With a track record that includes Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and the straight-to-DVD We Are Marshall, McG was always going to have his work cut out proving he was the right man to reboot the Terminator franchise. Now his judgment day has arrived, the same tendencies that placed question marks over his suitability prove to be his undoing.
Working from a script that’s been buffed by Jonathan Nolan and Paul Haggis, McG introduces some clever ideas and some strong set pieces, but gets a little carried away with the pyrotechnics and ends up blowing much of the film’s potential.
Set in 2018, 14 years after Judgment Day, Salvation exists in a world where Terminator armies seek out the last remnants of humanity while a resistance attempts to fight back. Primary among them are John Connor (Christian Bale), the man destined to halt the rise of the robots, and Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the teenager who will later grow up to become John’s father.
New on the scene, meanwhile, is mysterious loner Marcus Wright (Australian newcomer Sam Worthington), a former Death Row inmate-turned-organ donor, who has his own hidden agenda for taking on the machines.
With enough surprises to keep viewers engaged, plus some nice nods to the franchise mythology and its key phrases and cult figures (including an appearance from the original Terminator), Terminator Salvation is by no means the worst entry into the franchise. It’s basically a gutsy and sombre attempt to breathe fresh life into an ageing machine, but it’s solid without being memorable.
McG also creates a suitably apocalyptic look for the film and clichés up the action style to make it look (in the manner of every other action feature) like the second and third Bourne films.
For a movie that places such emphasis on the differences between man and machine it feels too mechanical and cold, and McG must take the bulk of the blame for that. Terminator Salvation underwhelms more than it exhilarates.
General release from Wed 3 June.