Terminator: Salvation (2009)

Terminator: SalvationReviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin

Directed by McG

Terminator: Damnation might have been a more suitable title for the latest in this franchise, which has somehow gone from action movie benchmark to soulless corporate bitch in the last few years. While Terminator, T2 and even the now-defunct “Sarah Connor Chronicles” were propelled by ideas and characters, Salvation feels like a generic summer movie cooked up for FX reels and marketing departments. A film about the future war was enough to excite every Terminator fan, but why did it have to come from McG, a director whose own name epitomizes the corporate mediocrity of this once-great series?

Christian Bale plays John Connor – prophetic leader of the human Resistance – who gets his own action sequence in the beginning before quickly being regulated to a minor player for most of the film. We’ve spent several movies and a television show hearing how important this character is and he’s literally relegated to a background character while the rest of the movie follows around new guy Marcus (Sam Worthington), a death row convict who donated his body to science only to wake up in the future ruled by machines. Marcus hooks up with Kyle Reese (Connor’s future time-traveling pop) and a mute kid, and most of the film is spent following them through endless action sequences as they try to make it to the Resistance.

Terminator: SalvationBale is one of this generation’s best actors, but his performance as Connor is the most one-note of his career. He has absolutely nothing to do other than scream bad one-liners at the top of his lungs (no wonder he blew up on set) while Worthington and the rest of the cast try hard to look macho for the camera. You can’t blame the cast, though, since they’re coming from a workmanlike director and an absolutely terrible screenplay (that was written and re-written on the fly by over a dozen names). Despite a few nods and inventive cameos, you’ll have to keep reminding yourself that you’re actually watching a Terminator film.

Not only does this future look nothing like the previous films, there are several new Terminators that look and act as if they stumbled out of a Saturday morning Robo-Tech cartoon. We get giant harvester machines that are nothing more than Transformers clones as well as some ridiculous motorcycle machines (dubbed Moto-Terminators) that ride around and don’t do much of anything. There was a time when we really feared these iconic antagonists … now they just feel designed to sell Happy Meal toys.

And since when did Terminators stop terminating? True to its PG-13 rating, Salvation feels neutered and marketed for teens, ditching the dark survivalist feel of Cameron’s future for a more family-friendly apocalypse. This time the machines rarely kill anyone and seem more concerned with capturing humans, putting them in cages, and shuffling them through long lines in endless warehouses. When their master plan involves kidnapping Kyle Reese to lure out John Connor, instead of simply killing him to prevent all that time travel stuff from happening, you can’t help but wonder why the machines were smart enough to become self-aware.

The only things McG gets right are the action sequences, which is probably what landed him the gig. If you watched this franchise to get a kick out of stunts and vehicular mayhem and never cared once about things like plot and characters, then you’ll probably find plenty to love about Salvation. Virtually the entire movie is a string of action set-pieces with plenty of impressive razzle dazzle, but since none of it carries any weight and there are no stakes to anything, it’s hard to care about what is unfolding.

Overall, watching Terminator Salvation is like watching Brett Ratner take over the X-Men franchise. No matter how much it tries to respect the source material, we’re left with a flashy plotless imitation with familiar characters reduced to … well, robots.

2 1/2 out of 5

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Steve Barton

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  • Massacher

    what a terrible movie. so many holes in the story, no character development, its a waste for even being made.
    the only decent thing was the Terminators themselves. McG is a terrible director, even worse than Uwe Boll.

  • Daniel

    I enjoyed this in the same way I enjoyed Live Free or Die Hard. It is nothing like the originals, but as its own movie, it is a fun watch. It was full of flaws, but I had too much fun to let those bug me during the film. I think it deserves at least a 3 knife rating.

  • JoeDarkfall

    I really hate FANBOYS (and not the Star Wars Fanboys movie).

    If there’s one thing that fans of film franchises should have learned by now is that to go into a viewing with low expectations. Get over the “they owe us this or that” mantality. Movie studios aren’t in buisness to give us what we want. They entice us with what we think we want or trick us with really cool trailers to make us think we’re gonna get what we personally want. But in the end it’s all about making a buck.

    With that said, I went in with 0% expectations and enjoyed it as a romp through a nuclear aftermath. It didn’t make me rech like T-3 did.

    My biggest problem with the movie was that I read the prequel novel “Terminator: From the Ashes.” That novel is far superior to the “Salvation” script. They should have shot that one….then salvation.

