Terminator Salvation (2009)
By: Matt Moss on June 11, 2012  | 
Sony | Region A, B & C | 2.40:1, 1080p | English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | 117 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: McG
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Common
Screenplay: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB YouTube
I can safely say, without hesitation, that Terminator Salvation is the worst film I have ever seen. Yes, that's even considering the collected works of Michael Bay, Uwe Boll and Matt Damon. This is worse. Trust me.

I only saw Terminator Salvation once before this review. On opening day. To say that I loathed it with every raw ounce of my being would be a gross understatement. But I had to see this again on Blu-Ray. Why? Because I had to know, once and for all, if my hatred was justified.

Yes. Yes it is.

Y'see, Terminator Salvation is an infiltration unit. At first glance, this third sequel/reboot looks all kinds of awesome. For a start, it has disposed of the worn-thin premise of time-warping cyborgs in present-day LA. Instead, the entire film is set in the nightmare future-world we only saw glimpses of in the previous entries. Here, the world's cities have been nuked and the machines have taken over. Now, humanity's last hope is a scowling super-soldier, John Connor (Christian Bale a.k.a Batman).

This is where the illusion of awseomeness begins. I mean, who wouldn't want to see the Dark Knight rumble with cybernetic overlords in a Beyond Thunderdome junkyard-planet?

But that promised awesomeness is empty marketing and pure deception. Once the movie begins, it's impossible to escape the fact of who directed this. A man with a self-applied moniker that sounds like a Happy Meal. A man who helped Drew Barrymore's Charlie's Angels vanity-project become a reality. Twice.

By then, it's too late. The outer shell of exciting potential falls away to reveal the hollow, wallet-hungry abomination within. McG's Terminator Salvation is here to treat you like a Bill Paxton-led street-punk. It's gonna rip your heart right out.

The first clue that this is a turd in Terminator dressing, (and that *SPOILER ALERT* McG is no James Cameron), is how much it steals form other films. It barely functions as an original film. More like a clanking patchwork of scenes from familiar sources. Humans are herded into cage-pods straight out of Spielberg's War Of The Worlds. The mechanical tentacles from The Matrix Trilogy show up during an Apocalypse Now fire-fight. A motorcycle jumps through the air exactly like Steve McQueen's hero-shot in The Great Escape. All this while various CGI robots, recalling Star Wars, Transformers and RoboCop, crash about in the dust. I felt like I was answering a "name-that-scene" movie-quiz while playing HALO on horse tranquilizers.

Unfortunately for McG, James Cameron's entries are kind of known for thrilling and iconic sequences. Instantly classic and unforgettable. Of course, McG doesn't try for anything remotely close to that level. Instead, he attempts a sleight-of-hand strategy. Yep, the ol' style-over-substance trick. Rather than actual awesomeness, we get the implication of awesomeness. He suggests excitement through a style that is trying to be "dark", "gritty" and "edgy".

Embarassingly, this style is achieved by shamelessly replicating the harsh grey-blue tones and hand-held doco-realism of Children of Men. McG's dirty dystopian future, however, is contrived, phony and dripping with Hollywood excess. His post-apocalyptic revolutionaries have sculptured stubble and para-military uniforms straight from the racks of Melrose Avenue boutiques.

Despite this, a tense, gripping storyline may have saved this from the junk-pile. No such luck. It's shambling, direction-less and recycled from Total Recall (i.e. a memory-wiped agent of an evil dictatorship joins resistance fighters to flush-out their mythical leader). The "Doug Quaid" role is played by Sam Worthington who struggles to convey the emotional range of a confused, amnesiac machine-man. As he wanders aimlessly through the wastelands, it began to remind me of Van Damme's Cyborg (perhaps not a good thing for a $200 million sci-fi spectacular). But Cyborg at least had the decency to give us enough spinning jump-kicks to distract from the brain-dead script. McG can't be bothered to deliver on a "mindless fun" level. It's tedious, humourless and, even worse, almost action-less.

When action does arrive it's fleeting and bloodless. At one point, a genuinely menacing robo-skeletor appears. But the threat is immediately dispatched by a cute little kid with a super-cool afro. Who needs Sarah Connor when we've got The Sandlot Kids?

