While giant explosions and wildly intense action scenes are eclipsed by even larger sequences of mass destruction, the story of Terminator Salvation remains timidly simple. No tricky time travel finds its way into the plot, but perhaps such complexities are exactly what’s missing – the loss of interaction between something completely alien and the familiar conventions of our world coupled with the contrast of futuristic terror and the limited resources of present day leave a premise dull by comparison. Though it may be nearly impossible to match the integrity of the first two entries in the franchise, Salvation should realize that bigger sizes and quantities of killer robots doesn’t necessarily make them scarier. The year is 2018 and the war between man and machine rages on. Skynet continues to build larger and more powerful weapons, including increasingly advanced Terminators. When the Resistance, led by John Connor (Christian Bale), uncovers a secret code embedded in the enemy’s communications, an offensive is planned that may allow a crippling strike to the machines’ headquarters. Teaming up with mysterious stranger Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), Connor must race against time to locate Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and protect the future of mankind.
Terminator Salvation is as dark and serious as The Dark Knight, except that there is no Joker – or any character we can follow with white-knuckle enthusiasm. There’s little humor to break up the unrelenting suspense and detonative violence, resulting in an entertainingly bleak post-apocalyptic action fest with fleeting genuine fun. The machines are bigger, more destructive and less advanced, but not more terrifying. They aren’t the cleverly infiltrated assassins that wowed audiences in the original two films, but lifeless automatons that only present dilemmas when an action sequence requires it. The intelligence and mercilessness of the machines, once admirable when personified by Schwarzenegger, is only matched by the humans in a constant struggle to blur the lines between good and evil; the Resistance in Salvation is unable to avoid becoming like the new enemy.
Plenty of extra characters allow for more casualties, battles, carnage, showdowns, firepower, bloodshed (minus the blood) and apathetic adventure – there’s little heart to any of it. It is action for the sake of action; stunts and thrilling fight sequences take precedence while the story merely serves to tie them together. It’s a fresh setting, grittier and intense from cutting edge camerawork, mind-blowing sound effects and visuals, with interior designs like Aliens and exterior locations like The Road Warrior. But the story doesn’t advance any of the characters, nor does it inform us of unfamiliar aspects. By the end, nothing has changed, and all we’ve witnessed is glorified Terminator and human warfare. It’s a giant, unending battle with no hope for solid resolution or events that can change Judgment Day lore – it’s an episode that doesn’t greatly impact or alter what James Cameron so revolutionarily created.
– The Massie Twins (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com)