Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Common
Directed by: McG
Written by: John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris
Runtime: 114, 117 mins
Blu-ray Release Date: December 1, 2009
In a way, Terminator Salvation is a lot like its famous villains, the T-family (T-600, T-800, T-1000, T-Whatever). It’s big, it’s slick, it looks good, and it’s really, really loud. Unfortunately, like the Terminator, this film just doesn’t have much heart, sadly distinguishing it from the most memorable flick in the series, T2: Judgment Day. Instead, it's a more or less generic action movie that just happens to star someone named John Connor and take place in a dystopian America. Content-wise Terminator Salvation deserved its box-office mediocrity, but there’s a good chance that this incredibly gorgeous film will be a big hit for the Blu-ray format.
The bulk of Terminator Salvation is set in the year 2018, as series hero John Connor (Christian Bale) prepares for an assault alongside other members of the Resistance on a San Francisco Skynet base. We join John as the Resistance launches an initial mini-attack upon Skynet, a raid that discovers Skynet’s imprisonment of humans for the purpose of constructing a new, more powerful Terminator called the T-800 (Arnie’s Terminator). Narrowly escaping the crumbling Skynet base, Connor emerges the raid’s only survivor – evidence that while Skynet is constantly upgrading its weaponry, human kind, despite its best attempts, is losing its war for survival.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=3322&w=m[/img]Of course, Connor isn’t the only survivor of the assault. Also making his way out of the wreckage is Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a murderer once condemned to death. His last memory is the night of his 2003 execution, but he awakens in the midst of a scorched earth and aimlessly wanders until stumbling upon the remains of Los Angeles. There, he meets Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who fans of the series will recognize as the eventual father of Connor. Wright and Reese then seek out other members of the Resistance and have a few wild encounters with Skynet’s latest technology along the way, including skyscraper droids and motorbike Terminators. For Wright, the adventure is less about beating up on Skynet and helping Connor than it is a quest to find out who he is and how he seems to have escaped the long arm of the law.
Eventually, Wright finds the Resistance and slowly pieces together how it is he leap-frogged time from 2003 until the year 2018. You can take the name “Salvation” any way you like (and there are a few applicable uses) but I’d say it’s mostly about Wright’s attempt to save his own soul by rectifying the many mistakes of his past life. In the end, he plays a critical role in a Connor-led offensive against Skynet’s main headquarters in the not-so-sunny Southwest. Fans of the series will be happy to know that there’s plenty of wiggle room for seventeen more sequels.
This, by no means, is a rock-solid story. While, on the surface, the plot seems fairly straightforward (Skynet is ready to unleash a new, devastating weapon, while the Resistance wants to abort the project before it’s ever unleashed), there are a variety of hap-hazard story streams that never feel particularly well conceived or resolved. There’s much discussion of a radio frequency that can be used to interfere with the operation of Skynet weaponry, and it’s used a few times, but the whole strategy seems to fizzle out halfway through. Also, the beautiful Resistance pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) takes an awful shine to former murderer Marcus without really getting to know the guy. I’ve heard of love at first sight, but this is ridiculous.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=3324&w=m[/img]My other knock against this movie will be more controversial: I just don’t like Christian Bale as John Connor. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bale as Bruce Wayne, but he just doesn’t seem to have the same hero qualities I’d expect from mankind’s post-apocalyptic saviour. Maybe it’s because Bale received a lot of criticism for his behaviour while on the Salvation set, but I just didn’t feel particularly endeared to him or his character. In the end, Worthington is much more likeable as a lead, and given that he’s supposed to be a former murderer maybe that’s a misstep, too. All I can say is that the acting performances are a bit weak here, and the relationships very shallow – not at all like T2, and closer to the disappointing T3: Rise of the Machines.
Say what you will about the plot, this is an incredibly gorgeous film. The 1080p VC1 encode with 2:40:1 aspect ratio is awesome, with textures (such as character clothing and the caked dirt and grime on their faces) finely detailed. There is some graininess to some pictures, but all of it appears intentional and is usually limited to backgrounds in certain instances where bright light meets midnight dark. Hands down one of the better-looking Blu-ray films I’ve seen.
Also spectacular is Salvation’s audio. Some excellent decisions went into even basic sound effects; for instance, the skyscraper Terminator emits a harrowing hum and beep that one might imagine being emitted from a crashing Commodore 64. There is plenty of intense action in Salvation, and thankfully the audio always intensifies events even further. Danny Elfman, famous for his Simpsons theme tune and many other more important but less noted projects, provides a good but not great score.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=3325&w=m[/img]Blu-ray Extras :3stars:
There are discs for both a Director’s Cut and the theatrical release. Sounds good, right? Well, the former is just 3 minutes longer – that’s right, they included a second disc for 180 seconds of additional material. It really only boils down to a few extra lines. More attractive is the Maximum Movie Mode, which includes periodical commentary from director McG (great name, huh?), along with interview clips, storyboards, and more. Consider it a semi-virtual commentary track, making it an improvement on the standard stuff.
While Terminator Salvation’s story is hardly as earth-shattering as its action sequences, the pure thrill of the many encounters between man and machine – and the detail within every explosion – make this a worthwhile pickup for anyone, and not just fans of the series.