakens, the damage to him completely repaired, and SkyNet begins communicating with him and explaining to him that he was meant to lure John to the base. John continues trying to find Reese amongst the panicking prisoners, not realizing that his cell is still locked and unable to hear his cries for help over the noise, while SkyNet tells Marcus that the signal was allowed to fall into the Resistance's hands on purpose. Its real purpose is revealed when an HK follows it to General Ashdown's submarine headquarters and fires a laser blast directly at it, blowing it up completely. Back at SkyNet's base, the computer continues telling Marcus what he was made for, that he's done what no machine before could do: kill John Connor. At that same time, John's minicomputer homes in on the cell that Reese is supposedly being held in and when he looks inside, he does see a figure. Before he can figure out what it is, the door is blasted open from inside, sending John skidding across the floor. The figure then steps out, revealing itself to be a newly completed T-800 Terminator covered in human flesh. John fires at the machine with his assault rifle but the bullets merely bounce of its torso. It then walks up to him, grabs him, and flings him into a nearby databank. It walks up to him to attack again and John does manage to punch it in the side of the head but it simply turns back to look at him, glaring. It grabs him and flings him across the room, slamming him into the wall on the other side, while Marcus watches the entire thing in the main hub. John then yells for Reese, who now has a T-600 outside of his cell, which opens the door. Having had enough, Marcus rips the computer chip out of the back of his head and crushes it. SkyNet tells him that he can't save John, to which Marcus responds, "Watch me," before picking up a chair and throwing it through the computer screen.

Following a brief scene at John's base where his men receive a message from him that he needs air support and then depart, we cut back to SkyNet's headquarters, where the T-600 has Reese on a table and is about to "process" him, when both of them spot Star watching nearby. Despite Reese's warning to get out, Star is too shocked to run and the robot raises its minigun attachment to its right arm to kill her. John takes the opportunity to plunge a knife into the weak spot in the back of its head, causing it to start shooting wildly across the room, while John quickly runs to Star and the two of them get out of there. In another room, John is attempting to hide from the T-800 when he comes across Reese and Star. After he tells him who he is, John helps him and Star get out of the line of fire of the malfunctioning T-600 nearby. They run until John gets clipped across by the T-600 and turns around to destroy it, only for the T-800 to walk up behind it and easily tear it in half. John then fires his assault rifle's grenade launcher at the T-800, hitting it twice and burning off its flesh but not stopping it. He then turns and blows a hole through the back wall for the three of them to escape through. When they do, they land in an area that serves as an assembly line for Terminators, falling onto the spot where they keep the heads. They get up to see T-800s being built all-around them and also discover nuclear fuel cells for them on a table, with John realizing that they'd be enough to destroy the base. He and Reese then ready their weapons when they see a freight elevator descending nearby, only to be confused when nothing happens when it reaches the bottom. That's when the T-800 runs up behind them and knocks John off to the side. It knocks Reese to the floor as well but he manages to hit it with John's grenade launcher, sending it flying across the room. John then takes the opportunity to get Reese and Star into the elevator and almost heads to the transport with them but then decides to end it, sending them up by themselves. As they go up, John tells Reese who he is, right before he's attacked again by the T-800. He tries to hit it but it catches his arm and shoves him down across the floor, tossing away the weapon he had in his hand. John scrambles up a flight of stairs onto a walkway, with the Terminator in hot pursuit. He loads some rounds into his gun but the robot just shrugs them off and traps him against a wall. It runs at him and takes a swing, which John dodges, and he then knees it and smacks it with the butt of his gun. Shrugging that off, it flings him off the walkway and onto a pipe below, breaking it in half. The Terminator jumps down, picks John up by the throat, and slams him against the wall. However, that's when Marcus appears and joins the fight, tackling the Terminator through a wall. The two of them struggle, giving John time to get up and do what he has to do, while Marcus keeps the Terminator from attacking him.

