movie review: terminator salvation (spoiler-free)


It sucked sucked sucked sucked SUCKED

I saw it Friday night at Grauman’s Chinese theater in H0llywood, the unofficial home of genre movies.  Basically, if you’re a fan and live anywhere near Hollywood, it’s an unwritten law that if a new sci-fi movie opens at the Chinese, that’s where you must  go to see it.  The theater is big and loud and you’re guaranteed to have an audience of die-hards that love to love movies like this.

But the built-in affection of the opening night crowd wasn’t enough to stop them from laughing not once, but TWICE at overly ridiculous moments in the film…

If you think that anyone who calls himself “McG” would be better off working at McDonald’s, you’d be right.  And even then I’d double check my order to make sure he didn’t forget my fries.

friesThe sad thing is that we’re not even demanding  high art from this franchise;  all any of us really want from a Terminator  movie is good action, a mildly clever plot and a few cool moments we can’t wait to see again.  Despite the previous chapter’s lukewarm reception, I actually like T3 – sure, it’s little more than a remake of T2, but it’s tightly paced, has repeat-viewing-worthy action (that chase with the crane truck in downtown LA is an all-time classic as far as I’m concerned) and it has one of the best twist endings in sci-fi cinema history.

But Terminator: Salvation  has none of the above.   The story makes little sense, one of the biggest action sequences in the film is a direct rip-off of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (and I mean it is literally plagiarism) and this movie’s only surprise twist is that it makes you wish you were watching The Sarah Conner Chronicles.

Not only does T4 truly feel like a paint-by-numbers TV movie for the first two acts, it drags the Terminator  franchise down to the level of Alien VS Predator, hovering dangerously close to cliche-ridden “B-movie” territory.  Not only does McG serve up a stale post-apocalyptic-attempted-rape scene in an attempt to establish character, but he flings Michael Ironside off the grill in his default role as a  two-bit military commander with an axe to grind.  Wow, that’s clever casting.

My only fear is that if this movie does poorly the studio will mistakenly assume it was because it didn’t star Arnold.  Terminator  movies don’t NEED Arnold to work (just like Alien  movies don’t need Sigourney Weaver), but they DO need a pre-lobotomy writer and director that not only understand the genre but will respect the legacy material.  Other than seeing the prerequisite endo-skeletons with glowing red eyes, there was little about this film that made me feel like I was watching a Terminator  movie.   Honestly, the studio should hire a couple of fanboys to go over this stuff before they commit it to film – they’d be more than happy to tell you that T2 music and relentless robots are not  all it takes to add a chapter to the saga.

I hate to say it, but the only salvation the new Terminator  movie offers is when it ends.



—————–  WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?  —————-

– Long-time reader “Church” sent in this link – it’s a fascinating look at the alternate T4 we almost had –

– In this video clip, McG tells us exactly where T4 fits into the Terminator  universe –

– James Cameron reminices about making the original Terminator here

– If you read this, you’ll find out what McG’s plans are for T5 (if he’s allowed to make it) –

– In this clip, McG reveals some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits, explains the whole M-C-G thing, talks about meeting James Cameron and defends the infamous Christian Bale “rant” –

– and if you’ve never heard the aforementioned rant, you can see it re-created here with the original audio –

28 Responses to “movie review: terminator salvation (spoiler-free)”

  1. 1 Greg
    May 24, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Agreed, it was a dead-horse out of the gate.

    The only thing I really liked about it were the ‘Moto-Terminators’, and they screwed them up by choosing such a mouthful instead of something like ‘T-cycles’.

    McG has proven he can make McMovies.

  2. 2 Aler
    May 24, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Does Michael Ironside have his arm ripped of at any point in the movie? That’s something I’ll always pay to watch, and it’s common enough to merit its own sub-genre.

  3. 3 Former Trekkie and possibley now TFAN
    May 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    The bottom pic. Is that supposed number six without a face!?lol.

    What I find ironic is that everyone seems to love TSCC more than they do the new movie especially after fox foolishly took it of the air.It also seems holywood lost all its good writers to tv shows.TSCC and BSG are to perfect examples.I would have much rather had a couple more seasons of The Sarah Connor Chronicles than a bad movie. In a way TSCC was also a spin off to BSG.

  4. 4 Joel
    May 24, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Completely agree with your review, but laughed-at/was-impressed-by the CGI-Ahnuld. Would be curious to hear your take on that CGI job, even if the rest of the movie was a turd-sandwich.

    Actually, I think this raises an interesting question: was the CGI-Schwartzenegger convincing because the CGI looked like real life, or because the real-life Schwartzenegger looks like CGI?

