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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » July 1, 2009
Film review
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Terminator Salvation
July 1, 2009 By Witold Żygulski   
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Joseph "McG" McGinty Nichol, the man responsible for the spectacular flops that were the two feature-length versions of classic 1970s TV series Charlie's Angels, seemed an unlikely candidate to direct the fourth installment of one of the most popular sci-fi sagas of the past 25 years. The producers of Terminator Salvation must have had a lot of trust in him and as it turned out, rightly so, at least in terms of box-office success. McG did such a good job that he will probably direct the fifth Terminator.

Terminator Salvation is above all a special effects extravaganza. You can count at least a dozen kinds of terminator robots alone, from squid-like water predators to motorcycles to something like Medieval siege engines. Some of them are even shape-shifters, splitting into halves or ejecting more terminators from their insides. This is more reminiscent of Transformers than what viewers saw in the previous three Terminator pictures, that is, cyborgs with human bodies and faces hunting down heroic humans.

This time the year is 2018 and the Earth has turned into a bomb site after the nuclear destruction visited upon humans by Skynet, a central computer which controls machines that destroy everything and everybody. John Connor (Christian Bale-Batman series, American Psycho, 3:10 to Yuma) is one of survivors who rebel against the machines. He is on a quest to track down and save Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin-Star Trek, Along Came a Spider) who, as Terminator fans will know, is the biological father of John Connor. In the future, Kyle will be sent back to the past, dying while struggling to protect John's mother from a Terminator (in the first movie of the series from 1984 by James Cameron).

On his mission to rescue Kyle, who for now is still a teenager, Connor finds an unexpected ally in Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington-Hart's War). Marcus, a lone warrior, is desperate to break into the Skynet base to find out who he really is. In the prologue, we see Marcus in 2003 when, sentenced to death for killing two police officers, he gets a lethal injection. Earlier in his cell, he receives a visit from Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham-Carter-Harry Potter series, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Fight Club), a terminally ill scientist who persuades Marcus to donate his body to science. Fast forward to 2018 and Marcus is now a cyborg, but what makes him different from other Skynet products is that he is convinced he is human. Whose side will he take and how will it impact the final showdown?

The weakest point of Terminator Salvation is the absence of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Millions of viewers would argue that it is his unique brand of on-screen charisma made the Terminator series the phenomenon that it is. Without the Austrian bodybuilder-actor, who now makes his living as the governor of California, neither the bad guys nor the good guys are compelling enough to hold audiences. Bale is under par, and the much less famous Worthington steals the show, even though he does not get much screen time. The movie would have probably benefited had the screenwriters expanded the role of Marcus, easily the most interesting character in the story.
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