Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reel Thoughts: Future Shock

Everyone in this part of the galaxy heard Christian Bale’s incredible super-freak-out on the set of the new Terminator sequel, Terminator Salvation. After seeing his work in McG’s action-packed adventure, my reaction is, “Duh, of course he blew a profanity-laden gasket!” The film is so full of fights, violence and warfare, an actor of Bale’s dedication probably couldn’t help but end up acting like a drill sergeant.

He plays John Connor (previously played by Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl), the proclaimed savior of that portion of the human race not yet decimated by rampaging machines. In 2018, Skynet’s machines have turned America into a bombed-out wasteland, but there is a large resistance movement of humans who are constantly trying to find a way to defeat the machines. Terminator Salvation positions itself right into the mythology of the other Terminator films, and until its ridiculous conclusion, it is a worthy successor.

Bale’s Connor knows that he has to rescue Kyle Reese (Star Trek's Anton Yelchin, taking over for Michael Biehn), who will ultimately become John Connor’s father. Aren’t time shifts crazy? Added into the drama is a mysterious guy named Marcus Wright (Aussie hottie Sam Worthington) who is seen getting executed in 2003 during the opening minutes, but who reappears in 2018 with no memory of how he got there. He meets up with Kyle Reese and saves his life along with a mute little girl, and the three go out in search of John Connor.

The action in Terminator Salvation echoes that of recent war films, giving it a timely feeling, especially since the warfare seems so futile. Unfortunately, there are two ending codas that cost the film a lot of its enjoyment. The first one is such fourth-rate medical soap opera plotting, it really should be cut out of any future editions of the film. The second is a voice-over that essentially says, “By the way, although it looks like we ended the story, actually, we didn’t, and there’s a lot more work to be done in the many sequels we hope to make.” It’s too bad, because otherwise, I really enjoyed the way Terminator Salvation incorporated lines, jokes and characters from the previous films.

The performances are great, including Bale, Worthington (although his accent slips in and out, but I guess that’s natural after 15 years of suspended animation) and the improbably-named Moon Bloodgood (which is what I thought Sylvester Stallone named his son) as a kick-ass resistance fighter. If you’re in the mood for an action film and you’ve seen Star Trek, Terminator Salvation is not a bad way to spend a hot summer day.

UPDATE: Terminator Salvation is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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