  5. May 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Yeah, I was afraid of that. I’ve heard similar reactions from a number of people now. Too bad. I’m still going to go see it, but how and when are up in the air.


  6. May 25, 2009 at 12:52 am

    After seeing the trainwreck that was Star Trek, I have no desire to see this whatsover.

    Here’s a crazy thought. How about a new idea somebody!?!?


  7. 7 ety3
    May 25, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Thank you. You saved me $10.

    I liked T3, too. I went in with zero knowledge and expectations and was thoroughly entertained. It’s underrated, in my mind.

    After reading your comments, I poked around a bit more and uncovered the spoiler about Helena Bonham Carter’s character … Holy WTF. I mean, really now. Did no one learn a lesson from “Matrix Revolutions”?

  8. 8 Boris
    May 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I was fairly indifferent about this movie in the first place, but between your review and the Tomatometer at 34%, I’m know I’m definitely not going.

  9. May 25, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I liked it. The plot was good, and I really liked the twist (even though I did see if coming). It was good to see the post-judgement day universe of Terminator.

    Now, TSCC was a ton better than the movie, but I liked this one.

  10. May 25, 2009 at 6:27 pm



    Call me a sucker for hard luck cases (Thank you Gillian!), but I enjoyed this movie. I knew for a fact that when I was going into it that it was not going to be anywhere near as good as the first two, but as I told my boss before we drove to see it, it can’t be as bad as Indiana Jones 4. And at the end of the film, we agreed on that 100%

    First I’ll get into the bad. Plot holes are everywhere in this movie. Here are some examples.
    – Terminators have batteries that will pretty much turn any city into a cloud of vapor the size of Nebraska (Thank you Bishop!). If these batteries go nuclear by just being fractured, why than does Skynet need to send Terminators into the battlefield with guns when it can just drop off a couple of terminator infiltrators and blow up a whole resistance base?
    – Why keep Kyle Reese alive? If Skynet’s entire mission is to kill John Conner and knows that without Kyle Reese, Conner will be no more, why than does Skynet keep Kyle alive? It’s even in the movie where the T-800 recites Kyle’s words to deceive John out of hiding. If they can impersonate Kyle, what’s his use? If I was the editor, I’d wipe out every trace of Skynet knowing the importance of Kyle and just have him be captured like any ordinary human.
    – TONS of deleted material. If you watch the trailers, there are some pretty nifty pieces of dialogue that would have better stitched this movie together. One is dialogue of Conner explaining how dangerous the new T-800 model is going to be in the war and that if they ever go online, than the war is over. This would also lead into the dialogue where Skynet is purposefully capturing humans so it can find a way to replicate human tissue. Without those scenes it sort of dulls the whole purpose of Skynet capturing humans to begin with.
    – There is no Fate. Seems to be the loser here since a lot of stuff covered in this movie happens in the earlier ones. Kyle Reese is alive, Conner receives his scars from T2, Marcus shows Kyle how to use a Shotgun like in T1 and so fourth. Since this is an intended first movie in a trilogy story, I hope that they delve off into areas where things DO start to get different.

    But let me get onto the good bits.
    – I thought Christian Bale did alright. He didn’t annoy me as much as he did in the Batman movies, and it was nice to see him play a hero who wanted to talk to as many people as possible and let them know that every one of them are important. That sort of sets this film a part from the others where the characters had to deal with themselves and now Conner has to deal with keeping everyone alive and fighting for a purpose.
    – The opening. I’ve seen the Star Wars Clone Wars episodes and all the movies and I must say that this opening battle in the satellite dish area was pretty exciting. A-10s bombing away, helicopters dropping off soldiers (And female soldiers at that! Beat that Lucas!) and radio chatter up the wazoo. It even had that nice continuous shot involving John and the aftermath of the battle.
    – Blair Williams. McG may not be your cup of tea, but when it comes to the character of Blair, he actually gave her more of a presence in this movie than the new Uhura from the Star Trek movie. While she was the quote-on-quote love interest to Marcus, I didn’t get any sappy feelings whenever they had scenes together and she is capable of being a strong, capable character in the end. Sure, she betrayed her entire race to help Marcus escape, but it all worked out! I also Loved that bit with her and John where he recites his mother’s words from the Special Edition of T2 about calling the machine an “IT” and not a “HIM”. Made for his decision to let her go more understandable. So ya, she’s a minor compared to everyone, but she does have that ‘female character with a purpose and dedication’ that I’ve always loved about Terminator that the new Star Trek movie has all but abandoned.
    – The final act. Yes, it’s CGI Arnold. Yes, he doesn’t just take a gun and shoot John, but I don’t care. I actually sort of cheered when I noticed that the Arnold terminator was modeled after his first 1984 Terminator appearance with the more defined jaw line and longer sleeker hair style. And the whole fight with him, John, Marcus and Kyle I thought was really done since this machine is pretty much unstoppable. I can totally believe that if this T-800 ever traveled back in time, I would be running around the corner screaming like a little kid. And the effects work on the Endo Skeleton were a nice touch as well. I totally bought that the Terminator would look like this in the first movie’s finally if we weren’t limited to tight shots.
    – Sorry to diss Battlestar Galactica, but I’m still very happy that Skynet doesn’t want to replace humans with human versions of it’s own. Machines are machines!
    – The little kid in the movie WASN’T annoying! Holy sh**!

