The fourth entry of the Terminator franchise uses rather than abuses the influence of Chris Marker’s great La jetée (1962), which was horribly abused by Terry Gilliam’s crass, empty Twelve Monkeys (1995). Regrettably, Terminator Salvation, which John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris wrote and McG directed, is abusive in other ways. For one, it’s ear-splittingly loud and noisy, and, for another, it is visually monotonous. Mind you, the tawdry versions of Christmas green and red that McG and cinematographer Shane Hurlbut conjure in their compositions—to remind us what his initials tell us about the film’s hero, John Connor—are initially striking; however, they are struck way too often to retain any sort of dark enchantment or helpful meaning. It is best to approach this film, then, without one’s eyes or ears.
In 2018, John Connor, having survived a nuclear explosion, is a member of the Resistance against the Skynet Machines, which are dedicated to wiping out humanity, which they perceive as threatening their own existence. (Perceive may be the wrong word; their also is dubious.) When teenager Kyle Reese is kidnapped by the Machines and imprisoned, and Reese and himself are numbers 1 and 2 on an intercepted Skynet “kill list,” Connor sets out to rescue the boy, who is, after all, fated to become one day his father. I have a simple rule when it comes to these mythological, time-traveling plots: “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”
Is there any reason at all to see this film, then? Well, yes: Christian Bale is brilliant as Connor. His performance is a sharp, unswerving blade of steel cutting through McG’s ostentatious mess.
This film is a co-production of the U.S., Germany, the UK and Italy.
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