For a film that is supposed to be concerned with the state of humanity, Terminator Salvation lacks a beating heart. Things 'splode real good, and giant robot Terminators the size of Transformers (coming soon to a theater near you!) stomp around with authority (before 'sploding). But if you’re looking for character development, dialogue that does anything but advance the plot, or relationships of any consequence, you’ve come to the wrong place.
I understand why hack director McG (Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle) would take a stab at reviving this moribund franchise—he’s looking for his Dark Knight—but what on earth is in it for Christian Bale (who was actually in Dark Knight)?
Bale doesn’t even play the most interesting character in this film: That would be Marcus Wright (Australian newcomer Sam Worthington), the cyborg prototype, trying to cling to his humanity. Worthington makes an impression—he’s handsome and soulfully badass. (What is it with those Australian men?). Apparently, that role was offered to Bale—instead he opted to play John Connor, the noble and courageous leader of the people's resistance against the machines who is worshipped as a prophet. (Years ago, Bale played Jesus Christ in a TV movie. Seeing a pattern here of some sort?). Followers of the franchise will know that Connor must save his time-traveling father Kyle Reese (he got busy with Linda Hamilton in the original Terminator move, and is here played as a 19-year-old by Anton Yelchin) to assure that he can be born and get his resistance on.
Many cliches populate the film’s gritty, Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic landscape (itself a cliche): Connor has a saintly wife (Bryce Dallas Howard) who's pregnant; Marcus gets busy with a sexy but tough resistance fighter (Moon Bloodgood); there’s an angelic and mute child meant to represent innocence (I’m surprised the character’s name wasn’t Innocence); buildings and tanks blow up as our heroes make split-second escapes; there are even robot motorcycles that Connor can mount to look sufficiently cool.
Through the magic of digital technology, a young Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to take on Connor. McG was clearly hoping for whoops of recognition, maybe even some high fives. My crowd barely shifted in their seats.