Thursday, May 21, 2009
'Terminator Salvation,' a junkyard future
"Terminator Salvation" isn't a movie; it's a junkyard, an unadulterated mess that substitutes dark imagery for imaginative vision. Directed by McG, who also brought us "Charlie's Angels" and "We Are Marshall," this fourth installment of a series that deserved to remain in hibernation comes up short on ideas and inspiration. As grim as Christian Bale's expression (he seems to have only one) and as uninspired as Danny Elfman's thudding score, the movie turns itself into a relentless noise machine that's guaranteed to make your head hurt, which -- at least for some people -- qualifies it as superior entertainment.
"Salvation" takes us to the near future, a post-apocalyptic time when machines pretty much rule the Earth. The machines also are trying to squelch what's left of humankind. It falls to John Connor (Bale) to save his father (no that' s not a misprint) so that he can be born and become the prophet who will rescue humanity from the brink of extinction. Yeah, it's the same old Terminator plot, only filtered through a Mad Max Cusinart that turns everything into mush.
Bale, who should have stuck with Batman, doesn't really have much to do, aside from playing Sisyphus with the movie's plot. He's bested by Sam Worthington, an Australia actor who also figures heavily in the plot, but who manages to make his presence felt. It takes all of about two seconds to figure out the story behind Worthington's character, but that hardly matters. At least, Worthington tries not to fade into a background of rubble and discarded machine parts.
It's arguable that 1984's "The Terminator," which introduced James Cameron to audiences, is still the best of The Terminator movies, a tightly wound and acid-laced allegory. Since then, the movies have gotten bigger, but not necessarily better. This edition -- which boasts some of the worst dialog in a major summer movie -- revolves around Skynet, an artificial intelligence network that runs the terminators, which look like a cross between Transformers and giant skeletons. Put another way, they look exactly like you'd expect them to look in a big-budget B movie in which brawn outweighs brains.
Enough. Let others belabor this one. If you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, "Terminator Salvation" is there to help. McG turns up the volume, tunes out logic and comes on like gangbusters. What does "Salvation" have to say? Nothing much, aside from the fact that, like Arnold, it promises to be back. Literally.