Derek Winnert

Terminator Salvation *** (2009, Christian Bale, Sam Worthington) – Classic Movie Review 1444


It’s possible that teenage boys could find plenty to thrill over in this 2009 action sci-fi blockbuster. It’s virtues are that it’s entirely solid and seamless. But older audiences may find it all a bit soulless and predictable. Though a handy Batman, Christian Bale is miscast and gives a pompous performance as grown-up hero John Connor (taking over from Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl) in this fourth episode that’s really a sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).


It blands out as it targets the widest possible audience, as well the spinoff video game and toy industries, with a chilly, ruthless efficiency. And Charlie’s Angels man McG is the wrong director. He turns in a slick movie and makes it look smart. It should do; it cost $200million. But unfortunately that doesn’t make it a special or memorable movie with the heart of darkness it needs.


It’s set 14 years after Judgment Day (it’s 2018) in a clichéd post-apocalypse world. There an army of Terminators – controlled by the artificial intelligence network Skynet – roams the landscape, hoping to kill the small band of remaining humans.

The survivors, hiding in underground bunkers have organised into a Resistance. But then along comes Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, from Avatar), whose last memory is being on Death Row. Is he a man or a machine? Can he be trusted?


After a sluggish, over-explanatory start, the plot finally kicks in and the battles come thick and fast. And they are exciting! The movie’s never less than diverting and sometimes it’s thrilling – the nearly two hours rush by in a trice. (It’s 115 minutes and 118 minutes in the Director’s Cut.) But its final conflict just seems like just another dustup. And it’s a shock that it’s all over. There’s just not enough of the movie.


And there’s not enough pounding action. The humans never seem to be in real danger and it’s only the dispensable machines that get terminated. Terminator is a full-on thing, not a Transformers clone: enough with the cert 12 stuff! The script’s full of clichés, too – ‘everyone deserves a second chance’ – which Christmas cracker did they get that out of?


So, after the long wait, it’s a bit of disappointment. But it is still good enough to look forward to the sequel that’s dutifully set up at the end. All in vain, it turned out. Because that never happened, thanks to the box office not being strong enough, with the US gross $125million and the UK total at £13million. But Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning a comeback with Terminator: Genisys on July 1 2015.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 1444

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