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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

Well, the summer movie season has officially been saved. I recently saw the new Terminator Salvation film and am reasonably assured that there will be at least one good thing about this summer's movies.

Terminator Salvation takes place many years after Judgment Day (the events we saw in Terminator 3). John Connor (Christian Bale) has become a member of the human resistance, though he doesn't run it, and things haven't been going so well. The machines control most of the world, patrolling the highways and cities. What's worse, the machines have started taking human prisoners and nobody knows why. When the resistance uncovers a signal that could effectively shut off the machines for good, Connor volunteers to help test it out before a massive worldwide offensive is launched. But there's a problem: a strange man appears, claiming that Kyle Reese, Connor's father and one of the major keys to the survival of the resistance, has been captured by the machines. Even more problematic is the fact that this strange man is actually a machine...
Terminator Salvation lives up to the hype. Not only is it a decent Terminator movie in general, but it certainly succeeds in portraying the post-judgment T-universe, giving us an astonishing sense of the desperation and terror that the machines have instilled into the human remnants of the Earth.

The thing that has always stood out for me about this series is that despite it being full of explosions and other visually stimulating things (such as robots, car chases, and general action) it is a surprisingly thoughtful series. Setting aside all the confusing time travel stuff, which you simply have to accept at face value to even enjoy this series, the T-universe asks us constantly to question our own humanity and to imagine what it would mean for a machine to become human--that last part is no more apparent than in Salvation. I am always pleased when a science fiction movie tries to do more than just be about explosions and action, and Salvation certainly raises some interesting questions about humanity.

Salvation, of course, is full of action, and it is visually stimulating, with excellent CG throughout. The cast is actually well-chosen, in my opinion, with only a minor concern with how Yelchin is going to fit into the shoes of Kyle Reese as the character grows older--will they replace him? The action, of course, is intense, as is expected of this franchise. Additionally, if you're looking for a pretty consistent and interesting story set in an SF universe, then this is certainly for you. There are some minor issues with the story in that some characters don't quite get enough screen time to fully legitimize their actions, but beyond that, Salvation is solid.

You have to give the creators credit for being conscious of the source material, because everything about this piece to the Terminator puzzle reminds us not only of the original Terminator movie, but part two and three as well, using the enormous quantity of previous story and visuals to create a fully realized post-judgment world. While certain parts of the movie are cheesy callbacks (such as Connor saying "I'll be back"), you can't blame the writers/creators for trying to keep some of the intensity and charm of the original series flowing through Salvation. Even though Salvation is significantly darker than the original movies, it still maintains hope, always reminding us that we should never give up, even in the face of an immensely superior enemy. I suspect that the Terminator movies want us to acknowledge that human is better than machine, but if Battlestar Galactica has taught us anything, it's that there is more to such things than we're usually aware of, and Salvation touches upon this in a big way.

Salvation isn't without flaws, though. The editing on this is fairly poor. This isn't to say that the movie suffers drastically from the quality of the editing, just that there are moments where you wondered why the editor decided to use a particular effect between scenes; anything that detracts from the viewer's connection with the film should be removed, which was the case with some of the scene transitions. Additionally, I wanted a bit more from this installment. While I suspect that the next movie will give us a clearer picture of the implications of humanoid terminators (particular those that think they are human), it would have been better placed here. But this is nitpicking more than anything else.

Overall, I found Terminator Salvation to be not only enjoyable, but a worthy addition to a classic science fiction series. I loved how we got to see more of the machine world, particularly the various mechanized monstrosities they have created to destroy mankind. With plenty of action and top notch visuals, this movie really is one of the best to be released thus far for the year. Go see it in theatres while you still can!

Direction: 2.5/5
Cast: 3.75/5
Writing: 3.75/5
Visuals: 5/5
Adaptation: N/A
Overall: 3.75/5
Value: $8.50

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  1. some people I know are raving about Terminator Salvation, and while it's true that Christian Bale is good, i still don't think it was as good as the original style and feel of Arnold in T2

  2. Of course not, but this isn't the same kind of movie at T2. Very different conditions and plot.