1984’s Terminator was nothing short of a masterpiece. Inspired by two episodes from the original The Outer Limits series, the film told the tale of a cybernetic killing machine sent from the future to eliminate its victim. It brought on a flood of imitations (including an Italian-made “sequel” best known as Shocking Dark), and propelled actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the status of international star. 1990’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day took the science fiction genre to a whole new level, breaking box office records around the world, and raising the requirements of summer blockbusters up to 11. As it was, the franchise could have (and perhaps would have) held its own for many years to come with just those two entries.
Alas, it was not to be: Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines hit theaters in 2003. But, by this point in time, moviegoers had become far too cynical, bored, and/or spoiled to be entertained by the mere sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger doing little more than maiming people. Worse still, the makers of T3 were either lazy, stupid, or just didn’t bother to do their homework: the story was nothing new compared to the first two films, and the continuity (both to itself and the franchise) was rather inept. The reception of the film was duly justified: lukewarm and short-lived. By all accounts, it was to be the end of the Terminator franchise — a true example of “flogging a dead horse.”
Then came a TV series (which I never bothered watching, despite hearing that Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson had a recurring role in it). Reports of a fourth theatrical feature began to emerge, leading the now-disillusioned fans of the series to wonder if there was any integrity in the universe at all. And when we heard that music video guru McG (who also directed both of those god-awful Charlie’s Angels flicks) was directing, we figured all was lost for sure.
You can imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch Terminator Salvation and discovered it was actually good.
Ditching the tired “Terminator heads back to present-day L.A.” motif and instead jumping us straight ahead into the war-torn post-apocalyptic future from whence the entire ordeal began, Terminator Salvation finds John Connor (this time played by Christian Bale) in the year 2018. The machines at SkyNet have destroyed most of humanity, and those that are left are either hiding from or fighting against their common enemy. Connor, naturally, is of the latter movement — and he is seeking the whereabouts of Kyle Reese, the man who will become his father in the past (um, it’s complicated). Enter into the mix a fish out of the water named Marcus (Sam Worthington). Executed in 2003 for murder (shortly before the Armageddon commenced), Marcus awakens in 2018 to find himself in the middle of a battle between man and machine.