Summary: The year is 2018. It’s been 14 years since, Judgment Day occurred at the end of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. John Connor is a leader in the Resistance against the machines, fulfilling his destiny, looking for his future dad. But then he meets a guy named Marcus, who was put to death in 2003, but not before signing his body away to be experimented on by Cyberdyne Systems. What could this mystery man be? What does this mean for John Connor?
Thoughts: I love the Terminator movies. From the first low-budget sci-fi film, to the blockbuster T2, and I even appreciate elements of the cheesy Rise of the Machines (how many movies have the guts to end with the end of life as you know it? They LOSE for goodness sake!). I even had a comparison of the timelines of the different futures created by the events in each movie and the TV series, Sarah Connor Chronicles (may it rest in peace).
However, Terminator Salvation is none of these things. It’s the first movie to take place solely in the post-Judgment Day future, which actually makes it a prequel. It tries to be serious the whole time, which shouldn’t be hard when something like 90% of mankind is dead and actively being hunted by nearly-unstoppable machines designed specifically to kill them. But you know what kills this movie?
Editing. I’m not sure if it was to keep it PG-13 (I know one bad edit was), but this movie is sloppily edited, with no sense of scenes, pacing, or coherence. Just as you get into a scene it hard cuts to the next one, taking place with different characters on a different day. The aforementioned “let’s keep this PG-13” edit sticks out (a girl is about to change her shirt in the rain with Marcus nearby, she’s in motion and the scene hard cuts to her picking something up, dry as a bone with no one around) along with a random one that irked me (it’s rainy, humans are being herded into a building like cattle, the camera cuts to a T-600 turning his head for less than a second, then hard cuts to a completely different indoor scene).
Editing is not the only problem. The action sequences are well done, but most of them could be cut out and no one would be the wiser. They have absolutely no point, and no real since of danger since in all reality its a prequel (of course Kyle Reece can’t die! Even the Terminator series wouldn’t end a movie with all reality being erased due to a temporal paradox). The Terminators also seem to have a problem killing people. I mean, hand-to-hand, a certain Terminator versus John Connor. Instead of ripping off his arms, crushing his head like a watermelon, or just breaking his neck, John is constantly being thrown around. Ouch, that hurts, but its far from deadly (at least in an action movie).
The plot is minimal, but it tries to have a message tacked on to it (What makes us human? Our heart! Literally!). The plot involving Marcus doesn’t make sense (hard to talk about it without spoilers). Let’s just say that Skynet makes some obvious mistakes. And the ending… I’m glad they changed it from the original one, but it was still pretty stupid. Sets us up for a sequel of course, but the next one is supposed to take place before this one!
The acting is pretty bad. I think Anton Yelchin (New Chekov) is great as Kyle Reece, but everyone else, from the Claire Danes replacement, to Marcus, to Christian Bale are pretty terrible. Bale seems to have two settings in this movie: bat-growl or shout. (side note: Why would anyone want to follow John Connor? This guy claims to have information about the future because he’s going to send someone to the past to sleep with his mom, who leaves him tapes about the future, but its a different future now that he knows about it. And if you disagree with him “WE ARE DEAD! WE ARE ALL DEAD!”) The guy who plays Marcus (Sam Worthington) is Australian, who fakes a pretty good American accent except when he says random lines with his Australian one. Moon Bloodgood, who plays the girl who falls for Marcus for no reason at all and nearly takes her shirt off, is terrible. Just terrible.
All this being said, there were parts I liked. The special effects were great for the most part, but I really liked the references to the other Terminator movies. From lines being quoted word-for-word (so that’s where they learned it!), to visual cues, to complete action sequences. But that’s the problem. I found myself wanting to watch the originals instead of the new movie I was watching! It’s one thing to have clever references to other movies, but try to make your movie good enough that the viewers aren’t taken out of the one they’re watching.
I’m going to lay the blame for everything solely on one person: McG, the director (I can’t blame it on the editor, Conrad Buff, who was nominated for an Oscar for T2 and won for Titanic). “McG” (which apparently he has been called since childhood) had previous directed both Charlie’s Angels movies for Drew Barrymore and We Are Marshall, being a famous music video director before that. He was also going to be responsible for the American remake of the British Simon Pegg series “Spaced”, which was created without the knowledge of any of the original creators. It seems he brough his poor choices to the editing room. He killed a franchise that admittedly should have stopped at the second one.
Overall: Poorly edited, badly directed misfire.
UPDATE: It took me a while, but I finally figured out what this movie reminded me of: a bad fan edit. But cuts, scenes that just end, obviously missing plot and character development… It’s like McG didn’t like parts of his own movie and just chopped them out at will.