Friday, July 03, 2009

Terminator Salvation (2009) Review

Reviewing Terminator Salvation is never going to be easy for me. Seeing Terminator 2 was one of my stand-out movie experiences. It was a rare beast in that it managed to combine a strong storyline with a huge special effects budget (instead of the more usual studio policy of replacing a strong storyline with a huge special effects budget.)

What about Terminator Salvation? It must have handed over more cash to the effects guys to make it look as if things were being blown up than most armies spend on the real thing.
Industrial Light and Magic certainly earned a prominent place in the credit roll, delivering exactly the seat-juddering spectacle we have come to expect.

But how about the story?

Well, there was one, despite what I heard reviewer Mark Kermode saying on the Radio 5 Live this afternoon. But thinking back now, 24 hours after I walked out of the screening, I am finding it somewhat hard to remember all the ins and outs.

There's this guy, John Connor (Christain Bale), who looks grim and shouts a lot at this other guy in a submarine who also shouts and looks grim. But then, the year is 20-something in the future and the machines are doing the usual Skynet thing of trying to take over the world. So looking grim and shouting is probably an appropriate response. Though it did make it harder to engage with him as a character.

Most of the movie takes place in the future, but before the time travel of the earlier movies(Before? Uh, hold on a moment. Couldn't they...? Best not ask.) Can a man who has done evil things find salvation, the movie asks? To reveal the answer would be to give away the ending, so I'll leave you to guess what Hollywood is going to pronounce on that one.

I did find the dénouement cheesy. And the ending speech could easily have been replaced with someone winking at the camera and saying: "Enjoyed the explosions? Just wait till you see the sequel." But Terminator Salvation isn't a bad summer blockbuster for all that. It is easy entertainment that sits comfortably on the big screen.

It is always going to stand in the shadow of the original movie - which was better storytelling on a far lower budget. And both stand in the shadow of T2. But hey, that's not such a bad place to be. Most action movies do.

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