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Terminator: Salvation (2009)

“If you are listening to this, you are the resistance” — Josh Reviews Terminator: Salvation

Bottom line on Terminator: Salvation — It’s not as good a Terminator movie as I would have hoped for, but don’t believe the reviews, it’s not nearly the catastrophe you’ve been lead to believe it is.

Ever since James Cameron’s original masterpiece The Terminator (made in 1984, can you believe it??), we’ve been teased by glimpses of the post-Judgment Day future war against the machines.  With Terminator: Salvation, we’re finally being given a movie that is set entirely (except for a short prologue) in this post-apocalyptic world.  

The year is 2018, and things are looking pretty grim for mankind.  Most surviving humans are just focused on their own survival, but several small, rag-tag groups of resistance fighters are attempting to fight back against the machines.  John Connor is amongst them, but while his mother’s messages to him have provided him with valuable guidance, this John Connor has not yet become the leader of the resistance (nor has he sent his buddy Kyle Reese back in time).  Reese, meanwhile, is not yet a member of the resistance — he’s just a tough teenager trying to survive.  While Connor and Reese get a lot of screen-time, surprisingly, neither one of them is really the main character of the film.  That would be death-row inmate Marcus Wright, who signs his body over to Cyberdyne systems in 2003 and then wakes up in 2018 in a Skynet lab.

The way I see it, the film has three major weaknesses:

1.  Clearly this is a film written with the intention of focusing on a new character (Marcus Wright).  But when Christian Bale signed on to play John Connor, his role was significantly expanded.  The result is a movie that is split rather unevenly between those two characters and their storylines.  The film aspires to be an epic war-movie, telling multiple interweaving stories… but instead winds up losing the audience’s focus by not giving us a clear character in whose story we can emotionally invest.  Similarly to the way I can watch J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie and see clearly the way the character of old Spock was shoe-horned into the movie (Imagine that movie’s plot without old Spock — it would be NO DIFFERENT.   Kirk gets ejected onto the ice planet, finds Scotty, and utilizes Scotty’s engineering expertise to get himself beamed back to the Enterprise), I can clearly see how this film was not originally intended to focus on John Connor.  That explains why, despite Connor being in a lot of action scenes, he doesn’t have any real story-line in the film.  This isn’t a movie about his rise to the leadership of the rebellion, or about him running away from or facing … [continued]