Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Capsule Review: Terminator Salvation

Movie: Terminator Salvation
Director/Studio: McG / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Ehh. Not terrible, but less than sum of its parts.

Best Thing About It: The Marcus Wright character, as a concept, is a great one, and almost certainly worthy of a movie all to itself, without being saddled with the John Connor baggage. There's a fantastic article up on CHUD about a Terminator Salvation that might have been, with a nearly absent John Connor and focus on Marcus and Kyle Reese. Anyway, the whole idea of Marcus as a Terminator who doesn't know he's a Terminator is an excellent idea, and it allows us a protagonist who we haven't spent three movies and one TV series ketting bored of.

The great idea isn't executed as well as it could have been, unfortunately. We already know he's a Terminator given the opening scene, so when the reveal happens in the story, our focus should be on Marcus's reaction to it; instead we get a tight closeup on Connor, which makes it seem like McG thinks the audience is just figuring this out now. Also, the function Marcus ends up serving for SkyNet felt weak and anticlimactic. But the character -- and Sam Worthington's capable performance -- was a keeper.

Worst Thing About It: Besides the final-act cameo that elicited guffaws throughout the theater and by all rights should have Californians asking for their tax dollars back? I'm going to be the asshole and say Christian Bale (this is gonna earn me some hatred, and probably an anonymous comment or two telling me to get a life). It's not that he plays the part badly, it just that he -- and the Connor character -- are just so goddamn UNINTERESTING that it brings all the energy down to sea level every time he and Common go out to test weapons out in the desert (not a euphamism). I fully admit I've never been as big a fan of the guy as most, and I'll also admit that his on-set outburst put him in the same category as the loathsome Russell Crowe, but I promise you I'm being straight with you: Bale/Connor is a snooze.

Best Performance: Much as Worthington is getting lauded for his "star-making" performance, I remain just the slightest bit dubious. He's perfectly fine, but I'm not sure he's there yet. No, I am shocked to be here telling you that my favorite performance in the whole movie was Anton Yelchin's. I KNOW! Yes, he still looks like a half-formed tadpole, and yes, I still completely do not get people who find him in any way attractive, and I hated him in Star Trek and Charlie Bartlett and Alpha Dog, BUT! Here, he managed to play a teenaged Kyle Reese with an age appropriate vulnerability while still making you believe he'd grow up to be a bit of a badass. He's not given nearly enough to do in the film's latter half.

Oscar Prospects: The reviews have been unkind, the box-office unremarkable, and the summer-blockbuster tech category slots will likely all go to Star Trek, so probably nothing.

Grade: C+


J said...

Totally agree! Christian Bale is kind of a snooze through the whole movie. He's either whispering forlornedly or yelling bloody murder. It's like "Dude, we get that you're INTENSE, but just because the dial goes up to 11, that doesn't mean you have to crank it all the time."
I much preferred the parts with Anton Yelchin as Anthony Michael Hall style Kyle Reese and Sam Worthington as the hot Terminator.
It is seriously sad that John Connor got outacted by a robot.

Joe Reid said...

Hey, Bryce Dallas Howard wasn't THAT stiff.

Rbelle said...

Was that a cameo? Because I seriously thought Arnold was extremely well-done CGI. Everyone in my (California) theater was pretty excited, and I actually thought it was one of the better parts of the movie, being as it brought it in-line with the previous films and tossed die-hard fans a bit of a bone.

I agree, though, that Christain Bale was a problem, which is unfortunate since I enjoy him as Batman. He was just really uninspiring for a guy whose supposed to be this mythic, all-powerful leader.

The casting of Kyle Reese, though, was perfect, and I will watch Sam Worthington's career with interest, and maybe a little bit of drool.

Layne said...

Bale's intensity is what I've always loved most about him and, personally, I was really interested in seeing what the character of John Conner was like as an adult.

As for the character being a mythic, all-powerful leader, I think that was the idea--to show that someone who was supposed to become that leader was actually just a human being. One with, literally, the weight of the world put on his shoulders from the time he was born.

Joe Reid said...

Yes, i should've put "cameo" in quotes. Still. So cheesy. (though i did enjoy all the other shout-outs.)

Jon said...

I just realized where I know Anton Yelchin from -- he played Jack (in Showtime's Jack, natch), my second TWoP recapping gig.

And there are certainly not people who find him hot. (I mean, people other than 12-year old girls.)

Joe Reid said...

Was that a ... show? An extra? Why do I not remember this?

Patty M. said...

Every moment that relied on believable acting, subtle direction, or snappy dialog was a downer. Was it just me, or did every other line feature the words "John Connor" or "Kyle Reese"? (And I missed the cheesy one-liners of the previous films. I guess I would have enjoyed more Ah-nold.)
However, the robot mayhem was top notch. I was won over from the moment that enormous snatch-em-up robot shot motorcycle bots out of its shins.

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need coffee said...

Christian Bale is good but that new guy, Same Worthington, was great... in fact he pretty much stole the show

Admiral Neck said...

Don't go back and watch House of D. Yelchin is the best thing about that sorry mess, merely by not being Duchovny, Leoni, or Williams, but he's still unwatchably whiny and annoying. And he looks like Ewan McGregor in it. Which is offputting.