Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

Before I proceed with the writing on the latest installment of Terminator saga, I have a not-so-proud confession to make, I love T3: Rise of the Machines, love it to the extent of watching it in cinema twice and a few times at home since then. Ahh, I know, there goes my credibility, down the drain. But I really felt the critically panned T3 is underrated despite some obvious flaws. Do not forget it has the best ending among the series. A really downbeat ending and yet at the same time I felt like punching the air screaming: Yeah! Let’s the real fight between man and machines begin, bring it on! So, here we are, at the post-Judgment Day, the bleak future glimpses in throughout the previous three terminator movies. Those haunting images of swarming cyborgs blasting their pulse rifle, from the above horizon the ready-to-pounce Hunter Killer scanning for any moving target, the merciless red eyes endoskeleton looks right at your face.

Before I watch this, I sensibly told myself it will be impossible to match the greatness of T2, arguably the pinnacle of James Cameron’s movie making. T2 is a classic movie in every possible way. In this forth installment, the familiar prospects are gone, Mr Governor of California only lending his face as T-800 in a 5 seconds cameo scene, and it’s hard to imagine a terminator movie without him. Along with the Connors clan, he is the most essential character. Linda Hamilton’s voice appears as audio recorder owned by his son. In music score, the always my favourite Danny Elfman replaced Brad Fiedel to come up with some unmemorable one. To me, it’s definitely a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” scenario, it’s pointless to compose a new score, unless you are able to top the Brad’s iconic metal thumping score, which I think not.

The tale of Terminator Salvation begin in pre-Judgment Day i.e. year 2003 where a death row inmate, Marcus Wright donate his body to a organization by the name of Cyberdyne System before his execution. Move forward to year 2018, the Resistance group consists of the nuclear holocaust survivor is still at war with the self-aware A.I. system, Skynet. The now adult John Connor is a high rank soldier but not the leader of the Resistance yet. Meanwhile Marcus Wright, wake up confused, find out he is facing hell on earth. Late he teams up with Kyle Reese, the future dad of John Connor (or is it in the past?) to meet up with John Connor. Unexpectedly, Kyle and other civilians are captured by Skynet. John needs to save his dad a without further delay as the Resistance intercepted Skynet’s message reveals Kyle Reese is on Skynet no.1 hit list. Marcus appears to be John’s only hope but can he trust Marcus or does Marcus have his own agenda? Well, anyone who watches the movie trailer will know Marcus is indeed a one-of-a-kind hybrid terminator (a terminator with vital organs like human brain) designed to infiltrate Resistance camp. He was programmed not to aware he is a machine.

Director Joseph McGinty Nichol AKA McG and production designer Martin Laing are given a daunting task to create a hellish apocalyptic future. Impressively, they created a desaturated landscapes and settings. Several new Terminators appear such as the huge 50-feet tall robot-Harvester, the clunky T-600, T-700, Moto-terminator who looks like a Ducati bike, eel-like Hydrobots who roam in the rivers. Audience who look for spectacular action set pieces will not be disappointed because it was nicely orchestrated and never quite let go. Especially in the pivotal vehicles chasing scenes involving the huge Harvester pursuing Marcus et al on the trucker, follow by the deployment of slick moto-terminator, shortly Aerial Hunter Killer and Resistance’s A-10 Jet join in the fray in this breathtaking scenes.

The intense, growling Christian Bale left his batman cape to become the messiah John Connor. Mr Bale sleepwalk through playing as John, because the role is tailored for him. John is a peripheral character who cross path with Marcus and Kyle, who will leave an influence of how will he become a great Resistance leader. Sam Worthington, the Aussie newcomer did a good job in portraying Marcus Wright. One standout scene shows when Marcus tries to sneak in to Skynet base, he accidentally bump into one of the cyborgs, to his relief, the machine accepted Marcus as one of its own after scanning him. The expression of Marcus’s ease of distress and acceptance of his fate as a cyborg is wonderfully pan out. Skynet may have possessed Marcus’ body but they underestimate the heart and soul of his. Kyle Reese, the father to the human saviour. I cannot held my delight when I saw a young Michael Biehn dead-ringer, The rising star Anton Yelchin. He definitely won my heart as the scruffy, vulnerable & courageous Kyle.

I am willing to bet that during the time the novice James Cameron making T1, he never envisage that he is going to expand his Terminator universe as depicted in numerous flashback sequences by Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) into full-fledged movie as per se. I am not ridiculing James Cameron, in fact I am a huge fan of T2 (it’s in my top 10 favourite). Some of the nick pick in T4 I think, is the rating of PG-13 (in US) may have compromise the true violence nature of the movie, for Pete’s sake, it’s a movie about robots and men killing each other in a full scale war! OK, here is the verdict, T1 and T2 is basically untouchable, so that left us with T3, and Terminator Salvation is marginally better than it. T3 is almost a rehash of T2 but minus its moody, great pacing script. Now for argument sake, to show glimpses of the future is much different compare to creating the whole shebang, therefore credit to McG for expanding the Terminator universe. T4 is basically the start of a new trilogy, the beginning of Skynet’s demise. If T4 meant to pave way for future installment, then there are in great start in terms of casting and production design. Just bear in mind: Terminator Salvation is a pure action movie where character development and plot-driven script is relegated to secondary aspect.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List

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