    Honestly, if you ask me if I wanted to see either Star Trek or this again, I’m going with this. Yes, I said it. I like Terminator more than Star Trek. This film has a hero that I can like (Kirk was a douche bag), it has strong capable female characters who can do more than just action stunts (Uhura, why couldn’t you be first officer?), it doesn’t have a villain that the writers tried to give some sympathy to (Really Nero? You want us to feel sorry for you because of that?), and I would like to see more of this.

  11. 11 Captain Otter
    May 26, 2009 at 7:57 am

    I guess my next trip to the movies will be a forth viewing of Star Trek since every reviewer I trust has ripped T4. Pity.

    I can’t say I’m surprised, though. I haven’t cared for any McG film. I’m not sure whay anyone would hand their franchise to that clown. Didn’t the Hulk teach us all a lesson?

    I know Charlie’s Angels banked well, but lets be honest. Those movies stink. If the three leads were dudes or uggos, no one would watch. Even with the magnitude of hotness in those movies, I barely finished the first and have no interest in the second.

    I know. For T5, they can bring in Scott Baird to direct and have John Conner fight a young clone of himself. You know, that way they can truly finish killing the franchise.

  12. 12 doubleofive
    May 26, 2009 at 8:33 am

    I also did not like Terminator Salvation. What was with the editing?! I could not get over how choppy the entire movie was!

    I did like the references to the other movies, but I found myself wanting to watch those movies again INSTEAD of finishing the movie I was watching in the theaters!

    That, my friends, is how you DON’T make a sequel/prequel/reboot.

    My full-review is here:


  13. 13 The Lobby Lurker
    May 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I am amazed solely at McG’s ability to pile crap so high and then have the audacity to film it.

    This film was a waste of time, money, the Terminator name, Christian Bale (though his rant was funny as hell, and after seeing this turd-fest, I can understand why he was pissed,) Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Ironside, not to mention all of our time. I am considering filing a class-action suit against McDouchebag for wasting all of our collective time spent watching this bloated, over-the-top goofy, lame, effects-laden/plot empty cluster-screw festival of cliches and stupidity.

    Can you tell I didn’t like this film? :)

    Maybe Mr. Ironside can reprise his role in the un-original revamp of “V” that ABC is pulling out of it’s ass for the fall season. Ham Tyler may yet live!

    McG? Meh…. more like McPee.

  14. 14 Jim
    May 26, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Look, Studio says “greenlight new Terminator movie. Make it PG-13.” It was, as of then, dead. Haven’t seen it. Don’t know when I will, and I don’t mean in the theater. I therefore won’t judge McG out of fairness, but I haven’t felt good about this one in a long while.

    Just remember, studio greenlight with PG-13 attached. Bad starting point.

  15. 15 adallahq
    May 26, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    What about the VFX Mojo?

    I agree the plot, characters, writing and acting were horrible (I guess that makes 90% of the movie lol) but I thought the ILM did pretty good with the VFX. Since I’m starting to get into VFX myself, I am starting to notice things I wouldnt have noticed, such as the not-so-realistic helicopter flight animation at the end.

    But I thought the hunter-killer scenes were pretty darn good. The nuclear explosion was not bad either.

    But yeah, overall not impressive at all. One of those entertaining Hollywood movies that have very little meaning, overly cheesy, make you laugh (for the wrong reasons), and that you’ll never see again in your life.

    Is it me…or are all big “blockbusters” becoming more and more unoriginal, and only surviving by fooling the millions who go see the movie just because it’s a known franchise and they HAVE to go see it?

    That african-american second-in-command guy is easily among the worst characters I’ve ever seen in a movie, worst acted, and with the worst lines. I want to say competing with Black Knight. At least that was supposed to be funny and stupid. Terminator…not so much.

