The Public Movie Defender – “Terminator Salvation”

DEFENDER TERMINATOR

The idea behind The Public Movie Defender is to take up the cause of a particular movie that I believe is better than the majority of reviews it has received. These are movies which I feel are worth either a second look or at least a more open examination considering the predominantly negative opinions of them. The films chosen are ones that I like so therefore I’m taking their case and defending them before the court of negative opinion. Let the trial begin…

DEFENDANT #2 – “TERMINATOR SALVATION”

TERM SALVFor some reason I’ve had this weird and unexplainable urge to write a review about a movie that I really like but most others don’t. Is it my pointless sense of duty to defend a film largely maligned by critics and my fellow movie fans? Is it some twisted pleasure I’ll take in the heat received from my fellow movie blogging pals? Whatever the reason I’m going to make my case for “Terminator Salvation”.

This 2009 sci-fi action flick was the fourth installment in the widely popular “Terminator” series. It was also a film of many firsts for the franchise. It’s the first “Terminator” picture that didn’t star Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s the first film in the franchise that received a PG-13 rating. It’s also the first film that takes place in the post-Judgement Day future. I suppose these things played into the disdain some people felt towards this film but it has also received a variety of other criticisms. It has been called soulless, humorless, joyless, and brainless. In fact the overwhelming consensus is that “Terminator Salvation” glaringly fails to capture any of the magic of the previous three movies. Obviously I disagree.

Now let me be clear, “Terminator Salvation” is not a 5 star movie. In fact it’s the third or fourth best film in the franchise. But I still found it to be a fun, action-fueled experience and a worthy installment to the series. The time travel element is gone making the entire ‘future versus present’ dynamic that was a big part of the other movies nonexistent. I have to admit that I missed that. That was one of the coolest things about this series. But that doesn’t mean that “Terminator Salvation” can’t stand on its own merit. It’s a grittier and more militaristic story and the humor, while definitely there, is much more restrained mainly due to the more serious tone of this film.

So the story goes like this, It’s 2018. Skynet has been activated and Judgement Day has wiped out a massive number of earth’s population. Christian Bale plays the third version of John Connor. This time he’s a key member of the human race’s resistance against the machines. Small pockets of the resistance are scattered everywhere including in the ruins of Los Angeles where Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) struggles to survive. Kyle and a young girl named Star (Jadagrace Perry) call themselves the L.A. branch of the resistance but they’re mainly just kids in hiding. They latch onto a mysterious stranger named Marcus (Sam Worthington) who knows nothing about the war with the machines.

Term Salv 2

After hearing a radio message from John Connor, the three set out to find the resistance headquarters – Kyle in hopes of joining the fight and Marcus in hopes of finding answers. But things don’t workout that well and Kyle and Star and captured during an attack by the machines. Marcus makes his way to the resistance base with the help of downed pilot Blair (Moon Bloodgood) but his story takes a crazy turn after John Connor and company find out exactly who he is. This whole twist may not be all that surprising but I really liked what it added to the story and to Marcus’ character. There are some interesting moral questions that are tossed around and some tricky decisions that the characters have to make.

But those things are small pieces in a bigger puzzle put together by director McG (I roll my eyes every time I say his name). This is first and foremost a sci-fi action picture and McG frames some pretty spectacular action sequences. The special effects can be pretty stunning such as during an attack by a giant machine on a small group of survivors hiding at a gas station. It and the wild chase that follows was fantastic. McG also tries to throw in several little things to connect the movie to the previous ones. I admit that they can feel a little forced such as when the cool Guns n’ Roses tune “You Could Be Mine” from T2 pops up. But I also have to admit I responded to the nostalgic bits regardless of how cheap they may have felt. And when a certain familiar CGI face pops up later in the film, I still let out a child-like squeal.

TERM SALV 1

I also like the performances. There’s nothing award worthy from any of the performers but they all feel grounded in the world we see. Bale is as solid as always although he is asked to do a little more shouting than I would have liked. I also liked Yelchin as a young Kyle Reese. He certainly doesn’t look anything like Michael Biehn from the first “Terminator” flick but did Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl resemble at all? But I really liked Sam Worthington here. This is the first film I saw him in and here he’s one tough cookie. I know he hasn’t shown a bit of range since and his acting chops are in question, but I thought he was a perfect fit for this part.

“Terminator Salvation” is a very different movie in the Terminator catalog. It’s not about the future invading our present. It’s about the war the other three movies were trying to prevent. That jolt alone was too much for some people to take. I also understand the absence of Schwarzenegger is a big deal. I mean these were his movies. But for me, those things don’t make this a bad film. The humor is toned down because the times are bad but the action and special effects are mighty good. It has its share of conveniences and head-scratching moments but doesn’t every movie in this franchise? I liked “Terminator Salvation” and while it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I think it has a place in the series.

VERDICT : “TERMINATOR SALVATION” – 4 STARS

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44 thoughts on “The Public Movie Defender – “Terminator Salvation”

  1. Love this series, I’ve got plenty of movies that I come to mind for the premise. This is more or less one of them, I wasn’t floored with it but I still thought it was way better than people make it out to be.

    Great post!

    • Thanks my friend. It’s been widely dismissed by a lot of people and I think unfairly. It’s good to hear someone else who doesn’t just hate it.

  2. Nice write-up. I admired that the producers were trying to change the series up, but the movie didn’t really work for me, though I think it might have received more criticism than it deserved.

    • I wonder if the fact that Schwarzenegger wasn’t going to do it played a big role in them changing things up as drastically as they did? Regardless, I completely respect your views. You’re not alone. I just found it to be really entertaining and a fun installment.

