Review for Terminator Salvation: Director's Cut
It was being utterly let down by Dark Fate that finally got me motivated enough to fill out my Terminator collection. I’m never going to watch Terminator 3 again; I have some standards, but I did finally get Genisys and this, Salvation. It turns out that Terminator Salvation is the film that I am least familiar with. I’ve only seen bits of it on TV, and avoided the hype when it first came out. Let’s face it, Terminator Salvation is more known for that legendary Christian Bale meltdown, than it is for its story. I also was wary of any director with a name as ‘hip’ as McG. I keep mixing him up with American McGee...
Judgement Day happened, and Skynet declared a war of extermination on humanity. It’s 2018, and John Connor is a leader in the resistance, fighting the war that his mother prepared him for. In the back of his mind is that personal mission to find Kyle Reese, to ensure that his own existence isn’t erased. Many see him as a prophet and humanity’s saviour, although that isn’t a view shared by his superiors. They’ve just uncovered a way to end the war right now, and they don’t mind breaking a few eggs to do it, even if destiny gets derailed. And into this world wakes Marcus Wright, a convicted felon who was executed 15 years previously, but who on death row signed his body away for scientific research, to a company called Cyberdyne.
Terminator Salvation comes in Theatrical (114:46) and Extended (117:40) versions, and for the purposes of this review, I watched the latter.
Terminator Salvation gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and Italian, DD 5.1 English Audio Descriptive with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, and Swedish. A film from 2008-ish on a Blu-ray in 2009 isn’t going to present too many issues. The image is clear, colours are good, detail levels are excellent, and there were no visible issues with compression. The audio too is excellent, nice and immersive, making the most of the action. Rather than the horrific night time vision of post-apocalyptic death that the flash-forwards in the first two movies gave us, Terminator Salvation instead chooses a Mad Max style daytime hell world that works well for the story. And in keeping with that reference, Sam Worthington’s (Marcus Wright) accent wanders back down under on more than one occasion in the film.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case. There’s some inner sleeve art, and the disc boots to an animated menu. Given its vintage, there’s plenty of stuff that you’ll probably never use, like Cinechat and Movie IQ.
On the disc you’ll find the following...
A generic BD trailer and trailer for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Maximum Movie Mode with pop-up McG over the movie (121:58)
Reforging the Future (19:01)
The Moto-Terminator (8:33)
Focus Points x11 (29:47)
This should have worked. This could have been the Aliens to the Terminator’s Alien; in other words turning the franchise into a war movie compared to the original’s slasher horror premise. For that is what you get in Terminator Salvation, a rare genre switch in a franchise that has otherwise been remaking the same movie in various flavours for the last 40 years. There’s no time travel at all in this Terminator, and we’re thrust straight into the middle of humanity’s war against the machines, and expected to hold on for dear life. The killer Terminators are ubiquitous in various forms, familiar and new, and humanity is still an organised and credible force fighting this war. Set in 2018, midway between Judgement Day and the 2029 vision from the original film, this is a humanity that is down, but not yet on the way out, and it presents us with a Skynet that still has vulnerabilities.
There are plenty of touches with the original films, especially the first two, and we get to see a young John Connor, not yet the supreme leader of the resistance, but already established as a prophet, trusted by the people if not by his leaders. There is that sense of predestination in the story, which means it’s obvious to the audience that the current plan to disable Skynet is destined to fail, although just how it will fail isn’t revealed before it needs to be by the plot. Even Connor is willing to hope that it will succeed, but on the other hand he has his mother’s tapes, foretelling of the future that he now lives in, and reminding him that Kyle Reese has to be found and protected. At this point, Reese is a gung-ho teenager and the self-styled resistance movement in the ruins of Los Angeles.
Into this hellish future wakes Marcus Wright, a convicted felon who was ostensibly executed 15 years previously, but who signed away his body to scientific research, research that has obviously led to his resurrection. That research also means that his body holds secrets that even he is unaware of. This all sounds good, and the film looks the part as well, presenting a grungy, edgy existence for the human resistance fighters and survivors, while greatly expanding the Terminator universe when it comes to the various robots and machines it sends forth against its targets, ‘harvesting’ humans as well as Terminating them. The film has some great effects, and some well executed stunts. It looks and sounds the part.
In the end it’s let down by one thing... a completely dumb script. Marcus is remarkably blasé about waking up in a post-atomic hell-verse, while no one really thinks to question his ignorance of the greatest disaster to befall humanity since the biblical flood, until he shows up at John Connor’s front door and steps on a landmine. Dumb things happen for dumb reasons in this film, but nothing is as stupid as the climax. And yet, I still enjoy Terminator Salvation more than Terminator Dark Fate. It’s dumb and stupid, but it still manages to entertain, although I can see why this film is still more widely known for Christian Bale’s on-set meltdown than it is for its content. The Blu-ray is good enough for watching, but has enough McG in the extras to last a lifetime.