Terminator Salvation - Blu-ray Review

'It's frustrating how comfortable McG seems to be making a film that does so little for such a long time.'.

On paper, Terminator Salvation seems like everything fans of the franchise could want from a series reboot. After being teased with the post-Judgment Day world in the opening scenes of the previous films, this was to be our chance to see James Cameron's sci-fi dystopia fully realised as the first chapter of a new Terminator story. The considerable potential Salvation initially appeared to hold makes it the bitterest of pills to swallow that the film ends up as such a disappointment.

In fairness, one of Salvation's relative strengths is in its creation of the Skynet-controlled near future. Director McG never attempts to directly replicate what Cameron first showed us in The Terminator, but manages to generate a similar tech-infused bleakness to many of the film's scenes, particularly during the first hour. The prominent depiction of T-600s - a predecessor to Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 first described in the original film - feels particularly authentic. The inclusion too of previously unseen Skynet technology, such as the motorcycle-inspired Moto-Terminators and gargantuan Harvester, also fits both the film's aesthetic and the franchise's mythology well.

Unfortunately, McG struggles from this point onwards, essentially finding very little to do with his satisfying backdrop. Salvation initiates several narrative threads in the opening act, all of which hold at least some promise, only to go almost nowhere with any of them for at least the first hour of the film. Resurrected death row convict Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) wakes up post-Judgment Day, declares he wants answers, then does very little to actually find them. John Connor (Christian Bale) learns that Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) - who he knows will become his father - is at the top of Skynet's hit list, only to do nothing about it for the majority of the running time. A sub-plot concerning the discovery of a hidden frequency that seemingly shuts down Skynet technology goes nowhere fast. It's frustrating how comfortable McG seems to be making a film that does so little for such a long time.

Whilst previous Terminator films at times played with your suspension of disbelief and used occasional retcons to help the narrative along, the ideas on show within Salvation are at times insultingly illogical. You shouldn't have to ask why Skynet builds its technology with easily accessible USB ports, or why it has a factory patently designed for use by humans where Terminators are built by computers; but the film forces you into that uncomfortable and frustrating position in a way that previous instalments deftly avoided.

Even the big name cast can't help McG rescue his film. Bale could have made the central role his own, but John Connor has sadly never been more vanilla than he is here. In the middle of his tenure as Batman whilst making Salvation, it's frustrating how Bale too often makes John sound and feel like a shouty half-hearted rehash of his superhero role. Yelchin is relatively more impressive as Kyle Reese, but is limited by both the script and his lack of screen time. Worthington starts well as Marcus, but soon devolves into a generic and forgettable presence, his character never feeling as though he has any purpose or significance within the Terminator universe. Bryce Dallas Howard as John's wife Kate does a lot of wide-eyed gazing and not much else.

McG's entry into the franchise gets some points for its pleasing interpretation of the world after Judgment Day, as well as delivering a few decent action set pieces in its first half. Even so, Terminator Salvation is ultimately a massive let down and the least successful entry in the series. Fate conspired to scupper plans for this film to be the first in a new trilogy, but with the benefit of hindsight we may in fact have been saved from another two films' worth of muddled mediocrity.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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