    Best part of the movie was the Teaser Trailer for Transformers on the big screen…


  16. 16 darthmojo
    May 27, 2009 at 1:28 am

    OTTER: You’ve seen STAR TREK three times already and you want to see it again? I’m sorry to hear about your short-term memory issues, I hope the doctors can fix you.

    Also, you say haven’t cared for any McG film… Which ones have you seen? You mentioned not liking THE HULK and the first CHARLIE’S ANGELS, both of which were NOT directed by McG. Oh and of course you didn’t like T4, which you haven’t seen yet. I have to say, you’ve got a rare talent – most people offer terse opinions on stuff they’ve actually seen, but I like the way you don’t let details like that hold you back. Can you do me a favor? Write a detailed review of the new TRANSFORMERS movie for me, I can be the first guy on the block to post one! End of the week would be fine.

    JIM: So let me get this straight, the fact that the studio wanted T4 to be PG-13 doomed the movie to failure? Please explain, from what I have heard there have been several good PG-13 movies made, some in this decade. Most Disney animated movies are made with the understanding that they will be rated G, but I don’t think that has hampered them. Sure, “Snow White” might have been a better film if the orgy scene hadn’t been cut, but what made it to the screen ain’t half bad.

    ADALLA: I thought most of the effects in T4 were good – a few questionable composites, but the CG was impressive. The robots looked photoreal. I think what underwhelmed me was that they had all this great CG but nothing to do with it. There were no memorable sequences – when you think of the first Terminator movie (which has no CG), you remember the attack on the police station. In T2, the attack on/in Cyberdyne stands out and as I mentioned in my review, personally I think the crane truck sequence in T3 was bad-ass.

    We remember these scenes not just because of the great special effects, but because they were well-conceived and unique. In fact, I’d wager that if you were to list your favorite action scenes of all time and really broke down what you liked about them, you’d realize it was the *writing* that made these moments stand out.

    Great CGI begins with a great script. I don’t know why more studio heads C.G.I. (Can’t Grasp It).

  17. May 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    After hearing all the reports that the script was altered significantly to give John Connor/Christian Bale a bigger role, I found myself wondering if I would have liked this one better with the original script. So many of the scenes would have made more sense if they were written for either Kyle or Marcus.

    I’m sure there are more stories to tell in the Terminator universe and I think another movie could be done without Arnold or Christian’s characters. But I’m not sure I want McG to direct it…

  18. 18 Dan
    May 27, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    The best installment of the Terminator franchise is the recently canceled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. When this first came out, I rolled my eyes and predicted a lame action-oriented TV show with car chases and cheap CGI on a weekly basis, i.e., an effort to re-create the films on a TV budget. But it was not like that at all. It was an extremely well-written and acted show. It showed complex and conflicted characters, often torn between fatalism and hope. It had a philosophy. It had complex story arcs. It even had a soundtrack by Bear McCreary.

    And in some respects it surpassed our beloved Galactica in that it was well thought out over the long haul. In sum, it not only surpassed all expectations, but transcended the genre and its own franchise. So naturally it got low ratings and was canceled. Now we can all watch The Cougar or Howie Do It. Frak me.

  19. 19 darthmojo
    May 28, 2009 at 12:59 am

    PUG: After reading the article about the original version of T4, it doesn’t sound like it would have been much better. Maybe a little, since it would have actually focused on one main character (Marcus) but I don’t see why we wanted a movie about him anyway.

    DAN: I watched 3 or 4 episodes of the first season and it was very ho-hum. It wasn’t enough to keep me interested to watch the whole series, and even people who liked it all seemed to agree that the second season wasn’t as good as the first… so why bother? And while I haven’t seen the whole show, it seems like a strecth to say it was as good as the new BSG. That show hooked everyone right from the start.

    Still, even the lamest SF shows have their legion of devoted fans. When are they going to reboot SALVAGE ONE?

  20. 20 Dan
    May 29, 2009 at 8:36 am


    Just to clarify: I wasn’t saying that TSCC was better than BSG as a show overall. I was saying that it surpassed BSG in certain respects. Both shows opted to go for long story arcs over single-episode storylines. As even RDM has acknowledged, BSG has had some real problems in planning and executing on these long story arcs. Some were dropped, some were truncated, and others were left unresolved until the last few eps, forcing a mad scramble of exposition (e.g., “No Exit”). This wa exascerbated by RDM’s preference to make significant plot decisions off the cuff (e.g., “Crossroads, Pt. 2).

    TSCC pulled this off much better, with planning and forethought. It made a real difference. At the same time, they did not allow the show to become a copycat of Lost, wherein the cute plot twists predominated over the characters.

