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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
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Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Christian Bale
Sam Worthington
Anton Yelchin
Linda Hamilton.
Directors
McG.
Screenwriters
David C Wilson.
Running Time
114 minutes

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Terminator Salvation
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Plot
2018. John Connor (Bale) is part of the Resistance waging war on Skynet, which is building the T-800 Terminators he remembers from childhood. But the future he knows is clouded by the arrival of Marcus (Worthington), a stranger haunted by memories of Death Row.


Review
Terminator Salvation
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For 25 years fans have For 25 years fans have waited to see the future war between man and machine hinted at in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Ragtag groups of humans, scratching out dirty, hardscrabble, post-apocalyptic lives as they are engaged in a relentless war with deadly robot endoskeletons: this is the kind of thing that excites 13 year-old boys and the 13 year-old boy living inside every grown-up moviegoer. And while Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines brought the series to the point we’d all been waiting for — Judgment Day was here! Nuclear fire rained down on humanity! Skynet was in control! — it took two hours of rehashing to get there.

Now comes Terminator Salvation. It’s the future war. It’s the years after Judgment Day, when the cities of man have fallen and the machines scour the landscape, killing and harvesting humans. It’s the movie we’ve been waiting for, but it’s also a movie coming in this modern age where franchise follow-ups seem to yield only disappointment. It’s the post-prequel world, and audiences are ready to settle for less — especially when they realise Terminator Salvation comes from McG, the auteur behind the silly Charlie’s Angels films and the soppingly sentimental We Are Marshall. A man who lacks the common decency to have a complete name.

So perhaps the greatest surprise doesn’t come in the form of plot twists but from the fact that the movie is... pretty damn good. Let’s not be foolish — it doesn’t hold a candle to the first two James Cameron films, but it wipes the floor with Terminator 3. As a movie all on its own, not compared to the prior entries, it works very well.

Part of what makes Terminator Salvation work is that it’s unafraid to be its own entity. While the film shoehorns in the usual catchphrases — “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live” are both dutifully trotted out — it eschews the standard sequel architecture of being nothing more than a remake of the previous film. McG’s film boldly moves forward; gone is the standard chase structure of the Terminator franchise, replaced here with men-on-a-mission adventure. Gone is John Connor as a hapless dork reliant on a benevolent robot buddy, replaced by a glowering John Connor played by the best glowerer of his generation, Christian Bale. Gone is the LA of the late 20th/early 21st century, replaced with underground bunkers and robot factory cities.

For a summer blockbuster, Terminator Salvation is bursting with plot and incident. Much of it even makes sense! The film is propulsive, barely stopping for breath.There are exciting chases, suspenseful close calls, edge-of- your-seat battles and adrenaline-charged set-pieces. McG’s movie doesn’t just serve up a monotonous series of humans vs. endoskeleton scenes. There’s an array of cyborgs in action, ranging from snake-like hydrobots to motorcycle Terminators that drive themselves to huge, seemingly steam-powered robots that grab humans by the handful and then pilot harvester ships away. There are hunter-killer ships and ghoulish T-600s — hulking endoskeletons wearing creepy Hallowe’en masks over glowing red eyes. It’s not so much an actioner as we’ve come to understand the term: rather it’s an adventure movie, filled with abyss-defying escapes and daring heroics.

McG has made much of how dark his movie is, and it does touch on issues of humanity and despair, but throughout the pre-release hype he’s undersold just how much fun his movie is. As a director he knows enough to get good actors and step out of their way: Christian Bale does exactly what you’d want Christian Bale to do as a battle-hardened Connor; Sam Worthington, meanwhile, struggles with his American accent as Marcus Wright, the man out of time, but otherwise makes a solid, if stolid, hero. With lead roles in Avatar and Clash Of The Titans to come, Hollywood seems to have decided that Worthington is the Next Big Thing, but while he has the looks and chops of a big-screen hero, he’s perhaps missing some of the warmth and charisma that goes with it. Perhaps there’s time for him to develop it.

Lacking neither warmth nor charisma is Anton Yelchin as the young Kyle Reese. Yelchin is the film’s secret weapon: while he may seem too scrawny, too young and too soft for the role, he’s actually perfect. His Kyle is a young man on the verge, and we can see the hints of Michael Biehn in him. Yelchin, in just a few scenes, goes from a smart but scared kid to a leader of men in desperate times, and he does it without glowering, frowning or growling. You believe every moment of it. Equally good is the gorgeous Moon Bloodgood. Like Yelchin she’s not given enough screentime, but she makes the best of a handful of scenes. Her character has the widest arc and the least time to sell it, but she nails the role of a tough combat pilot whose humanity peeks through.

