The T-600 terminator is heavily armed and an ungainly creature, capable of releasing enormous firepower, but as a single-minded attack machine, it is a little bit dim. It just keeps going until it gets completely blown apart. Terminator Salvation, in which the T-600 Terminator features, is a little bit like that. On the big screen and through the powerful sound system of the Ambassador Cinema in Ximending, it certainly packed a powerful punch during the industry and press screening on Monday, as the T-600s and their more sophisticated brethren made life hell for humans. It’s also hell for the audience, who get beaten back into their seats by the relentless onslaught of devastation. For an action thriller, Terminator Salvation is a remarkably depressing affair.
Another similarity that Terminator Salvation shares with the T-600 is that both were made on an assembly line. It’s just a case of putting the components together. This accounts for the sense of deja vu that crops up every so often throughout the film. There are robots, fashion accessories and lines of dialogue that seem to have escaped from the Matrix trilogy. Throw in some ideas from Total Recall and plot points from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Bring in characters from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. And then, of course, there is the back catalogue of the previous three Terminator films to comprehensively cannibalize. Assemble according to the easy-to-understand diagram shown in the “How to Make a Big Budget Blockbuster” brochure that is included in the pack.
In the end, what you get is a perfectly serviceable blockbuster. Unfortunately, despite the frenetic action and high-flown language about what it is to be human, the film lacks any kind of cohesive logic or emotional foundation. It’s all about fitting the bits together, and given that there is time travel involved, this process can get pretty fraught. The ghost of Rene Barjavel’s “grandfather paradox” hangs over the film, but it wasn’t long before I gave up trying to work out the logic of it. The director didn’t seem to care very much, and there was more than enough action to keep the eye and the mind distracted.
The action is spectacular and pretty much unrelenting, focusing largely around the character of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a convicted murderer whose heart and brain are incorporated into a mechanized endo-skeleton of some virtually indestructible material (Wolverine without the claws), who teams up with Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the character who comes back in time in the first Terminator movie. They go looking for John Connor (Christian Bale), the leader of a human resistance movement, the protagonist of the second and third Terminator movies. The meeting will either save the world for humanity or destroy it: just hang on to your seats.
Director McG’s world of post-apocalyptic chic blurs dangerously with the world of Zion in The Matrix, though McG favors a grimmer, grimier look. Fashion suffers, and not much is gained. Bale, who is no stranger to the role of misunderstood world savior, looks convincingly harrowed by the complex choices he faces to maintain both his own humanity and save the world, but well, the world of Terminator: Salvation really doesn’t seem worth saving.
Much better to focus on the budding romance between Marcus Wright and hot fighter pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood). Fortunately, the production team was too busy with blowing things up to get her to take her kit off (this is reserved for a digitized version of Arnold Schwarzenegger who makes a cameo appearance in one of the film’s most embarrassingly inept scenes). The budding relationship has some sparks of life, but this is quickly overwhelmed by innumerable conflagrations.