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Terminator Salvation Gets an A for Effort

Published May 20, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders
Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins Poster Terminator Salvation
Terminator Salvation gets an A for effort. They certainly threw in everything they could to make a young boy happy. It’s fun to see all the money getting thrown around and blown up. If it weren’t for the depth of story the first two Terminators offered, that would probably be enough for your standard robot battle movie.

Review: Terminator Salvation


Salvation starts in 2003 with a new story element of Marcus Wright. He states his backstory but that just gets through the simple beat. Subtlety is not important. The big idea of the origin of a Cyberdine is what’s important.

When they get to 2018, it’s Black Hawk Down in the future. They use CGI to create robot warzones as if it were a modern day military movie. It’s still flashy. They can cake it with all the grit they want, but it’s still all CGI. Again, I just appreciate that they tried.

Arnold might say it’s fantastic. All the robots, traps and destruction are fantastic. The relentless terminators are still menacing and it is a satisfying throwback to the original that they just keep coming and coming. We see some of the most monstrous terminators yet because they’re primitive and charred. It’s no less violent for being PG-13. The double standard is a beautiful thing.

Seeing the scorched earth is cool. There’s no supply gathering, unfortunately, but a bit of survival with their booby traps. The brief glimpses of worldwide apocalypse are appreciated, so it didn’t just happen in L.A.



Now, what sense does it make for Skynet to build a 100 foot terminator to wrangle up humans? Their normal sized models do just fine, and are easily replaceable in the unlikely event some human knocks out the chip. Skynet knows that bigger isn’t better, but it blows stuff up good. Then it has accessories. It seems like the Charlie’s Angels aesthetic where awesome is more important than sense. That’s not Terminator, but it’s fun. It certainly is a big show.

But CGI still sucks. Any human inserted into action looks like a big blur, and even metal looks painted in. But it’s cool animation. Is the Linda Hamilton photo CGI too? It looks like it’s placed in there from a different source. Maybe James Cameron hung onto that one.

I love all the callbacks. Playing Guns n’ Roses makes me really happy. Hearing the lines, that makes me feel like you know what I like. There’s still a naked man. We don’t lose that tradition. And the CGI cameo is iffy, but it’s worth the try. I mean, the impact of what it is trumps how effective the visual effect might end up being.

When the film tries to touch on the philosophical themes of Terminator, it feels like they don’t quite understand what it’s really about. They’re not really analyzing the identity of a cyborg. That’s just the plot to get from point A to B. And we all know staying the course is bad. That’s no political subtext. Then it ends with a relentless onslaught of crazy awesome sh*t.

I always knew the story of the future war wouldn’t be as good as the present day stories. Everyone wanted to see the future, but I knew that would just be big robot fights. Cool maybe, but that’s a war movie, not a character investment suspenseful action movie. So here, this is what you wanted. Happy now?


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Fred Topel
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