Movie News & Reviews

Jumbled plot, boring characters doom 'Terminator Salvation'

For a certain type of person -- mostly guys who eat dinner off junk mailand get confused when someone wants to interrupt our GoldenEye game togo meet girls (i.e. superstuds) -- Terminator Salvation had abasically perfect trailer.

Get this: robots exploding to a Nine Inch Nails song. Sounds simple,but the only way this could be improved is if when the robots blew upthey showered everyone with candy. And it would have to be anespecially good candy, like miniature Charleston Chews. None of thatTootsie Roll nonsense, you idiot.

Yeah, well you shouldn't have dragged Tootsie Rolls into this. Anyway,what's important here isn't your perplexingly bad taste in candy, it'sthat Salvation was written by the same team who wroteTerminator 3, and T3 was bad enough that while it didn'tinspire me to go back in time and murder its creators' parents beforethey were born, it would certainly make me think long and hard aboutgoing back to key their mothers' cars. Thinking Salvation mightbe good was a stretch, but what can I say, I'm dumb as hell.

In the year 2018, most of mankind has been wiped out by Skynet, anarmy of self-aware machines. Christian Bale is the voice of theResistance, the loose alliance of humans fighting back againstextinction.

Bale and his superiors believe they've discovered a weapon they canuse to shut down the machines for good. Problem is, Skynet isexecuting a plan that will wipe out humanity's leaders, includingBale, within four days.

Among the other targets: Anton Yelchin, the teenager who will one daygo back in time to save Bale's mother (and in the process, become hisfather). Kill Yelchin, and Bale ceases to exist. Yet Yelchin's falleninto the company of Sam Worthington, a brand-new machine who thinkshe's human but no doubt has a mission of his own.

This might sound confusing if you've never been so desperate to getlaid you had to travel through time to one of those eras when theother men were too busy feeding themselves to dinosaurs to live past25, but a muddy plot that doesn't give enough focus to any of itsthreads isn't the worst of Terminator Salvation's problems.

Its biggest sin is simply that there's no reason to give a damn aboutits characters. In first Terminator, why was it fun to watchLinda Hamilton get terrorized by a giant naked man? It wasn't justbecause Arnold acted the way we all secretly want to act ("Give meyour clothes before I make you cry like an orphanage after lightsout"). It was because Linda Hamilton was cool. She went from aneveryday schmoe to a cold hard robot-crushing machine, and along theway we got to see the woman between both extremes.

For Salvation writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, theircharacters have names, faces, and not a whole lot else, which isespecially impressive considering they have extensively detailed paststo draw on. Instead, Bale and friends are people with weird sci-fitroubles instead of personalities. That's not worth getting investedin.

You know what the movie does have, though? Explosions. Androbots. And robots inside explosions. It's basically likewatching the inside of my head on a 40-foot screen. Director McGhas a lot of fun with the apocalyptic CG, and his numerous nods to theearly entries in the series is nice.

That's enough to make a sick trailer. It's not nearly enough to make amovie around. I always wanted to see more of Terminator'spost-nuclear world. Now that it's here in Terminator Salvation,it turns out it's not really worth taking the trip.

Grade: C