Terminator Franchise Saved by Salvation

[rating:8/10]

terminator_sam

After Jonathan Mostow did to Terminator what Joel Shumacher did to Batman, there would be obvious concern about making another film in the series… but I guess McG thought that if Christopher Nolan and Bale could save Batman than he and Bale could save Terminator. Fortunately for all the Arnold Schwarzenegger fans, McG delivered salvation, just as the title promises.

If you read other people’s reviews, you may find that most people wouldn’t agree with my notion that Salvation is a quality film. Don’t believe the Cretans. The film is a solid Sci-Fi film, with a solid plot, interesting sub plots (including my favorite character’s inner struggle to define who he is and who he will become), and allusions to the first two films (without ripping previous films off ala Austin Powers).

The plot does a great deal to further the overall story and explain what has been foreshadowed for the previous three films. We meet the young Kyle Reese. We see the initial creation the T-800. We learn how John Connor becomes the leader of resistance. And, we are introduced to the most interesting character in the series since the first movie.

Sam Worthington’s Marcus Wright is a highly intriguing character. Born a human, he is put to death in the first scene of the movie for the heinous murder of his family. The next time we meet him, he thinks he is human but that isn’t entirely true. Though his heart and brain are still human, he was rebuilt to become something all his own… part human, part machine.

As Marcus tries to find out what is going on and what he is, he protects Kyle Reese, helps the resistance, and becomes a real hero. What makes his journey so interesting is that the truth about who or what he is is revealed to him as the plot progresses. At at a turning point in his story, he is presented with the fact that despite the fact that he was completely unaware of it, he has led Connor into a trap. Rather than succumbing to this truth and buckling under the pressure, he decides that his humanity and his opportunity for redemption has presented itself.

Meanwhile, Connor is having an epic battle with the T-800 (a CGI version of the younger, buffer Arnold). The battle includes many nods back the the final battle between Connor’s mother and the T-800 in the original film. Like the final battles in both Terminator and T2, the machine seems to be winning… except in this film, the deciding factor in Connor’s life or death struggle is Marcus. While I can’t reveal any more without ruining the entire movie, Marcus Wright ultimately saves the resistance with his final heroic decision.

While many important things happen in the fourth installment of the series, the emergence of a half human, half robot character is the most significant. It changes the rules. It raises questions. Is Marcus still human? Can he be trusted? Will other hybrid robots emerge and what side will they be on? The line between man and machine has been blurred.

I conclude my review and praise of the film with a few notable allusions in Salvation to the older Terminator films:

-There is a scene where the Marcus, Kyle, and Star (a young girl, Kyle’s friend), escape from an outpost at a gas station while being chased by several different types of terminators. This chase scene is very reminiscent of the chase scene in T2 where the T-1000 chases John and the T-800.

-Prior to his rescue mission of Kyle Reese at SkyNet Central, John Connor lures a motorcycle terminator using a boombox. The song he plays is “You Could Be Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. This song is also played on John’s boombox in T2.

-During Connor’s ride to SkyNet on his motorcycle, there are several shots that harken to Arnold on his motorcycle in the older films. A particular slow motion shot of Connor jumping the bike into a pit in the new film is nearly identical to a shot in T2 of Schwarzenegger.

-As noted above, the final battle between the T-800 and John has many of the same elements as the battle that Sarah Connor has with the T-800 in the original. Even moreso, the final battle of T2 lends much of it’s backdrop and battle tactics (notably, covering the terminator in lava and freezing the terminator) to the new film.

-And, of course, Christian Bale, as John Connor, says the obligatory line when asked by one of his men what to tell the others when he leaves… “I’ll be back.”

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~ by thepaintedman on May 24, 2009.

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