Kate Connor: What should I tell your men when they find out you're gone?
John Connor: I'll be back.
At a glance:
The fourth Terminator installment is packed with loud battle scenes and imaginative special effects, but director McG and the usually brilliant Christian Bale can’t deliver the required emotional depth
Our review (with spoilers):
In the Terminator-infested future, two of the most important people in the history of the saga intersect: the almost terminally indestructible resistance leader, John Connor (Christian Bale), and a teenage boy named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), fighting almost on his own . It matters little that Connor is a man and Reese a boy; through the miracle of time travel, Reese is Connor’s father. Separate but linked by Connor’s radio broadcasts, they battle against a varied array of SkyNet-brand threats: motorcycles, jets, and the usual army of walking skeleton machines. Into the mix is a new element, a machine who thinks he is a man, with the strength of a Terminator but the conscience of someone who has made mistakes and wants to make things right.
Salvation is loud, exciting, and sometimes dumbed down, but not with that charming Bruckheimer self-awareness of its dumbness (a la National Treasure). Bale is a wonderful actor, but he’s often rendered ineffective by clichéd dialogue. There are parts of Salvation that work smoothly. I was intrigued by the concept of the ‘human’ terminator becoming aware of who he is (although I’m sure a lot of people would cringe at a terminator turned into someone with a conscience, just as many people felt that later Trek franchises humanized – and weakened- the Borg). There’s a great ‘cameo’ by an almost nude and fully terrifying Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike (made with a scan of Arnie’s face CGI’d onto another actor). Other bits of Salvation don’t work quite so well. There are some scenes, such as Marcus’s computer interaction in SkyNet headquarters that are almost yawn inducing. And the terminators and their various and sundry forms (planes, motorcycles, etc.) are creative, but they are also not as terrifying as they were before. Sure, they are relentless and everywhere, but they also seem a lot easier to defeat. Finally, SkyNet hasn’t learned anything from all those James Bond films. They still make the Villain’s Mistake: their spokesperson (Helena Bonham Carter, sounding like an arrogant schoolmarm) tells their entire evil plan to Marcus just in time for him to attempt to foil it. If only they had continued the façade a little longer! And of course, the ultra machines know how to pursue in slow, measured steps (rather than, say, running and attacking quickly), just as all monsters have done since the days of Frankenstein. This gives the victims time to drop various molten liquids and shoot frozen hydrogen on them: very obliging!
Rating: of 2.5 of 4
Other reviewers said:
"It's easy to see why Bale was attracted to this role, but this often fascinating actor gives one of his least interesting performances."
- Jake Wilson (The Age [Australia]
"Unfortunately, whenever this film attempts to depict anything resembling the motivational keys of emotional storytelling -- love, revenge, anger -- it feels like McG is wishing he could be blowing stuff up."
- Jason Di Rosso (MovieTime, ABC Radio National)