McG’s other strong suit is the action. Mixing practical effects with CGI, he creates immersive and thrilling moments of danger and fun. From Moto-Terminators giving chase to our heroes to a final fight with a familiar face in the Terminator factory, McG borrows from the styles of his peers to make something that breaks few barriers but works well on a visceral level. Some have worried that the film, which is appealing to a younger crowd with a softer rating, would be a kiddie picture. The truth is that the nature of the action — man against robot — means he can wreak all manner of havoc on the bad guys without needing to shed a drop of blood. No punches are pulled, and the action is satisfyingly loud and explodey.

Terminator Salvation’s biggest flaw is that, just as it’s building
up a head of steam, it ends. Not satisfyingly, not dramatically, and not in a cliffhanger fashion; it just feels like they’ve run out of film and must wrap it all up in four quick minutes. Terminator Salvation is supposed to herald the start of a new trilogy, but the end of this one feels quite finished. Time travel is yet to happen, but the film hasn’t left enough open ends to make a sequel automatically compelling. It seems a strange critique of a film — it’s too standalone! — but this world, which had been marvellously opened in the previous 110 minutes, feels abruptly closed in the final five.


Verdict
McG has sparked a moribund franchise back to life, giving fans the post-apocalyptic action they’ve been craving since they first saw a metal foot crush a human skull two decades ago.


Reviewed by Devin Faraci


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Terminator Salvation
Empire Star Rating

T4 is utter garbage from start to finish

Where to start... Okay - why did they begin and continue the story when Kyle Reece is still a teenager? I found myself frustrated at the fact that it didn't show exactly HOW John Connor sends him back in time, which would've been such a great sequence or moment to watch, akin to the first "Vader Breath" at the end of Star Wars Episode 3. Howcome, at this point, Humanity is supposed to be practically wiped out, and yet there are none of the thousands if not MILLIONS of Human skull... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ManMountainDene2012 at 21:00, 02 January 2012 | Report This Post


Terminator Salvation Review

With storytelling as robotic as the film's iconic villains, Terminator Salvation offers plenty of great effects but lacks the heart of the original films. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 23:11, 13 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Missed Opportunity

This was okay, I give it credit for having some scope and trying somthing different. On the other hand was it too much to ask to keep the look of the future war the same as that est in T 1 and T2? Overly picky I know, but it's my review. Bale makes J.C. a really unlikeable guy, but that's probs just becuase his unlikeablilty as a person was seething through his acting. rthington is a bit meh but then on the other hand you got that dude from Star Trek doing a really good Kyle and the Moon -best ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 18:13, 24 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Missed Opportunity

watched this again the other night, it's good but could have been way better, I also watched Predators the other night too, same verdict on that. What's annoying about these remakes and sequels is the endless nods to the previous movies, I know they're following on and obviously must relate to the story of the past movies and what made them great, but have we got to have the characters in the new ones even saying the same lines as in the originals especially one liners ... More

Posted by kargon at 13:49, 03 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Worthy continuation of the Terminator series

ly watched this on Blu Ray today and... it was very good indeed, which took me completely by suprise.its true!! I did not enjoy this in the cinema, but on subsequent home viewings, especially on HD Blu-Ray, have grown to love this film strangely, exactly the same thing happened to me with Terminator 3 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hampstead bandit at 18:13, 26 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation

Sorry for double post, but i'd also like to add whoever played Kyle Reese was horrible in my opinion ... More

Posted by lopli321 at 03:33, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation

This was an ok movie, but it really differed from the other films. It just seemed so different. It was nice to finally see the war. But once complaint I have about this is of course, no Arny! We just got a crummy CGI facial arny, which just isn't the same. Arnold's portrayal of the T-800 Model 101 has always been a signature ploy of the terminator series, but it seems there going in a new direction, but as far as it seems, it may be for the worse. I guess we will see once they make mo... More

Posted by lopli321 at 03:33, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE:

edit ... More

Posted by grucl at 07:50, 07 December 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

saw T4 (salvation) in the cinema - very disappointing got it on DVD to watch again, as I was disappointed in T3 in the cinema, but actually really got to like the film on subsequent viewings at home unfortunately this did not happen with Salvation I only enjoyed the first 1/3rd of T-4 on the second viewing at home, its a real mess... Bale is rubbish and the biggest problem is no sense of menace / jeopardy - the resistance seem completely over equipped, flying around in A-10 ... More

Posted by hampstead bandit at 21:24, 27 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

I know a lot of people don't like T3, but it might hold certain keys to how the story develops: It is mentioned that Connor and Brewster's children will be important (Brewster is pregnant in TS). It is also mentioned the T3 Arnie had killed John Connor then been been re-programmed to protect him in the past. It seems probable that Connor will drive events towards becoming what he was always told they would be, make himself public enemy number 1 to Skynet, then when it is desperate, on... More