    • I’m with you, for me it’s far from a disaster. I’ve seen it now around five or six times and it still holds up as a good science-fiction action picture. I just think expectations were for something a lot different.

  3. Nice one Keith! I actually quite enjoyed this one, definitely not as horrible as critics made it out to be. I like Bale here though Sam Worthington was the scene stealer. Waaaay better than his wooden performance in Clash of the Titans and he’s a robot here, ahah.

    Btw, I quite like Moon Bloodgood, I wish she got more roles. She was great in The Session which was such a complete opposite to her role here.

    • I’m really glad to hear some good positive comments about this flick. I thought the cast was very good and I did like Moon as well.

      I think this was a case of people a wanting and expecting something totally different. I guess I can understand that but personally I found this to be a lot of fun.

  4. I just remember this film being very brown. It was the only colour they seemed to use. Yeah soulless is a great way to describe it. Glad you like it though!

  5. The best part was the giant robot, they should have had more of them. I think most people wanted to see the full scale war that was started at the end of the 3rd Terminator. Instead they jumped many years ahead. I don’t think it was a bad movie, I own it 🙂

  6. I actually liked this movie as a stand alone kind of thing. If you can get it in your mind that it’s NOT a Terminator movie, it’s a lot better. Definitely better than a lot of action movies these days. Plus, there are a handful of really long shots during the action that baffle me, as McG is known for supercuts.

    • Good points. I see it as a Terminator branch off movie. It has some really good sci-fi action which several McGisms as well.

      Thanks for the comments Nick!

  7. I liked this movie a lot back when I saw it in theater. I never had a chance to revisit it, but I thought that action and effects were solid as were the performances from Bale and Worhington. Moon Bloodgood was pretty good too although it’s a shame Helena Bonham Carter and Bryce Dallas Howard didn’t have more to do. I gave the movie 8/10, it wasn’t perfect but I never understood the hatred for it.

    • Exactly! I think the hate levied at this movie is pretty unfair. Again I think it goes back to expectations which is never a fair way of judging a movie.
      Glad you liked it as well.

  8. Well done Keith! I liked this movie too, wasn’t sure why it got such a bad backlash! I vote for Movie 43 as your next ”Public Movie Defender’ post! Oh wait, you probably didn’t like it either. 😦

  9. I love your post, Keith. You make the point that a lot of people couldn’t get over S. not being in this one. You, the critic, judged the film on it’s merit as a film without the past. The change turned off some people, but I think you are right. Bale is the man! My respect for him grows and grows and grows. It’s hard to pan a film if he’s in it.

    • He’s really a great actor isn’t he? He’s shown so much range from movies like “Flowers” to the Batman films. Of course there are also things such as The Fighter. Such a solid talent.

      • I need to see ‘I’m not there’ I don’t know how I missed that one and today was Bob Dylan’s birthday, and I was reminded. Seems like Bale is in a lot of great stuff.

      • Keith, I feel rather stupid. Somehow I missed ‘The Emperor of the Sun’ and did not know Bale was the 12 year old boy in it! Wow! I haven’t seen the Machinist and his physical changes are amazing. I reckon you know all about this, but again, he’s becoming my new favorite actor….

      • Yes! He was the young boy! Don’t feel bad, I haven’t seen all of “The Machinist” either. I don’t remember what happened but something kept me from finishing it. It’s a movie I need to see.

  10. Interesting post. I didn’t have an issue with the way it differed from the other Terminator films. There were some serious issues with T3, so trying something different wasn’t a bad idea.

    My problems are with two things: the pacing and the action scenes. This movie felt really slow and lacked any of the excitement that I felt when the action picked up in the first two movies. Also, the sequences may have giant robots, but they didn’t work for me and were just loud and uninspiring. It’s also a visually generic movie for me. There are few impressive shots, even when we’re seeing the machines. It’s not a total failure and has a good premise, but I wasn’t thrilled by it.

    I like the idea for these posts and look forward to seeing more of them!

    • Hey thanks and I appreciate your take on it. I quite liked the action sequences. I thought the had some pop to them and I liked the gritty look to them. I understand about the pacing. It is quite different but I bought into it mainly because I bought into the characters and enjoyed watching their direction.

      Anyway, I REALLY appreciate you checking it out. It’s a fun little feature mainly because of the responses and conversations with others.

  11. Well, I really enjoyed this movie. First, I’ve always felt THE TERMINATOR series is not about Arnold Sfwergw3i, but the story of the Connor-Reese family. A family wich three members can’t ever be alltogether in any episode. I also liked de addition of a character like Marcus Wright, who is just another victim of Skynet, and the way he faces his fate. I particularly watched this movie the first time knowing nothing about this character, and that made the devealing process so good to me, that it made me watch the movie for a second time to notice some important facts about Marcus before he arrives to the resistance headquartes. That’s cause sometimes it’s better watching a movie without too much info about it. Maybe the weakest point to me is Bale’s performance of John Connor, loosing too much of his former personality in T2 and T3. I know they are at war, but a bit more relaxed personality should have been better. In general, I liked it. I guess it would be a good begining of a newer series that could conclude in how Kyle was sent back to 1984, or with the very end of the war against machines.

    • Good points and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it as well. I really think the criticism towards it was harsh. It’s a much better film than it’s given credit for.

      Thanks for the comments. Really appreciate you stopping by. Visit the site anytime.

  12. Pingback: Movie Review – Terminator Genisys |

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