The first thing I thought when I went to see this movie is “Oh, no! Its directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle) and the trailer was way too good for this film to live up to (remember Spider-Man 3?).” But wow, was I way off! This film fully encompasses all the greatness of the Terminator franchise (i.e. cool futuristic machinery, post apocalyptic earth, fulfillment of destiny, man vs. machine, awesome action, and a relatable character-driven story, etc.), mixed in with a little redemption story and it delivered without any filler. It is every bit as good as the trailer promised and that is saying a lot! Although the film is a sequel/prequel (yeah it’s both… kind of) it stands alone pretty well and if you’ve never seen any of the other Terminator films you can get by just fine without the prior knowledge. Of course some awesome innuendos, allusions and well placed lines will be lost on you, but you should be able to get on just fine.
The setup of the film being both a prequel and a sequel would seem oddly restricting to the freedom of the film’s story, but this is where the film thrives! The film takes place mainly in the future, year 2018 some years after Judgment Day and sets up the events that will lead to the first Terminator, but oddly it doesn’t even mention time travel (I guess it hasn’t been invented yet?). The film centers around two characters: John Connor played the impeccable Christian Bale, and Marcus Wright played superbly by Sam Worthington. The character development is keen in this and there isn’t a character that you don’t feel for on one level or another. Also the film is real gritty compared to T2 and T3, which, in my humble point of view, is became it’s gradually more polished and detached from the realism of the situation. Salvation just sits in the trenches all blood and mud and bullets, if you get my crappy analogy.
This is a much more mature John Connor than we’ve seen in previous installments. He’s much darker and jaded and by this point one badass soldier. Many see him as a messiah and he’s much like what we’ve been waiting to see him become. Because of his history and being told of his future his whole life, he is very sure of himself and understands what is going on until the arrival of Marcus Wright, which makes him question everything. It also adds a fresh spin on the film and changes the whole terminator vs. human dynamic on its fleshy/metallic ear.
The film is also blessed with a talented supporting cast including Moon Bloodgood, Common, Anton Yelchin, Michael Ironside, Helena Bonham Carter and Bryce Dallas Howard. Some of their roles were quite minimal but memorable none-the-less. They were all believable in their roles and a joy to see whenever they graced the screed. No Jar-Jars in this bunch. Anton Yelchin plays Kyle Reese, a teenage version of John Connor’s future father, and this kid is all over the place it seems. He’s in two of the biggest films out now, Terminator Salvation and Star Trek. And he is a treat to watch. I want his agent. Probably the only actor that may have been a little sub-par was Common, but he’s acting opposite Bale, so you can’t really blame him… and I just love seeing Common in anything. He’s my boy yo, Chi-Town represent! We go way back, but that’s another story.
The cinematography is pretty great, with a lot of shaky, in-your-face camera
shots that amplify the action scenes, but not so that it’s annoying or overused. Watch the helicopter scene and try to tell me that you don’t feel the tension. The special effects are also pretty spectacular and all the new terminators add a much higher threat level than ever before… and they’re pretty cool…I mean motorcycle Terminators! Badass!
Speaking of cool, that is another thing this movie does very well: it doesn’t try to be cool. It just is. And it’s dark. It deals a lot with the human syndrome (i.e. what it is to be human) which is always a great and potentially deep and dark territory if handled correctly, which this films does. There are also some familiar lines and nostalgic references that were once cheesy but are just badass this time around… and hilarious at times. Also a certain Californian’s face stays true to his word and will draw cheers and strike fears instantly.
Now there are a few things that weren’t great about the film. A few of the story points are a little ridiculous so there needs to be a little suspension of disbelief. There were some moments where I asked myself “Why didn’t he just kill him there?” or “they could’ve killed him a lot easier…” or “that probably wouldn’t happen” but hey, it’s a movie, and it wasn’t anything that completely detracted from the film and/or made it lose all credibility.
Overall the film was highly enjoyable. I can’t outright say it is the best in the franchise, but it may be my favorite and I don’t think I’m alone. Was it perfect, no, but this is still above and beyond the expectations one would have for a forth installment in a franchise that was on it’s way out, especially after the lackluster T3: Rise of the Machines, and not to mention it is both a sequel and prequel, which means you’ve got to get the necessary elements just right in order to fit in the continuity, as well as creating something new and exciting that can stand on it own. A hard goal to achieve, but McG and crew set that bar high and vaulted far over that sucker, and all in PG-13 form!!!
Good thing that McGangster there had Christian “I’m a professional” Bale there to scream all the crew into good working order. And as for this being the end of the Terminator franchise… They’ll be back. This sucker gets 4 out of 5 pitchforks!