Posted by jobloffski at 13:52, 27 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

double post ... More

Posted by LEEJGM at 11:09, 27 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

Maybe it will work out in some future films that the resistance thinks Conner is inadvertently the cause of everything and therefore they believe that stopping/killing Reese is the only thing that will stop Skynet.  Maybe the Teminators that were sent back were sent by the resistance and The Terminators sent back to protect John were sent by Skynet.  The series has become stupid enough, surely this idea isn't too off the wall... ... More

Posted by LEEJGM at 11:08, 27 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

L: Tech_Noir Kyle Reese is the most important character in the series. gers it alluote] You know, that bit made me think. Reese's journey not only creates John Connor but also Skynet. So wouldn't it be dangerous for Skynet to try and prevent Reese from travelling back in time (if it kills Connor, he can't send Reese back)? If Reese doesn't travel back in time and helps Sarah defeat the T-101 in that factory Skynet may never be built (same as John Connor may never be born). ... More

Posted by grucl at 10:10, 27 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

I actually really enjoyed this on my second viewing on DVD. Maybe not the terminator film id been waiting for, but a good action film none the less.  ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by target at 21:11, 26 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

L: grucl In my eyes Kyle Reese isn't as important to the overall scenario as some might think. If Reese doesn't travel back to father John Connor, John might still be born (looking a bit different I guess). He simply has a different father. That's how things must have unfolded before Reese replaced the original father with himself. p; Reese didn't just knock Sarah up he gave her the inner strength that she passed on to their son. If Joe nobody was John's dad and Sarah never me... More

Posted by Tech_Noir at 12:20, 25 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

The space-time continuum. All bets are off ... More

Posted by CORLEONE at 12:10, 25 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

Er...identify him again, as a way of telling the audience they're aware he's actually arrived and their eyes are right on him? Chance survival stuff, perhaps like Connors (pretty ridiculous) jump into the sea, survival is assured because certain things are predestined? Or...um... Depending on what Skynet knows (maybe there's more time jiggery pokery to be revealed) killing Reese before he gets to skynet would stop his genes being passed on to john, so his survival is pure chance,and s... More

Posted by jobloffski at 11:22, 25 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

Fair point but then why does the probe have to identify Reese again when Marcus already did that?   Skynet’s whole plan with Marcus and Reese depends too much on chance for my taste (like Reese surviving the attack at the gas station or the following chase). It’s just too illogical for an artificial intelligence to come up with. ... More

Posted by grucl at 10:30, 25 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

Doesn't this happen after Kyle has introduced himself to Marcus? If so, no plothole/logic lapse there. ... More

Posted by jobloffski at 10:27, 25 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

Still how Skynet can identify Kyle Reese faceond me... ... More

Posted by grucl at 08:27, 25 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

Still how Skynet can identify Kyle Reese faceond me... ... More

Posted by grucl at 08:26, 25 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

L: grucl L: Sphinx I'm assuming that Skynet has everything on record, including the tapes from asylum  and the police station. I'd say Reece was the main target as Connor is still at a low rank and still inconsequential as many saw him as a false prophet. So for the first film anyway, Kyle Reece was the deal-breaker Reese is just a lure for Connor to come to Skynet. Otherwise Skynet would have just killed Reese on site. Skynet probably just knows Reese's name but not his e... More

Posted by Sphinx at 20:59, 24 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

I watched this for the first time the other night and y'know what? I really enjoyed it.   Maybe ist because the expectation was low after T3 and the slaggings the movie has had but I found it and exciting sci fi yarn. True Bale was wooden and characters seemed to make soem odd decisions. I'm alos still hazy over how Skynet thinks it was controlling things (or why they would put a vunerable heart in a terminator just to simulate a heartbeat) but overall I sat down with beer and pizza a... More

Posted by Sleazy at 12:51, 24 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

I watched this for the first time the other night and y'know what? I really enjoyed it.   Maybe ist because the expectation was low after T3 and the slaggings the movie has had but I found it and exciting sci fi yarn. True Bale was wooden and characters seemed to make soem odd decisions. I'm alos still hazy over how Skynet thinks it was controlling things (or why they would put a vunerable heart in a terminator just to simulate a heartbeat) but overall I sat down with beer and pizza a... More

Posted by Sleazy at 12:48, 24 November 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Terminator Salvation question...

L: Sphinx I'm assuming that Skynet has everything on record, including the tapes from asylum  and the police station. I'd say Reece was the main target as Connor is still at a low rank and still inconsequential as many saw him as a false prophet. So for the first film anyway, Kyle Reece was the deal-breaker Reese is just a lure for Connor to come to Skynet. Otherwise Skynet would have just killed Reese on site. Skynet probably just knows Reese's name but not his exact role. It ... More

Posted by grucl at 12:24, 24 November 2009 | Report This Post


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