Poor McG. He thought he was hired to direct a badass, rock ’em-sock ’em movie about evil death robots from the future (not Michael Bublé), and that’s what he delivered with Terminator Salvation. But what he didn’t understand was that the Terminator franchise isn’t about robots anymore — it’s really about canon-quibbling nerds who spend their downtime between new installments sharpening their knives for the next poor sap who dares to walk the hallowed path James Cameron cleared. No movie enraged its target audience more thoroughly this year, and since few things are funnier than grown men and women losing their shit when movies about evil death robots let them down, I had to see Terminator Salvation for myself.
Like every other red-blooded American male, I watched and enjoyed the first two Terminator chapters, but I skipped 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (and both Transformers movies), so I figured I was overdue for some heavy-duty robot action. On that front, Terminator Salvation delivers beautifully: You get big robots, human-sized robots, freaky-looking water robots, robot-controlled motorcycles, and Christian Bale as a robot actor with its voice button stuck on “shout.” You also get a plot that, like all the best science fiction, is both needlessly complicated and unintentionally hilarious; I’m giving nothing away when I tell you it includes a character leading an anti-robot resistance army that includes a boy who will grow up to be his own father, or that one of its more allegedly touching moments revolves around a cyborg giving up its heart for the good of all mankind.
It’s all very silly, in other words, and when Terminator Salvation slows down enough for you to notice that Anton Yelchin is running around with extras from the cast of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, or asks Moon Bloodgood to do anything other than run around and look fetching, or asks Christian Bale to do anything at all, the movie’s awkward, robotic clanking drowns out everything else. But thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often: There are maybe four conversations in the entire movie that aren’t interrupted by some sort of crisis or explosion, and whatever his shortcomings as a director, McG was at least smart enough to pack the majority of Salvation‘s relatively slender 114-minute running time with badass, rock ’em-sock ’em man vs. machine action. It rarely lags, the special effects are first-rate, and Sam Worthington shows the most acting talent any action hero has displayed since Brian Bosworth pretended to tackle Bo Jackson. If the storyline doesn’t quite jibe with whatever twists and turns the other films have carved out, and if characters come and go in the blink of an eye, so what? That’s stuff for the nerds to worry about. Look at the cover art on the box: What is Terminator Salvation promising? Homicidal robots. You get ’em here, in spades, and if the fact that the acting is almost uniformly horrible and the narrative sags makes Salvation a bad Terminator movie, that’s more or less to be expected for a 25-year-old sci-fi franchise that’s been abandoned by its creator and probably never needed to go beyond its first sequel, isn’t it? It isn’t every day a studio spends $200 million on a solidly cheesy B movie, and we should just relax and enjoy the experience — especially now that we don’t have to pay the price of a movie ticket to see it.
If you do want to pay full price to watch Terminator Salvation, you can rest assured that the Blu-ray does everything it’s supposed to — namely, look great, sound great, and include plenty of nifty bonus material. The main draw here is “Immersive Maximum Movie Mode,” which drops a trivia-spouting second layer over the movie in the form of pop-up commentary tracks and trivia graphics. It’s nothing you want running while watching the movie for the first time, but if you end up going back for repeat viewings, it adds a nice chunk of behind-the-scenes mojo to the experience. You also get a pair of featurettes — one that traces the journey from T3 to TS, and one that’s essentially a long commercial for Ducati.
You also get McG’s director’s cut, which runs a scant three minutes longer than the theatrical cut, and includes the legendary Moon Bloodgood topless scene that was clipped in order to secure a PG-13 rating. That scene is actually the most interesting thing about Terminator Salvation, and not for the reasons you might think — it’s interesting because Bloodgood is shot from a distance of maybe 30 yards, in the rain, from the side, for a few seconds. The idea that this solitary glimpse of a character doing something a wounded fugitive might do — namely, wash themselves off in the rain — was too risque for the same ratings board that routinely grants PG-13 to grotesquely bloody fare should be enough to make any film fan’s blood boil. It’s utter nonsense. So is Terminator Salvation, of course, but at least it has evil death robots from the future.
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