Terminator Salvation is the first film of the series to stray almost completely in plot similarities from T1, T2 and even T3. As refreshing as this may seem, T4 fails to develop substantial depth to be consider canonical to The Terminator lore.
I want to start of by saying that I had tried to watch Terminator Salvation on two other separate occasions. The first time I was fortunate enough to see it on the big screen, and even with that huge screen and amped sound, I fell asleep. The second time was a few years later, and guess what happened? I fell asleep again. I knew that fans and even Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with James Cameron and Linda Hamilton have publicly mentioned their dislike for this film, but I really wasn’t in a position to comment on this, until I had actually watched the entire film, without falling asleep. So I managed to watch it, finally…
Christian Bale is John Conner, and as much as I applaud Bale’s acting abilities, his portrayal of the beloved John Conner, alienates me from him, and makes Conner seem more like a mechanical hybrid, than human. This is perhaps my major criticism of this film. You can tell that Bale is really trying to perform the best he can, but it’s clear that not enough attention was given to developing his character, I mean, his character is pivotal to the entire premise of a future battle between humans and machines. Director, McG has stated that he wanted to portray a similar story to Ben-Hur, where John Conner is a Christ-like figure and Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) portrays a Judah Ben-Hur-esque role. This makes more sense to me now, but still, I would have loved to see more of John Conner. Conner, it seems will continue to remain mythical.
Sam Worthington is really the star of this film, and it’s his character that gets developed further, even though we don’t end up feeling for him, or even relating to him. Admittedly it was a bold move by the film makers to introduce an entirely new character, and as you start watching this film, it doesn’t feel like a Terminator film, it has it’s on hybrid DNA, which we welcome, but we also desire for familiarity, which comes sparingly in T4. Anton Yelchin who plays Kyle Reese’s character is the one I enjoyed most, and wanted to see more of. Kyle Reese is given the best lines in this film, among them are the iconic, “come with me if you want to live.” Anton Yelchin’s energy comes through the screen and really enhances our understanding of Kyle Reese, paying proper homage to Michael Biehn’s original portrayal in the original Terminator.
Stan Winston was a legend when it came to visual effects, and it’s to him that this film is dedicated to in the end credits. He did the majority of the work in this film, before his sad passing. A huge effort was made to make the environment as believable as possible. T-600’s and T-700’s were constructed and designed based on Kyle Reese’s original desperation of them, and they really stand out in this film, they look fantastic! In fact this film should have received more praise for it’s visual effects, in my opinion. There are numerous practical effects combined with CGI, that result in an aesthetically pleasing image. McG said that he drew inspiration from Mad Max 2, for the post-apocalptic landscape. I personally love the look of this film, some CGI scenes fall flat, but a lot of the set design and production is impeccable.
Part of me wishes that this film existed outside the constraints of The Terminator storyline. I think that there was a lot of potential for this film to be a great post-apocalyctip exploration of what it would be like to live under the dominion of machines, but it crumbles under it’s own pressure to live up to The Terminator legacy.
Terminator Salvation’s story is bland, but delivers an amazingly gritty and dark visual representation of the future. Watching the decline of The Terminator series in T3 and T4 does not fill me with confidence that Terminator Genisys will deliver. “There is no fate but what we make for ourselves,” are the famous closing lines to Terminator Salvation, and it’s these words that resonates through all of The Terminator films. It’s this principle that can inspire us to make a future where peace exists, not a war against machines, or even ourselves.
TRIVIA COOKIES: There is a CGI cameo, if that is such a thing, of Arnold Schwarzenegger towards the commencement of the third act in this film. Only his face is CGI’ed in, as another Austrian bodybuilder acts out the scene.
The first time we see John Conner as an adult in the future is in T2. He has a huge scar across the left side of his face. I was always curious about how this scar came about. Terminator Salvation makes an attempt at explaining how this may have happened. Terminator Genisys also represents John Conner with this scar, it will be interesting what explanation it provides for this.