In an age of revitalized franchises (good examples being Batman and more recently Star Trek) it was only a matter of time before someone took the somewhat mishandled Terminator series and gave it a swift reboot for a new generation. For those who have lived under a rock devoid for the last twenty five years The Terminator was the film that pretty much launched the careers of James Cameron and Arnold Schwarznegger.
It also became one of the benchmarks of modern science fiction, there was perhaps never a more apt bit of casting as Arnold tore through 1980’s Los Angeles looking like a monosyllabic brick shithouse as he portrayed a cyborg from the future chasing the film’s protagonist Sarah Connor (played with a credible air of vulnerability by Linda Hamilton) and her saviour Kyle Reese (with Michael Biehn in suitably edgy form).
In 1991, Cameron produced a sequel, this time Schwarznegger was the hero and Sarah Connor was a highly trained (and incredibly lean) borderline sociopath who was dedicated to protecting her son (portrayed by the then unknown Edward Furlong). Lightning struck twice and the tension and suspense of the original were reproduced, this time with a bigger budget and Robert Patrick as the film’s eerie liquid metal nemesis. This was a film that once again raised the bar both in terms of the genre and also special effects which still look pretty good even by todays standards.
There followed a third film which didn’t involve Cameron and his presence was sorely missed. A somewhat cludgy script couldn’t be saved despite some fairly respectable chase scenes and the inevitable ‘eye candy’ battles as Arnold in his final outing as the machine battled Kristanna Loken as the Terminatrix. Prior to this new film there was even a half decent show called ‘The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ which conveniently altered the history of the franchise to erase the third film from continuity and if its own television network had been a little more committed to the show it might still have had a decent future (no pun intended) on the box.
In terms of the franchise a lot rests on the new film. It also represents a departure from its predecessors in many ways. Leaving behind the twentieth century locales of its forebears and a good deal of the ‘chase and survive’ elements that made them so watchable. This time round the action takes place in 2018 and the machines have already launched a devastating assault on mankind. It’s up John Connor, this time played by Christian Bale to launch a counter offensive against Skynet (the main computer bad guy) and try to save humanity from being wiped out altogether.
He’s aided and abetted in his role by the mysterious Marcus Wright (played by Sam Worthington) and a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). Bale is rapidly becoming the “go to” guy when it comes to franchise bail outs and once again he has dusted off his grim and gritty demeanor as he constantly reiterates how “if people don’t follow his plans then humanity will be destroyed”. In all honesty it’s his least convincing role of this type that I can recall. Sam Worthington as Marcus is of more interest, a condemned killer who suddenly finds himself in a dystopian future. In acting terms he takes a while to warm up but once he does he blows Bale off the screen. Yelchin is fundamentally sound as the young Reese, managing to maintain the energy of Michael Biehn’s original.
In terms of script and storytelling Salvation pans out like a pretty ordinary sci fi thriller. Yes there are some impressive looking robots but there is nothing to grab your focus like the film’s predecessors. The atomic wastelands look fairly effective and the whole filming process has a sandy tinge giving it that post apocalyptic authenticity but even the battle scenes have a somewhat ‘seen it all before’ air to them. I suspect the director McG is too use to making films of the eye candy variety to handle anything of depth. In places he drops some unusual continuity bloopers which suggests he has a “I can do what I like and fuck the backstory” attitude.
In conclusion the film smacks of the ordinary, could it be that the Terminator franchise is now competing in market that has suddenly become a little more crowded. Or maybe the threat of “annihilation by malevolent computer” is no longer one we can take seriously enough in an age where the phone in your pocket possess more computing power than a good degree of the technology to be found in the 1980’s.
I suspect there will be another sequel to tie things up, in the scheme of things Bale seems happy enough with his performance to reprise his role and I dare say the relevant cast members will be willing to repeat their performances. As for this film though, if you are looking for some decent special effects and something to kill a bit of time you could do worse, alternatively you could rent T1 ad T2 and watch something you can really enjoy.