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July 13, 2009 | by  | in Film |
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Terminator Salvation

film

Before we get into this, I must lay my credentials out on the table. Yes, I like The Terminator, but I haven’t seen it in ages, and need to rewatch it. Yes, I like Terminator 2, and I think it’s one of the finest action films ever made, and James Cameron’s second best film (Aliens takes a lot to beat). Yes, I find Terminator 3 to be a waste of Nick Stahl, a waste of some decent action sequences and a waste of time spent trying to rationalise the inherently unstable Terminator universe.

Now, on to the fourth instalment in the ongoing saga of a Messiah avatar and the robots that try to kill him.

McG’s revival of the series is rather enjoyable, and there’s a fair bit here to recommend, which is more than can be said for its predecessor. Essentially a war film set in a desolate American dystopia, Salvation gives McG a lot of licence to do stuff that a simple rehash of the ‘robot chases man’ formula of the previous films wouldn’t allow—and thankfully, he capitalises on this opportunity. He’s not a magnificent director by any means, but his work here is aesthetically decent and generally well-realised, and it helps that the action scenes aren’t filmed in that infuriatingly popular epileptic-monkey-cam ‘pioneered’ by Paul Greengrass in the Bourne movies. Scenes such as the one in which John Connor (Christian Bale) and Common (the rapper/actor, not the character) take down a Hunter Killer are well-shot, and are clearly the work of someone at least comfortable with the budget they’ve been given, if not entirely comfortable with themselves as a director.

However, the film has several key flaws. The main one comes down to what happens in between the very exciting action scenes. Scriptwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris clearly have no idea how to write natural, original dialogue, and as such, the ‘talky’ scenes are bogged down with clichés about destiny and leadership and sacrifice, and whole sequences are built on war film phrases—“tango” this and “clear” that and “zulu” whatever. Furthermore, most of the characters, bar Connor and Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), are barely developed, and the relationship between Connor and his pregnant wife is pretty much nonexistent. The supporting actors do good work in trying to set this injustice right—Anton Yelchin, Common, Worthington, Moon Bloodgood and Michael Ironside are all good quality—but even then they’re let down by a Christian Bale who seems insistent that John Connor be as robotic as his nemeses.

Terminator Salvation
is by no means a bad film. It’s just hard to get excited over something that’s just, well, fairly ordinary, many excellent action sequences aside.

Terminator Salvation
Directed by McG
Written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris
With Christian Bale, Sam Worthington and Bryce Dallas Howard

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