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Should I Watch..? 'Terminator Salvation' (2009)

Updated on April 6, 2022
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin has been reviewing films online since 2004 and has seen way more action movies than he should probably admit to!

Poster for the film
Poster for the film | Source

What's the big f***ing deal?

Terminator Salvation is a sci-fi action film released in 2009 and is the fourth instalment of the Terminator franchise. Directed by McG, the film is set some fifteen years after the events of Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines and sees John Conner fighting back against the machines and Skynet in the aftermath of the nuclear holocaust known as Judgment Day. The movie stars Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film is probably best remembered as the one where Bale found himself exploding in rage at a member of the film's crew, the foul-mouthed recording of which was leaked online. Beset by legal issues over ownership of the characters, the film was eventually released to a mixed reception from critics. Nevertheless, the film earned more than $371 million worldwide but the series was eventually rebooted in 2015 with the release of Terminator Genisys.


2 stars for Terminator Salvation

What's it all about, s***head?

Back in 2003, Cyberdyne Systems employee Dr Serena Kogan manages to convince Death Row inmate Marcus Wright to sign his body over to the company for medical research following his execution. Not long after, Cyberdyne's Skynet program is activated and becomes self-aware, annihilating mankind after it perceives us as a threat. As machine threaten the very future of humanity, the last survivors form a resistance movement and among them is John Conner, a figure that the machines rightfully fear.

In 2018, Conner is among a number of resistance fighters who uncover a frequency that could initiate a shutdown of all of Skynet's murderous Terminator robots. Together with General Ashdown, the resistance hierarchy decide to launch a full-scale assault on Skynet itself in an attempt to win the war. But Conner discovers that Kyle Reese, his future father sent back in time in the first film, is being captive although he is the only one who knows the significance of Reese's role. His only hope of rescue lies with working alongside Wright, who is unaware of what exactly Cyberdyne did to him...


What's so f*%£ing good?

Say what you wan about McG as a director but the man knows how to put on a show. While the series has rarely shirked from explosive action sequences, Terminator Salvation is positively bloated by comparison. As the numerous Terminators battle the cast amid the ruined remains of society, it feels more like a war film than anything else - albeit with added technology and sci-fi dialogue. There are some interesting new ideas as well - Skynet's armies aren't limited to the familiar metal exoskeleton with glowing red eyes. Action junkies will get a real kick out of this.

The movie is also packed with references to the earlier movies, both in soundbites and certain action scenes such as the motorcycle chase eerily reminiscent of John being chased by a truck on his bike in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing events continuing in much the same vein as before - John's knowledge of the future gives the film an added edge as opposed to your standard techno-thriller. It's certainly an impressive film to watch because every cent of the $200 million budget is on screen.

When he stops swearing, Bale is actually a fairly bland action hero - Arnie is sorely missing
When he stops swearing, Bale is actually a fairly bland action hero - Arnie is sorely missing | Source

Fun Facts

  • McG visited James Cameron in New Zealand where he was filming Avatar in order to better understand the setting. Not only did Cameron recommend art director Martin Laing to McG to work as a production designed but also recommended Worthington for the role of Marcus.
  • Terry Crews was cast as Captain Jericho, the brother of Barnes, but his scenes were all cut from the film. However, he is visible as a dead body in the aftermath of a battle.
  • Bale later admitted after the film's release that he shared many fans' opinion that McG was the wrong person to take over the franchise. In 2014, he claimed that McG "blew it" and has vowed never to work with him again.

What's a load of s%$&?

As pretty as the visuals may be, they cannot disguise the fact that the film is as hollow and meaningless as an air hostess's smile. Bale is one of a number of actors woefully miscast in the film which requires more of an action man than a man of Bale's considerable dramatic talents. It's like hiring someone like Anthony Hopkins to play RoboCop. The movie's relentless pace means that the myriad storylines running throughout the movie get confused and lost - is the film about John Conner's mission or Marcus Wright's odyssey? The dual narrative also means that you only invest half your attention on the narrative and remember, this is a Terminator movie so time-travelling nonsense is the order of the day.

So if the film is about nothing but action, why didn't McG put more effort into making the action cohesive? Take the aforementioned motorcycle chase (it's a futuristic vehicle but it's based on two wheels so there) which is so convoluted and illogical, it reminded me of the sort of car chases you used to have as a kid with impossible stunts and a ridiculous amount of explosions. Yes, it's very pretty but it makes about as much sense as a toddler on Twitter. It's such a shame because you can almost see the potential here. I maintain that the setting could accommodate another movie because what story is here doesn't go anywhere and the characters are interesting enough to warrant another look. Just don't let McG anywhere near the franchise again because he has turned one of the better sci-fi franchises into a PG-rated pop video that makes little sense.

Also miscast is Yelchin who does well but never convinces as Reese.
Also miscast is Yelchin who does well but never convinces as Reese. | Source

Should I watch the f*^£er?

In light of the film's overall quality, it's not surprising that Bale lost the plot in the way he did. Devoid of logic and sense, the film settles for being a mindless sequence of action sequences that impress on a visual level but little more. Terminator Salvation is also hampered by miscast performers, a director in awe of the source material instead of in charge of it and an uninspiring story. Hopefully, McG won't be back after this.

Great For: adrenaline junkies, people who don't care for plot, watching money burn on screen

Not So Great For: the Terminator franchise and fans of it, the cast and crew involved, McG's less-than-stellar reputation

So what else should I watch, you p@%?+?

Chances are, you've already sussed which films in the series you need to stick with. The Terminator is a surprisingly deep experience, helped by Cameron's inventive storyline and Arnold Schwarzenegger's iconic portrayal as the cyborg assassin sent back in time to murder the unwitting Sarah Conner. Terminator 2: Judgment Day takes things up a notch by reintroducing Schwarzenegger's character as a good guy trying to prevent another time-travelling cyborg (Robert Patrick's equally memorable shape-shifting T-1000) from completing its mission. With cutting-edge effects that still look good today, thrilling action sequences and another fabulous storyline (that actually wraps thing up nicely), it is arguably the best sci-fi shooter ever made. Only The Matrix has come close.

The problem is, a lack of decent story has never prevented Hollywood from cashing in on a good series and this is why things go pear-shaped for the saga. Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines was a disappointing effort that deviated too much from the formula by writing out Sarah Conner altogether and having John Conner played as a weedy loser played by Nick Stahl. Not even Arnie's appearance could rescue this and the same could be said for the equally squalid Terminator Genisys which, stupid title aside, wasn't exactly that memorable either. The future of the series is uncertain but I have no doubt that someone somewhere will attempt a revival. But they should be cautious - such treatment of the aforementioned RoboCop remake didn't work out too well.

Main Cast

Christian Bale
John Conner
Sam Worthington
Marcus Wright
Anton Yelchin
Kyle Reese
Moon Bloodgood
Blair Williams
Bryce Dallas Howard
Kate Conner
Helena Bonham Carter
Dr Serena Kogan
Michael Ironside
General Ashdown

Technical Info

John Brancato & Michael Ferris *
Running Time
115 minutes
Release Date (UK)
3rd June, 2009
Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

* based on characters created by James Cameron & Gale Anne Hurd

© 2017 Benjamin Cox


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