As John preps the fuel cells to explode, the Terminator throws Marcus against a smelting pot, with his left hand getting caught in the molten steel and the flesh burning off. The Terminator then targets John again and heads towards him but Marcus is quickly on it, slamming it into another smelting pot from behind and then grabbing it and flinging it against some nearby pipes. He picks up a steel bar and whacks the Terminator a couple of times before it catches his arm. Marcus tries to pry his arm loose but the Terminator pushes him to the floor and then picks up a large cinder-block. It whacks him with it and slams him against a column. John continues setting the explosives as Marcus gets brutalized by the Terminator, it slamming him against the column with the block before deciding to target his human heart and punch him right in the chest. Marcus collapses and the Terminator scans him, believing him to be dead. It then begins searching for John. The Resistance arrives for the prisoners and Reese tells Barnes and Kate that John is still inside. Back inside, John, fearing Marcus to be dead, looks for the Terminator and is then about to walk downstairs to get his grenade launcher when he hears what sounds like Reese calling for him. He follows the sound, only to run into the Terminator, which was imitating Reese's voice. John fires at it with his handgun but it advances towards him, trapping him against the rail on the walkway and forcing him to jump off. He lands on his shoulder, causing him great pain, and attempts to crawl away as the Terminator jumps down. John grabs his grenade launcher and shoots open the smelting pot behind the Terminator, burying it in molten steel. John backs up across the ground as the Terminator rises from the steel and continues advancing towards him. Backing up, John spots a cooling pipe above the Terminator and shoots it with his handgun. The Terminator walks right into the vapor and is almost on John as it begins to freeze up. It slowly but surely reaches for his face and manages to leave some burn scars on him before finally freezing in place. John then crawls over to Marcus and attempts to revive him, eventually having to pull out two electrical wires nearby for a makeshift defibrillator. As he tries to jump-start Marcus' heart, the Terminator begins to break free of the frozen steel due to the heat of the place, and when Marcus is finally revived, it impales John through the back with the steel bar Marcus was fighting it with earlier. Marcus quickly gets up, pulls the bar out of John, and shoves it through the Terminator's neck, using it tear its head completely off. Finally destroyed, the Terminator's headless body falls to the floor, while its red eyes go out. Marcus helps John up and the two of them escape and get into the helicopter waiting for them outside. They take off into the sky and Star hands John the detonator to the bombs, which he dropped earlier in the mayhem. John activates it and the base is blown sky high as the chopper flies off into the distance. The film then ends with Reese being made an official member of the Resistance, Marcus giving John his heart, and John narrating that this battle has been won but the war is far from over due to SkyNet's global network.

Not surprisingly, the music score is as bland and unremarkable as the movie itself, but what's really sad about it is that, while Terminator 3 had Marco Beltrami, who's a so-so composer, here you have Danny Elfman, who's a great composer more often than not. He's had some duds here and there but usually, he can come up with a really memorable score; that's not the case here at all. Save for this kind of heroic theme that you first hear during the opening credits that is then mostly attached to Marcus throughout the actual film and a very loud, bombastic, distinctly metallic version of Brad Fiedel's original, "Dun dun, dun, dun dun!", the music in this film is so generic and forgettable. I can hear a tiny bit of Elfman's recognizable scoring style at a few points during some action scenes but nothing else sounds like something you'd expect to hear from him. There's nothing else I can say about the music and because of the post-apocalyptic setting, we don't even get any memorable songs on the soundtrack, save for that one Marcus hears on that jeep radio when he gets it working (I think it's Rooster by Alice in Chains) and that repeat of You Could Be Mine.

I'm sorry if this review wasn't very fun to read but Terminator: Salvation is not a fun film to talk about. Aside from some well-done special effects work, well-constructed action sequences, and some good characters here and there, namely Kyle Reese, the film is a shallow, soulless, uninteresting mess that defines the word bland. The majority of the characters, despite the filmmaker's attempts to make them otherwise, are one-dimensional, with barely any personalities and a lot of bad dialogue to say, the film's desaturated look, despite working for the post-apocalyptic setting, ultimately only adds to the blandness, the story is all over the place and becomes very convoluted by the end, the pacing is terrible, with the film really dragging its feet at points, the music is forgettable, and, above everything else, the filmmakers try to make the movie so serious with almost no humor that it comes out feeling as synthetic and lifeless as the Terminators themselves (which is ironic since the movie is meant to be about the triumph of the human heart, both literally and figuratively). I'm sure there are some people out there who do get something out of this and for them, I have nothing but respect, and I also would like to apologize to them if I got some details wrong, but for me, this is a generic, soulless movie that is the worst of the franchise in my opinion, was an ordeal to review, and is not one that I think I'll ever revisit again.

No comments:

Post a Comment