Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Don’t you just love it when you get a nice, unexpected surprise? Maybe you turn on the radio and catch a song you’ve never heard before that connects on just the right level. Or you’re trying a new restaurant and discover the world’s greatest crab cakes. Going to the movies these days usually doesn’t offer such delights…and certainly not with a fourth-generation sequel in a major blockbuster series. Sometimes, however, they just get it right.
I went to Terminator Salvation expecting the worst. After all, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was an unbearable mess that came close to sinking the franchise. Even the participation of Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t help.
The latest chapter in the futuristic saga picks up with the war against SkyLab and their army of Terminators. Christian Bale now plays John Connor, who according to the series is the only hope for the future. He’s a more than capable actor, and seems to be as close as we’ve ever had to an action movie star who has both talent and range. He did wonders resurrecting the Batman character, and proves here that was no fluke.
In the hands of wunderkind director Joseph McGinty Nichol, who goes by his childhood nickname of McG, Terminator Salvation is a tense, dazzling, action-packed film full of great special effects and a terrific cast. Bale is as close to a “name” actor in the film, with many of the others being completely unknown, which makes it even better.
Bryce Dallas Howard, director Ron Howard’s daughter, steps into the role of John Connor’s wife Kate. In her earlier films she didn’t make much of an impression, seeming to be mostly young and kind of creepy. Here, she comes into her own as very capable of carrying an adult role. This is a big step up for her career. Australian actor Sam Worthington, in his first major appearance, is really impressive as Marcus Wright, an executed murderer from the early part of the century, who has donated his body to science. Little did he expect to be resurrected in the future to be in the middle of this war. Anton Yelchin, who is also playing Ensign Chekov in the new Star Trek film, is the teenage Kyle Reese. And Moon Bloodgood, a beautiful, excellent actor finally breaks out of B-movies into the big leagues. These are fine performances that will stay with you long after the movie is over.
There are smaller character roles played by the dependable Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Ironside, and they all make the most of their limited screen time.
Composer Danny Elfman creates one of his best scores in ages, even to throwing in a couple of music cues that echo the classic work of Akira Ifukube from the original Gojira, which you likely know as Godzilla. The music is stirring without being overbearing, and moves the film along nicely.
Yes, there are twists and turns in the plot, and a couple of surprises, none of which will be spoiled in this review. Suffice to say that Terminator Salvation is a crackerjack action film that not only dazzles the senses, but also the story and characters give it a lot of heart…both literally, and as a pun.
Critically and commercially, Terminator Salvation doesn’t seem to be getting the appreciation it richly deserves. Hopefully, you will buck the trend and go see it. It’s well worth the effort, and is also the kind of film that can inspire multiple viewings.
The PG-13 rated Terminator Salvation is now showing just about everywhere and should be seen on the biggest screen possible.