You wait for it, strive for it. You are one of the unlucky 1% of humanity that survived Judgment Day only to be hunted by machines. You forgive your brethren for the clumsy deification of John Connor, the man who broadcasts information to organize your resistance. But what you do not forgive, is that when a movie is made about your struggle your story isn’t told. (Perhaps you don’t mind because the movie is made in the past, way back in 2009, but believe me continuity is not something you want to bring up in your futuristic Terminator-ridden world.)
That’s the problem with Terminator Salvation, written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris — the plight of the individual resistance fighter is not addressed. We find a few lone groups of survivors on the ground, but we also encounter a fully-formed military structure where John Connor is just a bit player, and the tale of desperate survival to get to the point of massive coordinated attacks is skipped over. I think there is something that can be said about the time between nuclear annihilation and submarine-headquarters warthog-airstrike time. Salvation jumps into the future right before a climactic battle without the drama that lead them to that precipice. The story is in the pain of the process, the survival, not the victory.
Ask any fan of the Zombie genre, it’s not the chain of events that leads to the disaster that makes the story great, it’s the survival post-apocalypse. The previous movies made haunting references to Judgment Day, with visions of terrible mushrooms clouds evaporating whole cities. This was the opportunity to dive into that world of fallout — I think it was squandered.
I had hoped this movie would be broader in scope. Perhaps what I want is something the Terminator franchise can never really deliver, as all of the previous movies have dwelt with only a few key characters. With Salvation this pattern is upheld, but with less spectacular results.
In addition to the gaps in story telling, there are numerous plot holes that sap some of the strength from the film. To dive into all of them would be a terrific spoiler so I’d rather not do so here at this time, but there are a lot of problems that really detract from the movie. One being the seemingly “safe” and “unsafe” areas of future California that don’t make sense. In some areas leaving a boombox on the ground playing will draw enemies within seconds, whereas in other areas it seems safe to wander about freely. Maybe the machines are just really good listeners but don’t see so good. Yeah! I don’t think it’s made clear why machines are okay with leaving any area unpatrolled at all. They have the technology (ala T-800) to put a nuclear reactor in a chip, so I doubt their machines would have to continually head back to base to top off the tanks.
Even more basic, why don’t the machines just carpet-bomb the planet with biological weapons, which would pretty much kill off the last of us fleshies that weren’t asploded by the nukes?
One of the major trailers (which sadly, I had seen) revealed a huge plot device, and this is absolutely unforgivable. At the time, I had believed the trailer did not make a huge reveal, but as the movie unfolded I realized that it gave away one of the major conflicts of the entire film. For shame. This is why I hate trailers. A real trailer should be a tease, not a synopsis.
Fans of the franchise will be entertained. Moviegoers who just want to see things blow up will like this film. However, those two listed categories of people actually have a 99.8% overlap, so we can likely bundle them together as one group — the only group — that should cough up full ticket price to see this movie.