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Terminator Salvation (Spoiler Free Review)

Arnold is gone, Claire Danes and Nick Stahl refused the offer to return and McG signed on, to direct the new Terminator movie and its two planned sequels…
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Genre: Action/Sci-Fi

Director: McG

Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Ironside, Jadagrace & Common.

Run Time: 115 min.

US Release: 21 May 2009

UK Release: 03 June 2009

German Release: 04 June 2009

And yet, Terminator Salvation is a huge improvement to the lame T3, directed by Jonathan Mostow. Sure, it does not reach the golden pedestal The Terminator and Judgment Day are standing on, yet I always thought that people are giving this fourth instalment to much hate for little reason. Terminator Salvation is a mixed bag, with slightly more goodies than baddies. When I saw it in theatres, I left the screening with the same feeling I left Jurassic World at its release, with a sense of satisfaction at having been entertained. Was it a great sequel, not really but I did find it to be an alright follow-up.

McG directed this sci-fi blockbuster, released in cinemas worldwide in 2009. The action packed story stars Christian Bale as John Connor, Sam Worthington as a hybrid cyborg, Anton Yelchin as a young Kyle Reese, Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor, Moon Bloodgood, Jadagrace and Helena Bonham Carter. Salvation returns to the genre roots of this franchise, being more of a dramatic action sci-fi, without silly humour.

This third sequel takes place in the future year of 2018, after Skynet launched a nuclear attack against humanity. The war against the machines is still raging on, as John Connor not only discovers that Skynet is ready to produce the deadly T-800 but that Kyle Reese is but on its hit list, being hunted by its machines. Aiding Connor and Reese is the mysterious Marcus (Worthington).

The biggest praise I can give the plot, is that it moves forward with the story, instead of telling another time-traveling tale. The audience finally gets to see the world Reese grew up in and experiences the war right on the silver screen. The bleak depiction of L.A. and the western atmosphere really adds to the story, reminding me of the setting in the game Fallout 3. One of the best settings used in the film, is the destroyed Griffith Park Observatory, during the scene where Marcus and Reese are in search for a vehicle, presenting itself as fan service, as it also is the place where the T-800 from the first Terminator arrived.

The feature pays good tribute to the previous three movies, without rubbing it into the audience's face. The tapes and bleached photographs of Sarah Connor are a nice touch and it was great to hear Linda Hamilton's voice again, who returned to make the tapes John Connor is listening to. Further positive aspects this film has are; the fact that John Connor is not yet the leader of the human resistance, the nudge toT1, in which Reese uses a trick with a string to keep the shotgun around his arm.

The plot does have some negative aspects, however. For instance the romance between Bloodgood’s character and Marcus, which feels unnatural and evolved way to fast. Marcus sacrifice at the end is a little too sappy, especially after redeeming himself and obtaining a second chance to live an honourable life, which he throws away. Dialogue wise, some of the humour does not land, especially the terrible coyote joke made by Reese.

Most of the casting choices have been superb, yet at the same time it is this film's Achilles heel. The actors seem to over dramatize everything in this movie; Bale sounds as if he is constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown, while Worthington's desperate screams sound fake and cheesy. It looks as if McG tried to rectify the horrible comedic mistake, that is Rise of the Machines, by over-dramatising everything that is happening in Salvation. Anton Yelchin is a good addition as Kyle Reese, though; he does a great job of studying the moves and performance of Michael Biehn, which helped him at giving a credible portrayal as a younger Reese.

Ironside plays one of my favourite characters in this movie. His depiction of General Ashdown is awesome! The one character I am still not sure of is Star, the little mute girl. She doesn't add anything to the plot and is given a weird sixth supernatural sense, at knowing when Terminators are nearby.

Cinematography wise, Terminator Salvation is OK. McG captures the action very well but included strange cut shots throughout the film. As much as I love the bleak looking future, the colour scheme that is used makes the background look cheap and grainy at times, especially during the scene in the dark, were Connor and Barnes field-test the signal. Talking about darkness, the scenes that play during the night are lit really bad. It is extremely hard to figure out what is happening during those segments.

The effects, on the other hand, are amazing! As I stated in my Jurassic Park reviews, when using special effects it is important to find the right balance between practical and computer generated content. This movie manages to do exactly that! Veteran special effects director Stan Winston, returned to work on this film but sadly passed away during filming. His protégé, who also worked with him on the previous Terminator movies, took over. The bulky and heavy looking T-600 models look absolutely fantastic, although I missed the rubber faces that Reese talked about in T1. The Moto Terminators are another great addition by the effects team.

Although Arnold refused to make a short cameo, the crew managed to produce a good looking model of the actor, by using old practical effects from the first Terminator, computerizing them. There are a few robotic entities that look a little silly. The first one is the aquatic hydrobot, while the second is the human hunter, which reminded to much of a Transformer film.


Verdict: Overall, Terminator Salvation was an OK addition to the franchise and - in my opinion - a much better film than Terminator 3. I am not denying that it has its fair share of flaws but after having witnessed one of my favourite films franchises having been picked apart, I was happy that McG steered it back into the right direction, I will therefore give this film a 7.0 out of 10.

If any of you that read my review disagree with me, be welcome to leave a comment below with an explanation as to why you disliked Salvation. My review for Terminator Genisys will be up next week, as the film's release date in Germany was moved to the 9th, instead of the 2nd as previously advertised for. Also, if you are interested in reading my other reviews of the Terminator series, scroll down to the related reviews section. Thank you all for reading!

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