Set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

3.5
Machines ultra-cool, humans not so cool in McG’s noisy actioner.

Hunter-Killers, Aerosats, T-600s, Harvester, Hydrobots, Ducati-styled Moto-Terminators"¦ the fourth edition of the Terminator franchise boasts some of the coolest and most lethal machines you could imagine.

It’s just a shame the same care and ingenuity were not lavished on the humans and the half-man/half-machine and their occasionally dopey dialogue in McG’s apocalyptic saga. Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins offers plenty of brilliant high-tech inventions and some spectacular action sequences, but the momentum sags almost every time the cameras focus on the one-dimensional human characters. As hardware-heavy movies go, T-4 is visually impressive, thunderously loud and only intermittently exciting.

The promising opening introduces death row prisoner Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) as he gets an 11th-hour visit from scientist Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter), sporting the gaunt look and shaved head of someone with terminal cancer. She wants to turn him into a cyborg. He agrees, in exchange for a kiss. "So that's what death tastes like," he says in one of the film’s few memorable lines.

Fast forward to 2018, post-Judgment Day, when the evil artificial intelligence network Skynet unleashed nuclear annihilation upon the world, and now dispatches all manner of terrifying machines to crush the remaining human resistance. Here, John Connor (Christian Bale), its future leader, is an insubordinate lieutenant whose physician wife Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard) is pregnant for no apparent reason: presumably that will be revealed in the next instalment.

Marcus, who has little or no memory his past, teams up with geeky teenager Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and Star (Jadagrace Berry), a mute/cute kid who can sense a Terminator before it appears. In a stunning sequence, they’re attacked by a Harvester, Kyle and Star are captured and Marcus escapes. He saves Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), a jet pilot whose fighter crashed, and they make it to the Resistance base. After a tense confrontation, Connor learns from Marcus that Kyle has been captured and the duo set off to rescue him. As for the outcome, there’s no great suspense because as every Terminator fan knows, Reese must survive so he can be sent back in time to impregnate Sarah Connor so she’ll give birth to John Connor, who will save us all.

Stepping into the role played in the earlier films by Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl, Bale employs his Batman-like growl, glowering and barking out his banal dialogue. Worthington possesses a limited range of expressions and emotions, which means Marcus doesn’t convey much beyond primal rage, confusion when he can’t figure out how he evolved into a cyborg, and a flicker of humanity when he realizes his destiny. Sam got the gig after winning the lead role in James Cameron’s Avatar, so Jim must have seen some qualities in the Aussie that haven’t been evident in his career thus far.

Moon Bloodgood relishes playing the kind of tough female character that’s an integral part of the Terminator tradition started by Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor (her voice is heard in this movie), but Bryce Dallas Howard isn’t given a lot to do and Common as Connor's second-in-command Barnes doesn’t advance the story.

The desolate, Mad Max-ish landscape and the array of machines in combat are superbly photographed by Shane Hurlbut, who was the target of Bale’s widely publicised on-set rant.
The previous edition, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, grossed a relatively disappointing $150 million in 2003 in the US (although it did far better internationally, making $283 million), so I’m not sure why the same writers, John Brancato and Michael Ferris, were commissioned again. Trotting out phrases from previous films like 'I’ll be back" and 'Come with me if you want to live" isn’t all that clever.

Orchestrating all this mayhem, McG (real name Joseph McGinty Nichol) is endeavouring to re-boot the franchise as J.J. Abrams did so effectively with Star Trek: Terminator Salvation is supposed to herald the start of a new trilogy. In light of its less than stellar US$65 million five-day debut in the US, where it was beaten by the Night at the Museum sequel, I’m not sure we can conclude that’s mission accomplished.

Details

M
1 hour 54 min
Mon, 08/30/2010 - 11