It's clear that this is audience-friendly product for the broadest possible demographic. Accordingly, McG's unstoppable human-killing machines are sure not to really harm anyone or generate any tension which could disturb a pre-teen audience. He's completely uninterested in suspense or thrills, just the brand-name and box-office. Not for a second is he inspired by a film where Arnold mows down a station full of cops.

In fact, it's hard to remember any scenes designed to satisfy a Terminator fan. It's like a drunken blur of half-glimpsed explosions and smoke. There was a truck-chase that was nearly an exciting sequence. But it was really just a half-hearted re-assembly of Mad Max 2. So it doesn't count.

This kind of lazy, cynical filmmaking is wretched enough, but McG can't help insulting the intelligence of fans. There's a horrendous scene where John Connor slams down a tape deck and blasts "You Could Be Mine" by Guns 'N' Roses. Good to know that even after a nuclear holocaust, cassette copies of "Use Your Illusion 2" will still be readily available. I'm not sure if it's a ham-fisted homage or a way to assure us that this incoherent mish-mash is actually meant to be a Terminator film.

An even worse example of this is when Arnold appears towards the end. Well, I say "Arnold", but it's more like his cartoon-Frankenstein avatar. Naturally, they try to hide this embarrassment behind as much sparks and pyro as possible. I guess McG forgot to specify "photo-realistic" quality to the animators. So, they just went with "Sub-Scorpion King'.

If they wanted to bring back some elements from Cameron's films, they should have started with a strong female character. Sarah Connor is as iconic as Ripley from the Alien series. Here, we get a fighter pilot that looks like a swimwear model. After her introductory scene, she immediately gets topless in the rain. She then falls head-over-heels in love with Sam Worthington's robo-dullard. Apparently, it's hard to find a good man out in the wastelands. Even if he is a half-mechanical operative of her cyborg oppressors. The two lovebirds even share a tender moment around a campfire. With nary a Hunter-Killer in sight. I wanted to self-terminate.

John Connor's wife seems fiesty and rational. But don't worry - she's pregnant and kept to the background. John Connor himself doesn't fare much better. Christian Bale's involvement seems more like a selling point than a need to portray a living, breathing character. Besides brief gun-toting scenes for the trailer, he mostly skulks around looking dour and earnest. Or barking and huffing like he hasn't quite shaken the Bat-voice. Never does he seem like a charismatic leader that grew up wearing a Public Enemy t-shirt. He's so one-dimensional and underwritten I wouldn't have been shocked if he was revealed as a robot as well.

With the script's focus on Sam Worthington's ridiculous character arc, Bale is left with not much to do besides bark earnestly into radio handsets. His infamous on-set tantrum is completely understandable.

When I tell people that this is my most hated film they usually reply with: "C'mon dude, it's not as bad as Part 3". I disagree. I'd rather see a Terminatrix self-inflate her rack. Or a weirdly-tanned Arnold say: "Talk to the hand". At least those blunders felt made by human beings. Human beings high on cough syrup maybe, but there was still a heartbeat under those mis-steps. Terminator Salvation feels constructed by a committee of merchandising droids. Their prime directive: Aggressively re-establish brand-name recognition in the marketplace. Originality and entertainment-value do not compute.
Razor-sharp and clear as you would expect from a Sony disc. Just wish there was some exciting visuals to go with it.
Despite a lack of action, there's still plenty of gunfire, explosions, crunching metal and helicopters to enjoy. All are booming with neighbour-annoying clarity.
Extra Features
Director's Cut: This is several minutes longer, but I didn't notice any additions. Nothing that improved character, story coherrence or excitement.

Reforging The Future: It's a behind-the-scenes featurette, but sorry, you couldn't pay me to watch this. If you want to hear McG talk about his "edgy" "vision", go ahead. But you're made of stronger stuff than me.

Director's Commentary: See above.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
As cold and human-hating as Skynet. Leads your expectations into a hydraulic press and crushes them. Plus it completely wastes the talents of Christian Bale and Michael Ironside. The worst film ever made.

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