I had heard the reviews for Terminator Salvation and they were middling at best. This means that expectations are low when you go to see it and combined with the Cineworld Unlimited card, you don’t need to worry that you’re spending actual real money on it if it turns out to be crap!
Low expectations are an advantage for this film because while it might not be crap but there’s no danger of it winning any Oscars either. Considering that McG is behind it, it’s a minor miracle that it’s watchable at all.
It’s a loud brash film. The characters and dialogue are merely there to bring on the next sequence of action. Christian Bale is normally a quality assurance mark but here he is strangely by-the-numbers. We expect glowering intensity but it’s an oddly one-note performance from Bale. Sam Worthington is much more effective as the mysterious Marcus Wright. He reminds me of a young Russell Crowe with his mix of brutishness and vulnerability and that’s before you get to his Aussie accent. He really struggled with the American accent but with dialogue as unmemorable as this, who cares. Moon Bloodgood and Bryce Dallas Howard make the most of their limited screen time. Anton Yelchin is quite effective as the teenage Kyle Reese but his role in this film is to be the damsel in distress. Helena Bonham Carter has a cameo that she makes the most of but it’s the kind of role she could play in her sleep.
One major issue I have with the film is that the promoters made no attempt to conceal spoilers before the film was released. This meant that a number of key plot points were well known before anybody sat down in a cinema and this spoiled the experience somewhat.
The action is what the film is all about and unlike the previous films, there are a multitude of “bad guys”, which diminishes their impact somewhat but fans of the Terminator “universe” will be delighted to see Skynet’s creations unleashed upon unfortunate humans. There’s a lot in there but the scene with the huge “reaper” is a standout. The finale on the other hand is both derivative and rushed. Yes, we get that it’s a homage of the second film but with all the ideas flying around earlier, couldn’t they have come up with something better? It’s also rushed. There’s a difference between a frantic pace and an ending that looks like the producer said “you’ve half an hour to wrap everything up McG. Oh and put a nice talkie scene at the end to wrap everything up please!”.
The big reveal at the end is also very clumsily handled, which brings me to my second main dislike of the film: references to earlier movies. The “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live” lines are movie treasures and the manner they’ve been used here reduces them to cheap gags.
All in all, Terminator Salvation could have been a heck of a lot worse. It’s better than the previous film but could have done with that gut punch of an ending. However, it’s not a patch on the first two films. Do go watch it, do go in with low expectations and don’t bother buying the DVD.