Rating: 3.25 of 5
The interesting thing about Terminator Salvation is that it really wasn’t John Connor’s movie. Christian Bale was a great John Connor. He was strong and focused and interesting. There was definitely development as he stepped more fully into his role as the leader of the resistance and struggled with the new reality that was set before him. But he wasn’t really fascinating, because he’s John Connor. We know who he is, and was, and is becoming.
Kyle was really interesting. It was engaging to watch him grow from a strong boy to a man; to learn to be strong and to be a leader but to also see him be fiercely compassionate. It was clear for the first time to me why he was John’s father and the influence he had on him on one side of time or another.
Marcus was also interesting. Sam Worthington was fantastic. There were moments when he was cold and focused like a terminator. But he was also incredibly human. It was riveting to watch him struggle with what he had become; for humanity to be a choice and for him to claim that.
That was what really worked for Terminator Salvation. McG did a great job directing it; the action wasn’t mindless even though there was a lot of it. But it had purpose and was a part of the story rather than just being there for the sake of another explosion. When I walked out of it I thought it was really good but the more I thought about it, the more I saw what else they could have done.
One of the many things that made Star Trek so great is that they didn’t trade on any existing affection of the audience. Each of the characters had to win our fondness in the context of this story. That effort to develop the characters and connect them to the audience was engrossing.
Terminator traded more on the existing connection with the audience. There were fewer moments developing the characters, but they were deeper because they tapped into the previous mythology. We know who John is and we know the significance of the moment when he comes face to face with Kyle. It’s a powerful moment and they lived in it brilliantly but they didn’t have to work to make it that way, they just had to show up and abide in it.
Which is the difference between Terminator Salvation and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (SCC). SCC knew they were trading on the existing mythology and they cultivated the power of that affection. The simple act of John saying his name was captivating; the moment Weaver lays eyes on Sarah was full of anxiety and foreboding. Salvation used moments and lines from the existing story but didn’t really harness them the way they could have.
It’s a small thing and probably not something anyone else would consider. The film was still strong and forceful and interesting. It’s just something I thought about.