    I also think this new set of Terminator movies should focus on Kyle more than on Connor. Kind of like Star Wars 4-6 was about Luke and 1-3 was about Anakin. Terminator 1-3 was about Sarah and John….giving Kyle 4-6 would have been so much better. Or will be, who knows what they’ll do after this.

    So for fans who want a meaningfull message concerning Man vs Machine….I suggest you go get all 4 seasons of Battlestar Galactica.

    And yes, thus far Star Trek IS the best summer movie this year. maybe Land of the Lost or G.I. Joe will give it a run for it’s money.;>

    • Massacher

      if they don’t give us what we want, then guess what, we will stop going to see them and they will lose a very large portion of bucks.

      they are shooting themselves in the foot. i will stop there as i don’t want to turn this into a flame post.

      and yes i am a fanboy, which is why it angers me so much that this movie is so bad.

  • Didn’t See It Coming

    First of all, just because movie making is hard, that disqualifies this movie from being disliked by a reviewer? By that “logic” every shitty movie should get good reviews just because people worked hard on it. Uhm…no.

  • Avid Fan

    Fun review, thanks.
    I do have to say, I’m not a huge Terminator fan and have been surprised that it’s made it as far as it has. There is nothing deep about these films (they did star Arnold, not the deepest of character actors, especially in these films), they really are just a vehicle for action and destruction, to me anyways. I’ve always felt the terminators were given huge disadvantages for no reason. They should be able to mow down anything, and yet they continually get beat down by doughy humans and sequels continue to see them exist and fail. Perhaps the studios involved with the Sarah Conner chronicles got to premier this and decided the movie wasn’t going to bring any new viewers to the channel.

  • Enraged_Otter

    You know for a studio flick I enjoyed it for what it was. It was a fun little enjoyable ride. seriously how can anyone ever expect a good movie that is being completely put out by a studio nowadays? even if a studio movie gets a great director or an awesome concept the big brass always manage to neuter it. By watching this movie you can clearly see this wasn’t the story that was meant to be told and what was told was simply catering to the egos of the various people involved. the reason John Conner didn’t have more importance was b/c he wasn’t supposed to be the central protagonist of this new series that’s evident. yes the ending was forced Conners was clearly supposed to die and become a terminator as McG originally said.

    but you know what it’s a studio film so they sell this stuff to the mindless American masses and not the fans. so for what it was I enjoyed it for the pretty colors and explosions. Hopefully Fox will know what they have in Rob Rodriguez and give him free reign on predator or maybe he’ll have the balls and enough pull to do what he wants but i’m not holding my breath

  • MichaelRAllen

    This is sad to read, but similar to other reviews I have seen. “Terminator: Salvation,” equals mediocre. That is great *sarcasm* and I was looking forward to this one. At least “Star Trek…,” was worth a watch despite the pg-13.

  • Nomad

    I liked it! It could have used another half hour to flesh out characters a bit more and I suspect more than that was cut from the final product, but it was a damn good time.

  • Rorschach


    Going by this AND RT’s piss poor ratings of this film…think I’ll save my money, thank you much. Generally, I don’t let just one review or critic sway me…but six or seven now…that’s a different story. THAT tells me something is badly wrong with this flick.

    But it will still make money, I think, in the long run. Sad to hear Kasch’s words, though…I had hoped with Bale onboard, this would be a worthy entry into the franchise. Guess I’ll go back to pretending that only the first two exist.

  • PelusaMG

    What a depressing review. I’m not talking about the quality of the review, but the fact that I was really, really hoping this film was going to be a step up from the “Last Action Hero” nature of T3, to something more intelligent and thought-provoking along the lines of T2. Yet it seems my biggest fears have been realised, and mainly due to the involvement of McG. Oh well, I’ll still go and see this film, but with expectations well and truly lowered… *sigh*

  • Grave-Danger

    I didn’t expect this to be a controversial review. Are people really surprised that the 4th Terminator movie is a dud? Too bad Christian Bale was so underused. You’d expect that John Connor would be important for a Terminator movie.

  • Styling Shatner

    Am I to presume that Kane86 is somehow involved with the production of this movie? I otherwise don’t know why he’d flip out to this degree over a movie that Andrew rated as “average” and then form some sort of personal grudge against Kasch.

