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"Terminator: Salvation" is a grim but entertaining spectacle

"Terminator: Salvation" is a grim but entertaining spectacle

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For 25 years now, the "Terminator" movies have talked about that post-apocalyptic world that comes about after Judgment Day. When the Machines rise up and attempt to snuff out mankind. Well, that horrific landscape -- with its shattered cities, giant robot harvesters and desperate human survivors -- has finally been brought to life (if you call this living) with McG's "Terminator: Salvation." Which is one grim but entertaining spectacle.

As "Salvation" 's story gets underway, it's 2018. 14 years after the events shown in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines." The now-grown up John Connor (Christian Bale) is a battle-weary member of the Resistance. Though not yet in the leadership role that he'll eventually assume in this epic struggle, John is doing what he can to help win the War against the Machines. Which -- in this case, anyway -- involves forming an unlikely alliance with a mystery man, one Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington).

Terminator Salvation
Copyright 2009 Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

For those of you who haven’t seen the first three installments of the "Terminator" series, not to worry. You don’t really need to be familiar with those films in order to enjoy "Terminator: Salvation." At the very beginning of this movie, the filmmakers quickly sum up how mankind got itself into this post-apocalyptic mess (Skynet! Boo, Hiss). And once you take in that bit of exposition, you'll be good to go.

Mind you, this isn't to say that "Terminator: Salvation" won't still be enjoyable for fans of the other films in this franchise. McG has deliberately folded in lines and scenes that resonant and/or play off of things that were said & done in the original "Terminator," "T2: Judgement Day" and "T3: Rise of the Machines."

And as the robots who wander through this decimated landscape? They're brutal but fantastic. There's not a lot of variety when it comes to the types of killing machines that make appearances in this picture. But boy, do they keep coming.

Terminator Salvation
Copyright 2009 Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

So what's "Salvation" 's biggest surprise? To be honest, given that the first three installments of the "Terminator" series focus almost exclusively on the exploits of the Connor family, it was kind of surprising to see John on the sidelines for much of this motion picture. This time around, it's the Marcus Wright character that really drives the action. I didn't know who Sam Worthington was before I walked into the theater. But this guy does an excellent job in "Terminator: Salvation." He pulls off the movie's big action sequences while -- at the same time -- carrying the quieter, more character-driven moments. 

As for Christian Bale ... Come on, this is Mr. "Dark Knight" that we're talking about here. Obviously this is a guy who knows how to carry a summer blockbuster. And Bale's take on John Connor does not disappoint.

Terminator Salvation
Copyright 2009 Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Rounding out the cast are Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese and Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams, two crucial members of the Resistance. Now this isn't the battle-weary Kyle Reese that we met in the first "Terminator" movie. As Yelchin plays Reese in "Salvation," Kyle is a fledgling fighter who hasn't quite got the hang of surviving amid the ruins of Los Angeles. So it's a lot of fun to watch Anton continually fleeing from all those killer machines.

Whereas Williams, she is your typical movie tough chick. That battle-hardened pilot who more than holds her own when the going gets tough. Bloodgood does a pretty good job with this role. And she's certainly easy on the eyes. The only problem is ... Well, we've seen this character before. Blair is totally hardcore in the film's action scenes, but then goes all gooey during "Terminator: Salvation" 's more emotional moments. I just wish that McG could have found a way to put a whole different spin on the old tough-girl-as-love-interest idea.

Disregarding this minor relatively quibble, "Terminator: Salvation" is one solid piece of entertainment. An almost perfect summer popcorn picture. In that it has lots of great visual effects, huge explosions and gritty battle scenes. Not to mention just enough character development to make you actually care about Connor & Wright as they try & take Skynet out.

Terminator Salvation
Copyright 2009 Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

So if you're in the mood to see a guy's movie this Memorial Day weekend, you really can't go wrong with "Terminator: Salvation." Which -- if all goes according to plan (i.e. that this new McG film makes a ton of money) -- will be the first installment of a brand-new trilogy set in the "Terminator" universe.

So for all you post-apocalypse fans who've been mourning the cancellation of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" television series, the future should now be looking a whole lot brighter. Sort of.

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  • I appreciate your enthusiasm for this film, but the mainstream reviews (over on rotten tomatoes) are simply trashing this film.

  • I saw this at a free sneak earlier this week. Already aware it wasn't going to be anything like the Cameron classics, and just thought of it as a futuristic war movie, and it worked fine on that level.

  • I saw the film on opening day and I personally found it quite fun and refreshing. The three previous films all carry pretty much the exact same premise: a terminator is sent from the future to kill someone from the past that will eventually be important.. and a protector is sent from the future to help. Then the two from the future duke it out. That's pretty much it for all 3, just slight variations on the theme. I enjoyed seeing a terminator film that was set in this very visual universe as established in the past 3 films, but was something totally different. It wasn't the same old terminator plot and for that, I appreciated and enjoyed the film. When I first heard they were making a terminator film and that Arnold would not be involved.. I thought they were nuts.. totally lost their mind. But I will admit I was wrong.. it totally worked with the characters involved. Forget the critics or the die hard fans that will rip on this movie for being totally different (the same that would also rip on the film if it was yet another traditional terminator film.. there is no pleasing them..) and just go enjoy a fun summer popcorn flick.. visually entertaining, killer robots, amazing explosions.. and the elements of a great "guy release" film and quit your belly aching. It's a fun movie and I look forward to seeing it again!

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