Sunday, June 07, 2009

Terminator Salvation

Year: 2009
Director: McG
Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter

Over 20 years ago, James Cameron created a film that eventually became a successful franchise. The Terminator franchise speaks of a war between man and machine, and how Skynet, the computer that runs the machines, nearly destroyed mankind with a nuclear holocaust, then follows it up with a war on the survivors. The plot in the past three films revolve around Skynet sending a machine back in time to kill John Connor, the would be leader of the human resistance. The plan is always foiled by a lone warrior sent back in time as well by the resistance.

This infamous thread and storyline has made tons of money at the box office and spawned a TV series too. And it made Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. But how will it fare now without him?

If you've seen Terminator 3, then you'll know that Judgment Day, the day of the holocaust, was inevitable and finally happened. Terminator Salvation takes place after that. The film first offers viewers a prologue, of a man on Death Row named Marcus Wright, who donates his body to science after his execution.

Cut to the year 2018, where the war between man and machine rages on. John Connor isn't the leader of the resistance yet, but he does have a reputation. After a Skynet facility is destroyed, Marcus emerges from it, alive, unscathed and unaware of Judgment Day. He runs into Kyle Reese (whom fans and followers of the series will know that he is the hero from the first Terminator film and John Connor's father) and his friend, a mute girl named Star when he walks into L.A. When they hear a radio transmission from Connor, the trio attempt to find him, only to be intercepted by Skynet. Kyle and Star are captured while Marcus ends up in Connor's base. Once there, it is learnt that Marcus is part machine.....

McG, who is somewhat panned for making Charlie's Angels, wasn't exactly a popular choice amongst Terminator fans, but he does a more than decent job here. We get to see tons of destruction and action sequences that are quite mind blowing, and loud too. Kudos also to the production designer for successfully creating an apocalyptic landscape full of wide open deserts and destroyed buildings and cars. The visual effects used to bring the killer machines to life are also impressive.

Christian Bale, who usually brings intensity and sheer amount of brooding qualities to his roles, succeeds in playing the great John Connor. However, as good as he is, he is outdone a little by Sam Worthington. Worthington is excellent as Marcus, the man who is given a second chance at life, only to discover that he is being used as a pawn in a battle. Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Kate, John's wife, doesn't get much to do, which is a pity since she is really talented. Anton Yelchin, fresh from being Chekov in Star Trek, does a good job as Kyle Reese.

Now, as much as I loved the way this film was made, from the look and design, to the choice of setting this story after Judgment Day, it just doesn't stand up to T2. I know it's hard to do so, since T2 is probably one of the best movie sequels ever made. Thing is, Terminator Salvation should have given more focus to John Connor. After all, the plot has always revolved around him, and the attempts made by Skynet to end his life in the past. In this film, some attention was given to Kyle Reese in this regard, but Marcus is the main draw here. It is Marcus' connection to the machines and his conscience towards his human brethren, and the conflict between them that drives the film. This somehow disconnects the movie from its predecessors, and in turn spoils the plot that runs through the franchise. And on another note, no matter how good the action is here, it doesn't match the excitement I felt watching Arnie fight in T2. That film's action sequences probably has no equal.

But overall, I had fun with this one. It is as chaotic and explosive as it should be. (4/5)

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