    As for this movie, I was real turned off by T3 and how it was a pale shadow of the first two Terminators. I know, it’s a tough act to follow but T3 didn’t do it for me. I don’t really blame Mostow but instead blame (surprise) the script and the studio. As Salvation looks to be more of the same I’ll wait until video, if I even see it at all.

  • vorodex999

    My friends and I got a chance to see this at about 2 am last night and I have to admit. Its not the greatest. Its nowhere close to being as good as Terminator 1 and T2, I would say its better than T3. Its fun The special effects are fantastic and the action is well done. I wanted a bit more though, more story, I wanted to feel danger for John Conner but it plays it safe. I welcome more films just give it that edge like we had with T1 and T2. I mean when those films were made you couldnt have imagined the people who died in those films to to die ( I’m pointing at Arnold in T2..How many of you as kids or teenagers did not want him to die)? Today its almost telegraphed to who will die or not and the audience doesn’t recieve that shock (except for The Mist). Its a fun film people and its a cool sci-fi film. Just dont go in expecting anything like the first two terminator films.

  • fceurich39

    i heard the Blu-ray release is supposed to be 30 minutes longer and be alot more violent like the previus terminator films

  • BoggyCreekBeast

    Won’t bother with this one, at least until the Blu Ray release. I’d rather be out on my deck grillin’ this weekend anyway.

  • Kane86

    I would love to see you try and write screenplay thats better. Because really I think your full of (PG-13).

    Sorry can’t say it I am trying to keep my cool from losing it on you.

    • The Buz

      Dude I know. I hate all of this guys reviews because he always gets so wordy and like goes into the deeper meanings and shit. What do you keep a dictionary next to your computer ANDREW?! I don’t give a fuck about all the metaphors and shit I just want to know if the movie is good or not!

      “A film about the future war was enough to excite every Terminator fan, but why did it have to come from McG, a director whose own name epitomizes the corporate mediocrity of this once-great series?”

      What does epitomize even mean!? I mean come on. What a douche.

      Besides, he always gives really good reviews to like really bad movies (TCM The Beginning). I’m sure the producers gave him a heavy bag of money to write that! I think he’s a corporate shrill actually for Asia, because he always gives that shit good reviews, when we all know that reading subtitles fucking sucks and is stupid. If I wanted to read I’d get a book!

      I’m with you Kane, here sign this petition that I just made to make him stop, forever.


      • The Woman In Black

        Best comment ever!

      • Uncle Creepy

        It’s fucking poetry! LOLOLOLOL!

  • LSD Zombie

    Fuck. Well, I’ll still have to see how bad it is for myself. Is it just my imagination or is Hollywood dumbing down scripts more and more as the years go by?

    • The Woman In Black

      I’ll be seeing it too. I’m a sucker for Terminator flicks. But something tells me I’ve already seen the best thing this summer in Star Trek.

  • tedge1979

    I saw it last night and really enjoyed it. It was far from the masterpieces that Terminator and T2 were, but it was a very fun popcorn flick with great action. I liked their use of actual props over CG whenever they could, and the final battle in the film made me stand up and cheer. I dug it!

  • Rottenjesus

    Thanks for saving me money, Andrew. I’ll be checking out DRAG ME TO HELL next weekend instead of this crap.

    • Kane86

      Your going by someone else opinion instead of your own?

      Thats real smart

      • The Woman In Black

        Easy does it, Kane — if someone trusts a review enough to base his decision not to see a film on it, who cares? I’m sure plenty of others will feel the exact opposite. Something tells me McG and crew won’t miss Rottenjesus’ ten bucks.

        • Kane86

          Look PM me if you want to talk to me but I am getting madder and madder from seeing this (expletive) reveiew. I think he has no right to bash it so hard when he is doing nothing. If he trust someone elses’ opinion then thats his (expletive)up.

          • The Woman In Black

            Actually, Andrew is doing far from “nothing”.


            And his is far from the only negative review. Check out Rotten Tomatoes — or maybe you shouldn’t since your head’s likely to explode from all the (expletive) being written about T:S.

          • Kane86

            Look can I say one thing and one thing only and this is the lasy comment and out of respect for you and Uncle Creepy I will be done with this page.

            But seeing he has no Idea how hard it is to make a movie.

            Just because he has made a few Low budget movies I don’t care. But anyways I HATE HIM!!!

            Now I say good day to you maam

          • Gus Bjork

            If only somebody had the balls to start an online petition to make him stop.

          • PelusaMG

            Are you the same guy who did that leave Britney alone video?