Posted at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2009
by Euan Kerr
So here's a question: what if someone had a time machine and could somehow send movies back into the past? Would that make "Terminator Salvation" a better movie?
It's an entirely legit question, not just because of the story line about people being sent back to protect the parents of John Connor. (For those of you who haven't been paying attention Connor is the possible savior of the human race from SKYNET, the computer defense system which has decided the best way to prevent wars is to eradicate the pesky homo sapiens.)
Secondly, there is now the issue that it's been a quarter century since Arnold Schwarzenegger graced the screen in what has become his defining role. Since then there have been a host of action movies which have blown audiences away, raising the bar again and again.
"Terminator Salvation" would have been great in the mid 90's, a few years, just after T2 came out. That way audiences would have been so overwhelmed by the explosions and high-octane chases that they would have overlooked the uninspired acting and the weak plot.
Yet, as we all know this is the 21st century, and audience demands have changed. Director McG handles the action sequences well, although he can't resist stealing moments from other films. It says something that the two best parts of "Terminator Salvation" are references to earlier movies in the series.
The idea is that a guy from the past awakes in the future to help John Connor protect the teenager who will be his father when he travels back in time to before the first movie. This is happening as the Resistance is mounting an all or nothing assault on SKYNET. The Resistance leadership is disinterested in Connor's concern that the young man in question may be a victim of friendly fire, throwing everything into a temporal vortex.
This is where McG falls down. He doesn't really get much out of his actors. Life in a world inhabited by malevolent machines clearly isn't fun, but apparently it has drained everyone of just about every emotive drop in their bodies, except for terse grunting and enraged shouting. The robots seem to have more range of expression than the humans sometimes.
Even the Terminators, who were such a terrifying presence in the early movies, seem to have been drained of their menace.
The film ends in such a way that there could be more in this series. In a year where people are talking about jump-starting existing movie franchises, this is a series that needs either a serious makeover, or consignment to the gigantic crucible used to melt down old Terminators.