McG’s big-budget continuation of the Terminator franchise has finally hit theaters, and well… it sure has. This time, the audience is given a look at things post-Judgment Day, with John Connor and the human resistance desperately trying to end the war between man and machine. In the middle of it all is former death row inmate Marcus Wright, who’s role in the war may be bigger than he had believed. Caught in the middle is Kyle Reese, John Connor’s father and top dog on Skynet’s kill list. Boocoo spoilers follow.
After the dust settles and all the robots are dead, all I can say is that the movie felt incredibly anticlimactic. For a film that bills itself as a deep look into what it means to be human, there really isn’t a lot of depth here. As a whole, the movie is very disjointed. It was as if plot point after plot point was rushed through just to get to the movie’s final showdown between Connor and the machines. I mean, at one point, the entire resistance leadership dies! Isn’t that kind of a big thing? Nope, Connor’s in charge! Let’s blow sh*t up!
This illustrates my next point. It never feels like the characters are in any sort of real danger. Connor is the prophesied leader of the resistance, and at one point one of the leadership asks him if he thinks they’re just going to hand over control to him because he has a small group of followers. Of course, that’s not what Connor thinks, but a little while later they’re all dead, and Connor’s there to pick up the peices. The prophecy has been fulfilled. So, does anything they do really matter? Can the future be changed, or is everything they do predestined? A big Matrix vibe hangs over Connor’s entire role.
Salvation sure is an action movie, complete with lots of CGI and loud explosions. All of this surprised me a little bit because, in the interviews I’ve seen, McG has talked a lot about how they were trying to stay away from some of the more typical action movie conventions and make this film more character driven. I guess I can say that it’s more character driven than most action movies you’ll see these days, but after the interviews I was expecting a lot more.
It’s completely possible that it was late and I was tired, or that I’m an idiot and simple things fly past me, but it took me a little while to sort out the movie’s plot. Things that are made specific mention of in the trailers, like the machines building Terminators that look like humans, didn’t seem like they were that big a deal in the actual movie. They were there, but the focus of the movie was more on John Connor’s search for Kyle Reese, and trying to get into the heart of Skynet. And as far as plot goes, or more specifically the holes in it, don’t even get me started on this one. T-600s and other cool looking robots roam bombed out cities, wiping out the last human survivors with their super advanced… 1970s machine guns? Why not use heat sensors to find the last survivors? Why is Skynet central guarded by two Terminator and a Macbook Pro? Maybe it’s a mistake to apply logic to movies like these, but maybe that’s what sets us apart from the machines.
As for the actors, Christian Bale is Christian Bale, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s anything the man can’t do. He does well in the movie, although I suspect that if they had cast him as Batman and had him destroy Skynet, the movie would have been better. But I digress… Anton Yelchin’s Kyle Reese is definitely a major player. But by the time the film is over, I didn’t feel like we had spent enough time with him to really care whether he survived or not. Yes yes yes, I get that he’s John Connor’s father, and that if he dies then John’s never born, and that leads to all sorts of problems… but still. Why does he get a spot at the cool kid’s table when all he did was get caught by that big damn robot thing with a gun for a head? Everyone else’s performance was solid, or as solid as they could be here. Sam Worthington plays Marcus Wright without coming off as an action movie cliche. Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t say much, but she’s hot. And Common has a beard.
The scifi geeks will like the fact that the movie fleshes out a lot of the Terminator mythos. We’re shown what came before the Arnold Schwarzenegger models from the previous films, as well as some other baddies who could seriously put that wussy Optimus Prime to shame. There’s also a pretty good scene toward the end with a Schwarzenegger model, done with some impressive CGI that people will really like. The entire movie has some great visuals, and props to McG for his eye toward that sort of thing. The movie looks great, it’s just everything else I had a problem with.
From what I’ve read, McG has a second and third movie arced out, so I’m interested to see where he goes with it. The hints he’s dropped make it sound like they’ll be very different from Salvation, and right now I think that’s probably a good thing. Salvation works as an action movie, but really fails to live up to its potential. I give it a B- just because I have a man crush on Christian Bale, and robots blowing stuff up gives me a thrill. I doubt I’ll talk anyone out of seeing this movie, and that’s okay. You should go see it, but it would be better to go in not expecting to be blown away.