When the synopsis of Terminator Slavation was announced, fans of the franchise that Skynet built rubbed their hands with glee. Rolling up the concept of technically being both a sequel AND a prequel to the series thus far thanks to the brain scorching physics of time travel movies, the film was set after the apocalyptic events of Judgement Day and would deal with the grown-up exploits of John Connor: human saviour.
The mere thought of the opening 7 minutes of Terminator 2 stretched to feature length is a tantalising concept what with gleaming legions of Terminators striding into battle, crushing skulls underfoot like a glass at a Jewish wedding while massive, tank-like HK’s shoot lasers everywhere. At the time I was stoked…
Reality proved to be a little different, however.
The year is… THE FUTURE and a gravely voiced John Connor (Christian Bale barely stopping short of doing his Batman voice) is finding that the future is a very different place than the one his mother warned him about. Things aren’t happening at the right speed or in the right order that was prophesied to him and instead of leading the humans to eventual victory, he’s being marginalised by his superior officers and being sent on brutally dangerous missions. One such mission turns up that the tyrannical computer program, Skynet, has begin experimenting on prisoners and trying to fuse humans and machinery in ways that go beyond covering a metal skeleton in ACME Schwarzenegger skin.
From the ruins of one of these death camps emerges Marcus (Sam Worthington, wrestling with his accent as least hard as he wrestles with killer robots), a man whose last memory was being executed on death row before the end of the world happened. Unaware as to what the hell has happened he stumbles across a young Kyle Reese (the late Anton Yelchin channeling Michael Biehn to impressive effect) and they decide to seek out the resistance as Skynet has put a kill order out on the future/past time traveller. And so a dusty, grungy Mad Mad style road movie ensues as everyone with a fleshy central nervous system attempts to get to where they’re going to with getting pulled by the various angry looking machinery wandering around but is anyone ready for the secret that the mysterious Marcus is hiding?
To give it it’s due, I’ve always considered Terminator Salvation the best of the trio of wonky sequels (not a huge compliment when you realise that’s like saying you’d rather eat snot over puke or poop) that followed the majestic T2 mainly because of it’s two or three main – and massive – action set pieces and the fact that by it’s setting alone, it’s the most original looking of the three.
Oh, it ain’t perfect, not by a damn long shot, in fact it’s not even that good. The plot is as rusty as the hulking, obsolete T-600’s grinding their way across a ruined landscape and the characterization is stilted to the point where actors like Bryce Dallas Howard and Common are wasted entirely; and what’s going on with Kyle Reese’s mute sidekick? What’s she for?
The action is suitably robust for a Terminator flick which a massive extended chance involving Aerial HK’s, robot motorbikes and a massive, gun-headed automaton that’s presumably gotten lost and wandered in from a Tranformers movie, taking the gold but an opening helicopter crash and a climatic T-800 punch up featuring a halfway successful CGI cameo are also good value for money. No word on why there’s no purple lasers though…
All in all, the fact that the thing that’s most memorable about the film is the gossip that Christian Bale yelled at a lighting guy on set for getting in his eyeline tells you everything you need to know. Director McG (of the Charlie’s Angel movies) doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do with all the cool toys he been given and is uncertain what to do with his actors too but at least no one puts on a pair of Elton John sunglasses and says “Talk to the hand!”.