2018 and the last visages of mankind are scouring a desolate and barren landscape looking for survivors of a war that pits man against machine. John Connor, played by a tough and resilient Christian Bale, is amongst those searching for the survivors of the nuclear holocaust whilst trying to defeat Skynet, the creators of the machines and Terminators, ruthless robotic killers that threaten their survival. Director McG (of Charlie’s Angels fame) handles the robust action sequences effectively and with a real sense of realism and urgency. It’s refreshing to see several of these scenes with little or no music making a change from the bombastic film scores to grace recent blockbusters. Stedicam shots give the impression of being in the thick of the battlefront and the cinema surround sound system really rocks as the landscape explodes all around.
Although visually impressive the films itself does not have the sheen or shine of a blockbuster but more of a dirty and dystopian indie flick feel. The film has been graded with the Technicolour Oz process to give the future world the look of a battle scarred and desolate habitat by means of graining and bleaching the picture. More importantly though, McG allows the human characters to develop and at times give us a look at a future world where hope has almost nearly vanished from the minds of those trying to keep it alive. At times, it’s like reimagining the United States as the battle torn, third world country.
Bryce Dallas Howard barely makes an impact as Kate Connor and she almost has as many lines as Arnie in the original film. Anton Yelchin makes an impressive Kyle Reese (a younger Michael Biehn if you will) and shows some serious grit and steel in these teenage years that will allow him to transform into the hardened freedom fighter that he will become later in the saga. There are also admirable performances from Moon Bloodgood and Common as Connor’s right hand resistance fighters. It is Sam Worthington though who steals the show as mysterious survivor Marcus Wright and delivers a performance that confirms what we all knew too well whilst watching him in home-grown flicks, that he has a presence and acting confidence to match any current A-lister.
Special mention also goes to Industrial Light and Magic for their impressive visual effects although there are a few ropey background shots although the real kudos belong to Stan Winston Studios and their fantastic and flawless live Terminator creations. It’s a fitting tribute to the late Stan Winston who helped co-design the original character with James Cameron and died in preproduction on the film. Fans of the original trilogy will not be disappointed with some sly references to the previous films and the continuation of one of cinemas greatest and iconic legacies.
In the end however, there are some huge inconsistencies in the story. If there has been so much nuclear devastation, how come no one seems to be contaminated and have radiation sickness? Why does everyone where army fatigues? More frustrating are the gapping plot holes in the story. One of them being the role of John Connor, not as leader of the resistance but a lieutenant and there is serious confusion over the timeline in relation to the events that take place in the other films. It pulls the whole thing down and whilst there is serious style here, its lacking substance. No doubt there will be another sequel and in the words of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor there is “No fate but that we make.” And with a healthy box office, who knows what the future holds for this franchise.
You will love it if: you like popcorn cinema- explosions, plot holes and all!
You will hate it if: you hold the first two Terminator films sacred. Don’t fuck with James Cameron!
Terminator Salvation is in cinemas now.