Synopsis: The grim present of Judgement Day and the war between man and machine has come to pass. But this is not the future we were told to expect. A new weapon against the machines, and a man caught between both sides are poised to shift the balance- but for whom?
After three movies (as much as I may wish it was two) about present day battles to save the future, I found myself joyfully anticipating a chance to see that future as present day. And though I can't say the experience completely undeserving, there were moments when I was left wanting a little more than I got... and moments where I wanted much less.
With Christian Bale (The Prestige) as the renown resistance fighter John Connor, this movie definitely satisfies it's star power quota. There will be those who say his performance in the role was stiff and unemotional. And while I can see why they might, I would say that this is the John Connor of the "future". In previous movies (and a T.V. series I've found myself impressed with) we have seen this character as either an over shadowing phantom, or a young man trying to come to terms with himself. But Bale's Connor is a grizzled veteran of a war he fears may never end. I'd say his hardness is to be expected. What I certainly did not expect, however, was not to care...
Enter Sam Worthington (Pretty much a new comer on my radar). Worthington is nothing short of amazing as he avoids all the usual "man torn between two worlds" cliches and serves up easily the best performance in the film. His character is so well written and acted that after a while Bale seemed to be getting in the way, distracting me from the story I really wanted to see. Put simply, Worthington steals the show and refuse's to return it.
The beautiful Bryce Howard (The Village) does the best she can as Connor's under-written wife, but it's Moon Bloodgold (Burn Notice) who shines through as the romantic lead. Bloodgold evokes fantasies...er... I mean memories of all my favorite silver-screen warrior-women. She mixes sexiness, sensitivity, and down right bad-ass-ory in equal parts. Though Howard and Bale should be the more compelling couple, It's Bloodgold's characters smartly simplified (if short-lived) romance with Worthington's that stayed with me after I'd left the theater.
And I guess this is a good place to voice my only major complaint about Terminator Salvation. The creative team went through all the trouble of introducing new and appealing characters- only to do nothing with them. There are moments when they had a chance to really shake up the franchise. Had they, it would have been a true compulsion that brought me to future installments. As it stands now, I can't promise it won't just be loyalty to the series.
In the end, Terminator Salvation is a blockbuster blueprint. For fan's of the trilogy, it's all there: the classic lines, old friends you'd thought you might never see again, even a cameo from a member of the original cast... kind of. And for new comers, there is a well written and compelling story that requires no prior knowledge, even if it's not the story the writers intended on. The action is top notch, and the C.G. effects are, of course, spectacular. So aside from a few plot holes (how does an advanced AI that was hooked into the entire nation's defence grid continually miss a fully loaded resistance air base?) your in for a quality bang for your buck.
I just wish they had had the guts to take the road less traveled. For all the enjoyment of this movie, I had trouble feeling like it ended in much of a different place than it started. They spent the entire spring telling us to "forget the past", I can't help but wonder what would have happened had they taken their own advice. It would have been a risk, that's for sure. No one ever wants to deal with pissed off fan-boys, and Fan-boys certainly get pissed when you mess with their beloved canon's status quo. But then, if there's anything we've learned from Terminator it's that the future is not set. There is no fate but what we make.