To get one thing straight, I adore the James Cameron “Terminator” films. I have written a full essay on Sarah Connor’s femininity for class (if you’re interested in reading it, leave your email in the comments) and will gladly stop on whatever cable channel happens to exhibit the morphing metal men on any given weekend afternoon.
Yet as different directors, writers, and creative teams have dragged out the franchise, the movies lose what makes them special. Sure, the time travel proves fascinating, but the human characters grappling with fate, agency, and responsibility set the series apart. Fixating on the minutiae of revisionist timelines does little to capture the appeal of the original two films; this proves the primary sin of McG’s “Terminator Salvation.”
John Brancato and Michael Ferris’ script toys around with two pivotal characters in the mythology of the series: resistance leader John Connor (Christian Bale) and his father from the future, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). John must continue to wage the war against the sentient Skynet system that aims to destroy humanity, although he must also ensure that Reese survives until the point when he goes back in time to inseminate Sarah Connor. The mysterious arrival of cyborg Marcus (Sam Worthington) in the presence of Reese throws a wrinkle in everything and essentially constitutes the entire conflict of “Terminator Salvation.”
If you think this sounds like a movie made for only the most hardcore fanboys, you are correct. Seemingly, the only aim of “Terminator Salvation” is to add even more wrinkles and potential plot holes to the scrambled clock of the series’ narrative. If Cameron’s films were mind-involving blockbusters, McG’s movie is just a head-scratcher that cannot even fall back on visuals or performances to save it. Bale and Worthington, the films dueling leads, each turn in work about as dull as McG’s color palette of muted gray. They grow the franchise longer, sure, but not deeper or better. C /