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Terminator Salvation

If ever an actor needed to tell his agent to find him a good comedy script, it’s Christian Bale. In the last decade, he has played unvaryingly morose, self-serious characters ranging from American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman to the new Batman, from the haunted insomniac in The Machinist to the Viet Cong prisoner in Rescue Dawn. The closest thing to a lighthearted role he’s played was as Jesus in a 1999 TV movie. That he’s gone to the well once too often is one of the problems with Terminator Salvation (what, we don’t need colons anymore?), in which he plays a dreary John Connor that audiences are going to have trouble caring much about.

I have to admit here that I never saw Terminator 3, so if you want an informed opinion about how this fits into any internal logic the series has developed since its 1984 inception, you will have to look elsewhere, on a place called the Internet. The series is unique in that it laid out its future in the first film, a point which the sequels have approached but not yet arrived: when Kyle Reese is sent from the year 2029 to prevent the murder of John Connors’ mother before he is conceived.

Reese is introduced in this film, played by Anton Yelchin with the same innocence if a bit less cuddliness than he brings to Chekov in the current Star Trek. (This is one actor whose agent is getting a helluva Christmas present this year.) But in the ceaseless battles with the machines trying to wipe out humanity in the year 2018, we’re never in fear for him or Connor because we know they still have at least 11 years to live.

So what have screenwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (the execrable Catwoman) concocted to get us involved in this story? A poorly conceived subplot about a convict (Sam Worthington) who becomes the first cyborg, a line of development that will lead to the Schwarzennator (seen here in a witty reuse of footage from the 1984 movie).

In short, Terminator Salvation is a noisy two hours of special effects that does nothing but milk the franchise. Presumably there is a great Terminator finale to be made, which we may never see unless the producers can somehow get James Cameron back on board. As for this entry, if you only plan to see one movie at the drive-in this summer, this may as well be it.

m. faust

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Watch the trailer for Terminator Salvation

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