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Directed by McG
By Tony Sheppard
If the recent “Star Trek” was a total system reboot of an aging franchise, then “Terminator Salvation” is more like a welcome software upgrade, complete with flashier graphics and increased memory.
Set in 2018, it follows John Connor (Christian Bale) as he exhibits inspiring leadership in the battle against Skynet and the machines. If all of this seems a bit familiar, with outposts of humans battling overwhelming odds against hard to kill opponents led by a crusty Bale, it may not be the previous “Terminator” movies that you’re thinking of. At times it’s a little reminiscent of “Reign of Fire” only with bullet-spewing robots instead of fire-spewing dragons. And slimmed down bat-bikes.
All of which works pretty well. There’s nothing especially groundbreaking here, but it hums along quite nicely in a manner that ably jump-starts the series. “Terminator Salvation” is directed by McG, a former music video director who helmed the two big screen adaptations of the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise, and who manages here to interrupt the early scenes of this movie with one of the most gratuitous and redundant onscreen director’s credits I can recall.
One of the most interesting aspects of the movie, for industry watchers, is the second half of the sudden rise to ascendancy of Anton Yelchin, as Kyle Reese, John Connor’s time traveling teenaged father. Just a week ago, he was hitting the big screens as Pavel Chekov in the aforementioned “Star Trek.” In other interesting casting notes: Both Helena Bonham Carter and Jane Alexander have small roles that seem undemanding with respect to their talents; much of the movie is carried by Sam Worthington, not Bale; and a secondary but pivotal character is played by Moon Bloodgood, who seems destined to be the best ever use of a single vowel purchase on a future episode of “Wheel of Fortune.”
At some early screenings, there are gimmicky little movie-related gifts. At the end of “Terminator Salvation” I was expecting a network cable or an organ donor card. Instead I had to settle for a modest sense of contentment regarding a series that will be back. Probably starring Anton Yelchin.