Monday, August 24, 2015

Movie Review: Terminator: Salvation

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action, breaks formula of franchise
Cons: Characters could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Creative story
Stands out in franchise.  Fun but
With weak characters

Salvation for the Franchise Comes by Breaking the Mold

When I watched the third Terminator movie a couple of weeks ago, I felt like it was beginning to feel old, familiar, and predictable.  Still, that movie’s ending, I was curious to see how the story would advance in the next film, Terminator Salvation.  I was surprised to find they told a different kind of story in the familiar world of the franchise, and I liked the movie for that.

For the first time, the entire movie takes place in the post-apocalyptic future, aka 2018.  John Connor (Christian Bale) is leading the resistance, or at least part of the resistance, in Los Angeles.  While on a mission, he uncovers a device that might lead to the complete destruction of SkyNet.  And the timing couldn’t be better since a new hit list has just come out with John as number two.  Number one?  A teenager named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin).

Tests of this new weapon are proving to be successful, but there’s a complication.  Destroying SkyNet might also mean the destruction of Kyle.  John now needs to find a way to save his father, and he might have to rely on the most unlikely of sources for that help.

While we have seen glimpses of the future in the past movies, this is the first time we’ve spent much time there.  That alone was a nice change of pace since we can now see the future we’ve been hearing about and dreading.  Normally, I’m not a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, so the fact that I was ready to explore this world says something about the franchise.

Another change that I liked was the fact that we didn’t spend the entire movie running from terminators.  Yes, that aspect of the franchise was still there, but it wasn’t the focus of the movie.  Instead, the focus was taking the battle to SkyNet while still preserving the past.  Plus we get a bit about the power struggle happening inside the resistance.

The thing we do still get are wonderful action scenes.  They had me glued to the screen since so much was happening so quickly I couldn’t keep track of it any other way.  Was what we saw possible?  Probably not.  But it was so well done I really didn’t care.  The special effects were wonderful as always for the franchise, too.

The one flaw I can see in the movie is the lack of character development.  I know, that’s not usually a strong point in an action movie, but it is a flaw again here.  The only character I truly felt connected to was John Connor, and that was because this is the fourth movie telling his story.  Even then, he could have been a stronger character.

Not that I’m blaming the actors.  They do a great job with the material they have.  It’s the script that could have been stronger.

Speaking of actors, there is a noticeable absence in this film.  When the movie was made, Arnold Schwarzenegger was busy being the “governator” here in California, so the brief appearances of his face in the film are all CGI.

Weak characters aside, I still loved Terminator Salvation because it told a new story in the world we already know.  Like the rest of the franchise, it’s a fun ride, so pop it in, sit back, and enjoy.

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