Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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Terminator: Salvation (2009) Directed by McG
"We've been fighting a long time. We are out numbered by machines. Working around the clock, without quit. Humans have a strength that cannot be measured. This is John Connor. If you are listening to this, you are the resistance." John Connor
In days of future past, we know that John Connor will send back his own father to save his mother from a machine called a Terminator wearing an Arnold Schwarzenegger suit. This will be the start of one of the better action Sci Fi franchises. Terminator, T2 and the regrettable T3 are cutting edge FX movies for their days. While the special effects may have evolved, the basic story has remained the same. Skynet, a defense department system achieved sentience. It determined humanity was a threat to its existence, and proceeded to set about wiping the species out.
The Resistance, led by a man named John Connor, fought against the machines. However, the Machines determined that if John Connor had never been born, he would not be a threat. To that end they sent a Terminator back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor before she could give birth to her son. Due to a limitation of the time travel device, it had to be a Terminator, a machine encased in organic flesh, because exposed metal can't be transported back through time.
John Connor sent his lieutenant Kyle Reese (Michael Bein) back to protect his mother, and destroy the Terminator. Later, he sent back a Terminator reprogrammed to defend his teenaged self (Edward Furlong) from a more advanced kind of machine.
Now, we see the story from John Connor's point of view. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) was right and the machines have wiped out the majority of humanity. The year is 2018, and humanity is loosing.
John Connor (Christian Bale) is not the leader of the resistance, not yet. But he is an important warrior in the fight. And when his raid on a machine base results in a total party kill, with JC as the sole survivor, and a mushroom cloud spreading behind him, he is fairly sure the data they went after must be important.
Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is a death row inmate. The last thing he remembers is signing the papers so that Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham-Carter) could have his corpse for research after his execution. So waking up again is a bit of a shock.
More of the shock is waiting for him when he calls out to the first figure he sees, only to discover it is an android, and out for his blood. He is rescued by the Los Angeles Resistance Cell, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and Star (Jadagrace) who have to be the cutest freedom fighters ever, and told the short version of the history leading up to 2018.
The kids are seasoned survivors and together, they make their way towards...well, away from L.A. Wright wants to go north, looking for Dr. Kogan; I suppose to discover how he has come be alive.
The long and short of it, is Star and Kyle are captured, and taken to San Francisco with the other human prisoners. Now, Marcus has to find a way to free them.
He hooks up with on of the pilots responsible for his escape Blair, (Moon Bloodgood) and together, journey to the Resistance encampment. However they discover part of the secret of how Marcus has thus far cheated death...
At the same time, John is having trouble with command's decision to launch an attack instead of a rescue mission. Command feels the human lives in San Francisco are a small price to pay for killing Skynet. John Connor knows that unless he can save Kyle, he will never be born, and the world as he knows it is doomed....
McG is perhaps better off with the television budget. Here, with unlimited control, he has created unfailingly brilliant action sequences, unbelievably cool effects, and totally thrilling cybernetic menaces to threaten the savior of humanity. The problem here is after he has shown us what is like to crash in a helicopter; he just keeps trying to top it, with bigger explosions and greater effects, one right after the other. What amazes me is how successful he is even with this flaw.
There is a mythological mistake in the genre as well, the man in the machine. Terminator 2 first perpetrated this error, making the monster in the first movie OUR monster. This is a very big thing in Hollywood. We like the thought of a monster somehow being on our side. I understand the psychology, but think it reduces the impact of the horror of the thinking machines, which probably would act exactly like Skynet. The human equation, applied to the machines weakens their impact. However, I like the fact that John Connor, with all his paramilitary training as a child still instinctively recognizes that it is our humanity, and taking the harder path that makes us better than the machines.
That aside, this movie delivers; thrills, chills, and explosions. As one fellow remarked, "That is so Bey!" The action is non-stop, not giving the viewer the time to catch their breath, much less think through the morality play our heroes find themselves involved in. And it was great to see our favorite model of Terminator back in service, even if the Govenator wasn't driving. The CGI Arnold was great, though I would have liked to see a bit more of him....
The new John Connor is about perfect. Bale is spot on the right mix of hard@$$ and charisma to be a rebel leader. And Anton Yelchin is great as his dad... Dallas Bryce Howard is wonderful as John's main squeeze, Kate. And Jadagrace is cute and wise beyond her years. Michael Ironside played, well, Michael Ironside as the leader of the Resistance. He is always perfect as the dehumanized authority figure. The entire ensemble worked well to build a believable world. No one looked like they smelled too good. Which brings up costuming and sets, both of which were superlative post apocalyptic dystopian depressing. Like I said McG got the details right.
There is a bit more cerebral content than T3, and the action is on par (or above) anything out of T2. In a lot of ways, the series very much mirrors the Alien franchise. Brilliant horror for the first movie, brilliant action for the second, the third stank, and the fourth worked hard to redeem the series. This one is trying very hard to redeem and restart the franchise. And I think it has a good chance. A bit more story, and T5 might rival T2.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator 4: Salvation.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older