^^Interesting and very valid points about Salvation you've got there, Jude. It is ultimately an amazing action romp. I could not believe some of the stuff they put on screen, I was very impressed by the varied and exciting action sequences. I actually did enjoy Arnold's digital cameo, and no, that's not a spoiler (it's been publicised all over the place). Anyway, as usual, the full review follows below.
Movie Review 30/5/09
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin
Directed by: McG
Released by: Columbia Pictures
It has been six years since the last onscreen Terminator outing, a mediocre-at-best effort that functioned almost purely as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last major film outing helmed by Jonathan Mostow. McG (actually Joseph McGinty Nichols) in the director’s chair does not seem to be much of an improvement, however the film is, surprisingly, far more salvation than damnation.
It is 2018, and the earth has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland run amok by fearsome machines known as Terminators, controlled in turn by the rogue defense system Skynet. The survivors of the nuclear fire form the resistance, led by the prophesized messiah figure John Connor (Bale). The Terminators are enslaving humans for research and it is up to the resistance to shut down Skynet. While some are skeptical of Connor’s leadership, he is assisted by his pregnant wife Kate (Bryce Dallas-Howard) and a loyal team of rag-tag soldiers, including the fetching and feisty Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) and right-hand-man Barnes (rapper Common).
Meanwhile, teenager Kyle Resse (Yelchin) is targeted by the Terminators. He appears to be just an ordinary kid surviving after Judgement Day, assisted by a young-but-seeming-fearless mute girl (Jadagrace Berry). Thing is, Reese will travel back in time to 1984 to protect and inadvertently impregnate Connor’s mother Sarah. Hence, Connor’s father is much younger than him, and Connor has to rescue Reese from the Terminators so he can be sent back in time and father him in the end – wrap your head around that!
Sam Worthington enters stage left as the enigmatic Marcus Wright, a convicted murderer who donated his body to cybernetic research in 2003. Wright reappears in 2018 with a muddled past, unsure of his identity and harbouring a mysterious secret, which is revealed in the trailers anyway-he is a Terminator-human hybrid but is unaware of it. Because of his physical duality, the resistance fighters, especially Connor, are suspicious of the stranger and where his loyalties lie. Only Blair sees the human side of Wright, putting her at odds with her comrades. The plot gears turn quickly and lead up to a confrontation with Skynet’s latest Terminator model, the T-800 Model 101.
First of all, there is plenty of Terminator lore to sift through, as it is an expansive universe made up of three earlier films, comic books, novels, video games and the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. However, this is what the fans have wanted to see, the resistance in full force and a veritable sea of Terminators as opposed to just one or two sent back in time. Surprisingly, the film is rather self-contained, with throwbacks to the previous films to tell the story quite effectively. In fact, the film is almost one big tribute to the franchise, with everything from the famous lines “Come with me if you want to live” and even “I’ll be back” to an almost scene-for-scene homage to the factory fight from the first film thrown in. The original Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger even makes a digital cameo, his younger visage plastered onto bodybuilder Roland Kickinger (who plays the T-800 Model 101). Some of this makes for good trivia-spotting, but it does seem to go overboard at times.
The trailers and most promotional material make very clear that this is meant to be one big honking action extravaganza, and indeed it is. There is literally an explosion of some sort going on every other minute. Thankfully, these sequences are varied but all tight and exciting in their execution. The Terminators in the film are part-computer-generated, but mostly the masterpieces of the late creature effects designer Stan Winston, making this one of his last films. Plenty of Terminator variants are shown in brutal action, from the speedy Moto-Terminators and the piranha-like hydrobots to the chain-gun-toting T-600 models and the gigantic, multiple-armed harvesters. The action is good loud fun, but there are instances where the din of the effects bells and whistles threatens to drown out the emotion and human drama.
It is a good thing, then, that the performances are more than able to stand up to the visual fireworks. Christian Bale, fresh from playing another pop culture icon in The Dark Knight, steps into the shoes previously occupied by actors such as Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl and Thomas Dekker. Having Bale, arguably one of the most dedicated and talented actors of his generation, headline a flick definitely lends it some pedigree. Bale’s talent apparently comes with a temper though, as evidenced by his infamous profanity-filled tirade recorded onset. Ignoring that, he seems well able to juggle the action and dramatic aspects of this picture. In the end however, Bale seems to only put in 70-80% of his all into this flick, and this is far from the best we’ve seen the Welsh actor do. Still, Christian Bale’s 70-80% is in my opinion probably better than most actors’ 100%.
As for Bale’s onscreen future-father Anton Yelchin, his performance is quite remarkable. Yelchin also appeared in the recent Star Trek film, and in both these summer blockbusters he has definitely proven to be a fast-rising star. Here, Kyle Reese is a savvy and spirited teenager struggling to survive an onslaught of killer machines, which I thought was more interesting to watch than Michael Beihn’s portrayal of an older Reese as a world-weary soldier from the future playing guardian angel for Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. Since then though, Biehn has faded into relative obscurity, but I do not foresee that fate for Yelchin.
Ultimately though, the film belongs to Sam Worthington. The Australian actor plays up the conflict and enigma of his character with much skill. Marcus Wright could have easily suffered severe malfunction in the hands of a lesser actor. The characters, particularly the Terminators themselves, have been mostly all-good or all-evil; here Worthington bravely steps into the grey and excels at doing so. Despite this being a summer popcorn blockbuster, Worthington’s performance is captivating and it shows that he has immersed himself in the role. Worthington does not let the large amount of prosthetic or computer-generated effects applied to his person hinder his performance, and goes deep into the psyche of the character, this displayed especially in his interactions with others. Of course, the definition of human is somewhat examined and the anti-hero that is Marcus Wright will definitely have you rooting for him. I will go as far as to say that Worthington’s performance may be this year’s equivalent of the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
In the ladies’ corner, Bryce Dallas-Howard is obviously a notch or two up from Claire Danes’ exhausted-looking portrayal of Kate Brewster in Terminator: Rise of the Machines. Her character functions as a source of moral support for John Connor, and is also a handy surgeon too. Moon Bloodgood is more fun to watch however, despite being visibly less skilled an actress as compared to Dallas-Howard. Bloodgood’s Blair Williams is a Resistance pilot and the stereotypical kick-ass tomboy ready to stand with the boys in the war against the machines, but her scenes with Marcus Wright provide what little gravitas the film possesses to the hyper-action proceedings.
Despite hearing many negative things about this film, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. However, I still think it was slightly unfortunate that this film was handed to McG, who, having directed the risible Charlie’s Angels film and its sequel is visibly a far way off in terms of directing skill and vision from James Cameron, who created the series. McG struggles to prove he’s up to the mammoth task of delivering a new entry into the venerable sci-fi franchise, but all things considered he did a rather decent job. The action is solid and very thrilling, everything and more one would expect from a smashup between humans and machines, but it is the stellar performances that save this movie from the scrap pile and make it very, very worth watching.
RATING: 4/5 STARS