    I regret that more people felt as you did, and never developed a passion for the show. I hope people will check it out on DVD. The second season had a few eps in the middle where it sagged, but overall the quality did not suffer IMHO.

  21. 21 The Lobby Lurker
    May 29, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I heard Andy Griffith is ready for a cameo if they do decide to reboot S-1. How about a remake of Quark??? That might just be worth it.

    “Land of the Lost” looks like another goofy/retarded Will Ferrel shlock-fest, but if it generates good Box office, can a “Sigmund and the Seamonsters” film be far behind?

    Let’s ALL hope another Terminator movie is terminated, unless they decide to hire writers and a real director next time out.

  22. 22 Boris
    May 30, 2009 at 5:06 am

    I haven’t seen the second season of TSCC yet, so I don’t know that much about its arc, but even the most popular of today’s shows such as BSG or Lost could take some “arc management” lessons from B5, even if they do surpass it in a number of other respects such as CGI, acting or dialogue, even in their first seasons. After two months, I still think that the ending of BSG wasn’t satisfactory: a lot of the missing elements could’ve been resolved with proper planning. (Yes, B5’s arc diverged a lot from the original concept, but that’s what I mean by arc management — you never let it get out of hand. “War Without End” was a great episode but still totally different from what had been planned originally for it.) BSG ended with a deus ex machina essentially: “It’s just ‘God’ controlling our destinies”, and probably just “God” who is responsible for the amazing reinvention of the three-piece suit and chicken pie. I’m afraid that “Lost” is going to have the same problem next year.

    (Still, most of today’s shows are a huge improvement over The X-Files, which had amazingly strong individual episodes but was an “arc management” disaster – there are perhaps two infodump episodes, the first movie and the finale, which connected all the pieces at once, but it is impossible to go through that much in five minutes without being confusing. As for the regular episodes, by the time one gets to the next mythology show, one tends to forget everything that was established in the previous one.)

  23. 23 andywhitto
    June 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I have to say i totally agree, TSCC was a fantastic series and really added layers to the characters of John and Sarah Connor.

    I found myself thinking through the entire film – what if Cameron was in the future with John or Allison, what if Cathrine Weaver was around as she was in the finale of TSCC, or Chromartie.

    Basically, i kept thinking how much better that movie would have been if it was a TSCC-movie lol.

    Apparently Summer Glau (Cameron) is in talks for the 5th and 6th movies!

  24. 24 CenturionTerminator
    June 13, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Darth Mojo, and everyone else, you must have seen a totally different movie.

    I had originally planned to see Land of the Lost today. But my daughter wanted to see Terminator Salvation. So I relented. Having heard some of the bad reviews, I did not expect much from this movie.

    Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.

    Terminator Salvation was nothing but two hours of gripping action, compelling drama, fine performances and spectacular visual effects. The story was suspenseful and original. I was not bored for one minute. The audience, that I sat with, was glued to their seats. There was no laughter.

    Terminator Salvation was awesome! It is easily one of the best, if not the best, of the Terminator movies. It has already grossed over $200 million worldwide.

    It ruled ruled ruled ruled RULED.

  25. 25 darthmojo
    June 14, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Hey, even the WORST movies have their fans, I’m glad you liked it!

  26. 26 CenturionTerminator
    June 14, 2009 at 11:23 am

    The WORST movie? Are you talking about Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? I’ll take Christian Bale over Nick Stahl any day. (But Kristana Loken was hot.)

  27. 27 Paul West
    June 15, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I’ve lost some faith once again in Hollywood’s sci-fi movie making ability. I went to my local theater and after 20 minutes wished I had brought some earplugs with me. Now talk about nerve racking ear trauma here. The high-frequency sound track consisting of (large chunks of metal colliding against each other with tremendous force) coupled with five Channel sci-fi sound literally blasted with extreme force in all directions, and you have a recipe for pure shell-shockton. It was a painful experience that took me several days to recuperate (hearing wise that is). Now don’t get me wrong I’ve been to movies many times that were extremely loud soundtracks however, nothing quite like terminator salvation.

    Ah,,, missed out on the story premise of the plot too however,the masquerading terminator came as no surprise. Now usually I will read the novel before viewing the movie, in that way nothing takes me by surprise. Never read the book, but figured out the plot from beginning to end. If I could write a letter to some the rich producer in Hollywood I would ask him or her this question, “do you make movies to entertain audiences like me,or do you make movies for toy marketing purposes only?

    I could write a far better movie script if giving a chance……..

  28. August 2, 2009 at 4:21 am

    Terminator Salvation is a very good movie. It is obvious that even without Schwarzenegger the movie can be good. The action scenes are top-notch.

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May 2009

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