One of the biggest action franchises ever created is back with Terminator Salvation. Set in 2018 with humanity on the brink of annihilation after the nuclear holocaust of Judgement Day this is an action packed battle between Skynet and the human resistance led by John Connor. It looks great and there are nods to the previous entries in the series but this is like one big long fight and chase scene which lacks any substance.
We open surprisingly with a con in prison signing away his body for experimentation. The scene is confusing until we see the name on the form is Cyberdyne Systems. Cut forward to 2018 and Connor is leading an assault on a Skynet facility. The action roars into life and it doesn't let up for the full two hours. The human resistance is led by a small group of military commanders circling beneath the ocean in a submarine. They have fighter jets and helicopters and a surprising level of organisation. When a code falls into their hands which is supposed to be capable of deactivating the machines it looks as though the end of the war may be in sight.
The film also introduces a young, resourceful Kyle Reese in L.A. who is looking after a young girl. He meets a mysterious stranger and their paths collide with John Connor. To be honest the plot is ropy, there are big holes and contrivances but you aren't supposed to think too deeply on that because there is enough action here to exhaust you. The focus of the film is never entirely clear, the film makers can't make up their minds who the real hero is and as a consequence the potential impact is greatly reduced. There are also some really cheesy elements and the plot twists can be seen a mile away.
This is a seriously expensive production and while the writing isn't really up to scratch the quality cast do their best. Christian Bale is excellent as always although the idea that Edward Furlong could have grown up to be this efficient and gruff military man is stretching things a little. Sam Worthington is fine as the bizarre Marcus Wright and it is fairly obvious why they wrote his character in but he doesn't make much sense if you think about it for longer than ten seconds. Anton Yelchin is great as Kyle Reese, he really looks right for the part and even captured some mannerisms which reminded me of the original character. The support from Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Ironside was adept.
Unfortunately the direction from McG was less accomplished. Why does he get to direct a big film like this? Have a glance at his past record as a director. A couple of music videos and two Charlies Angels films, James Cameron he most definitely is not. The action is handled reasonably well and the effects are great with a more subtle blend of CG and live action than you usually get. Sometimes it all gets a bit over excited and you can easily lose the thread of what is supposed to be happening but for the most part the action is good. The problem is there was nothing to contrast it, no quiet contemplative moments, no camaraderie between characters, no character development at all.
After the appalling third film my expectations for this were limited. As a summer action flick it is easy to sit back, switch off and just watch the explosions and fights which undeniably look great. The story and script are very weak but the cast save it from total disaster. This is obviously going to lead to a fifth film and it is a shame that the series will never again reach the heights of the first two films. This is pure soulless action, pretty and unchallenging.