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Outrage Against the Machine

MOVIE REVIEW
Terminator Salvation (2009)

TSD-23551
Richard Foreman/Warner Bros.

The original “Terminator” was the source of many a heart-stopping nightmare during my childhood, ever since watching a trailer for the film which showed an opening in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s calf and exposed the machinery within. The trailer left such an impression that I have no memory of the main feature it preceded. Then “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” blew my mind again with the melting Robert Patrick. Indeed, James Cameron left footsteps so titanic and impossible to follow that perhaps he just gave it up. The original film was a B picture with a $6.4-million budget, while the latest installment, “Terminator Salvation,” reportedly cost 30 times more yet possesses not one iota of originality in the hands of music-video vet McG.

“Salvation” mostly concerns how John Connor (Christian Bale), a leader of the resistance movement against the machines, finally meets Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). As you’ll recall from the original, Kyle (then played by Michael Biehn) travelled back in time to 1984 in order to protect John’s mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) from the Terminator and also to impregnate her. Back to “Salvation,” the new revelation here is that Skynet, the evil empire behind the self-aware robots, has created a one-of-a-kind man-machine hybrid (Sam Worthington) who happens to have a conscience and wants to help finally connect John and Kyle. Mr. Schwarzenegger is back as promised, albeit digitally enhanced to the point that there’s no mistaking him for the California governor circa. 2003.

Screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris are so preoccupied with wall-to-wall action sequences that the dialogue is seemingly up to the actors to improvise. Much of what is said is unintelligible amid the thunderous sound effects, and in retrospect who could blame Mr. Bale for his alleged screaming fits on the set? Then there’s the obligatory product placement, with McG prominently displaying the 7-Eleven logo twice in case you miss it the first time. Really, “Terminator Salvation” could almost pass as a sequel to “Mad Max,” which goes to show just how everyone involved is merely going through the motions. You just know this piece of science fiction is entirely pointless when its most unique plot element is the currently existing technology of syncing.

TERMINATOR SALVATION

Opens on May 21 in the United States and on June 3 in Britain.

Directed by McG; written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris; director of photography, Shane Hurlbut; edited by Conrad Buff; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Martin Laing; produced by Moritz Borman, Jeffrey Silver, Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson; released by Warner Bros. Pictures (United States) and Columbia Pictures (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. This film is rated PG-3 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: WITH: Christian Bale (John Connor), Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright), Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese), Moon Bloodgood (Blair Williams), Bryce Dallas Howard (Kate Connor) and Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Serena Kogan).

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