Heavy handed and headache inducing, full of obvious blunderbuss metaphor beating us over the head as if they were terminators themselves and we the lowly resistance, Terminator Salvation, the fourth in the Lazarus-esque Terminator franchise, ends up being nothing more than an overly loud and overtly obnoxious dingleberry of a motion picture.
Dark, sinister set design, a la post-Chris Nolan Batman world of heroes and monsters, and a fun - thrilling even - slam bang extended action spectacle about midway through keep Terminator Salvation from becoming the unmitigated disaster it would so otherwise become if not for said dark, sinister set design and slam bang action spectacle. This may be far from a praiseworthy statement but then again this is far from a praise worthy movie.
The film is set in 2012, years after the evil-minded Skynet has taken over the world and the machines rule all. This is apparently far enough into the future for the plucky bands of rebels dotting the landscape like puddles of futile resistance to become transformed into something resembling the road company of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. More precisely though, this is the story of John Conner, would-be messiah of the human race and his eternal battle with the machines that have plagued his world and his life since a monosyllabic Arnold Schwarzenegger came back in time to kill/save his mother and she was impregnated by another time traveler "back" in 1984. Christian Bale plays Conner with a growling, grunting animalistic demeanor that makes even his Batman seem happy-go-freakin'-lucky in comparison.
We also get Marcus (Sam Worthington in a role that all but engulfs Bale's one-note Conner), a death row killer who signs over his body to a cancer-ridden Helena Bonham Carter (playing a sort of sickly sexy chic) who will eventually become the half human, half machine beta terminator meant to infiltrate Conner's rebel compound (a set that resembles some kind of melange of the abandoned ship in Aliens and stalag 13 from Hogan's Heroes) and bring down the final fall of the human race. Marcus is essentially a terminator with a living, beating human heart and this is a character trait so important in the head-banging metaphor that is McG's film that no less than five different characters make spoken note about it. So thundering that when John Conner is mortally wounded and is in dire need of a new heart, guess where it comes from. It surely ain't the Wizard of Freakin' Oz, I can tell you that.
Many say Bale was slumming it when he took up the "low brow" mask and cowl of the caped crusader. I ask you though, if his performance as the provocative Dark Knight was slumming, then what the Hell do we call this fiasco? The famously leaked batshitcrazy, ass-reaming tape that has Bale ripping apart a poor lighting schmuck like a preening douchebag diva, ends up being much more of a titillating thrill than just about anything in this sadly lackluster action-adventure, sci-fi doohickey.
Trying to pass itself off as nouveau iconic, pretentiously-monikered director McG's garish installment in the never-ending back-from-the-dead franchise never pulls off the requisite feeling of inspired awe in any of its overblown moments. Peeling away the kitsch charm of the first film, the visual delicacies of the second and even the almost endearing audacity of the third, and just completely ignoring some crucial continuity, McG (really!? McG!?) hands in this assignment almost as if together with a note that reads "the dog ate my homework". Merely assembly line filmmaking, nothing whatsoever happens in this film that isn't already head-bangingly foreshadowed about a trillion freakin' times throughout the cacophonous proceedings.
Hey, at least we get a naked CGI Schwarzenegger popping out of the strategically PG-13 situated steam for the obligatory climactic battle scene. Who could ask for anything more? [06/01/09]