TERMINATOR SALVATION tries but can’t recapture the magic

I went in to see “Terminator Salvation,” a technical part four and part zero…

Part four in that it does follow “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and a part zero in that it more or less, sets up the stage for why the advanced A.I. called Skynet sends Terminator machines to alter the current time line.

Yeah it can get confusing, however I wasn’t thinking of that so much as that when I left the theater not feeling overwhelming blown away, but content, however worried about things to come.

The story takes place in 2018, the nuclear Armageddon started in T3 has passed and the nightmare of war with the machines is in full effect.

John Connor is just a foot soldier making radio broadcasts and more or less gaining loyalties of a currently splintered resistance across the world(?)

Then there is death row inmate Marcus Wright whom awakens to a (not-so-much thanks to advertising) surprise that he is in the future and that he is a Terminator….how is the interesting question asked in the entire movie. How indeed.

OK, good stuff first and there is quite a bit. The characters aren’t the most deep but they work for the type of story we have. Christian Bale must be the most paid up action hero since Schwarzenegger because he seems like he’s really into his work or hating every minute but counting the checks. Who knows but his trademark scoul works in this character. Sam Worthington does a good job of carrying the heart of the film and the bulk of its screentime and the major character arc too (whew, tough work!). The rest of the cast….. I’ll be back.

The action is well bigger since we’re afforded an extended look at the future war between man and machine. There are big, bulky T-600s with chain-guns, water Terminators, Hunter-killers that fly, people-gathering harvesters that also launch motorcycle Terminators and a bunch of cool explosions!

The best parts of anything “Terminator” related. Also the Governator makes a very surprising “cameo” that will not only send chills up the spine, but also have you rooting at the same time in his explosive appearance. That was easily the best part of the movie.

Now to the other side of the coin. The movie is well, nothing terribly special. It’s not bad, but not great. It’s not “The Terminator” and sure as hell NOT “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” however it is a step over T3, which wasn’t much to begin with anyway. In expanding the future beyond bits and pieces, there is that feeling of redundancy. It’s all the same in its effort to be different. There is no time travel, however you sort of wonder how much of the actions of the previous films really impacted this fourth film. I spoke about the “How” of the film, so I’ll ask a few questions….

How does every one not a major star get stuck with the cheesiest lines since the Star Wars prequels?

How does the one character with NO lines have the most integral role in the movie? This little girl, whom is mute, has the best role of the film by far. Some of the dialogue is like cheddar, Swiss, colby and pepperjack servings.
A few moments come and it had me laughing…. especially at a bit from Common. Shame. He’s a good actor too. The rest of the cast falls victim to the cheese factor as well. Some parts of just like “are you serious???” It feels forced and not natural.

How does life in this war actually function… it’s not terribly explained well….The characters just exist while hiding out from these machines. We don’t get offered a deep look at how the human race is failing, especially not through the eyes of our main characters. It leaves us wanting A LOT. I understand the focus is on the war and but still, I wanted a reason to care about who was being shot at and with its strong efforts, it just falls short.

How will this franchise see a fifth film?

How indeed. I love Terminator but damn it if it ain’t dragging its feet through mud. If it makes the money, it’ll continue, but the story quality has fallen off unfortunately, since Mr. Cameron decided not to come back for not seeing a need to continue the story.  I’m starting to think he might be right.

The film basically has the audience asking questions rather than the other way around, and not in a good way either. It feels flat though I know its heart was in the right place and the intentions were good. Maybe a better explanation of timelines can help sort this whole thing out, or maybe not. I don’t know and that’s a discussion to be shelved for another day.

Did “T4” salvage a franchise? Just barely, BUT NOT ENOUGH.  Terminator is still not where it should be unfortunately.  I thought the TV series was a lot better in opening up the floodgates of Terminator imagination but it got cancelled for low ratings.

Final answer: 
F A I L
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