2009 // USA // McG // December 18, 2009 // DirecTV On-Demand
C- - Just as Nick Stahl's skittish, fatalistic John Connor fit Rise of the Machines' ferocious rush towards a bleak future, a zealous yet cynical Christian Bale—plagiarizing his Batman growl—suits Terminator Salvation's gritty realization of that future. This, and the admittedly seamless visual effects, is about the only thing that McG's distressingly rote sequel gets right. This outing's central conceit—SkyNet has spawned an experimental half-human, half-machine abomination (a rugged, essentially charmless Sam Worthington)—isn't remotely meaty enough to sustain a feature film. The story is as limp as a noodle, but even as a mindless science-fiction actioner, Salvation fumbles. At about the halfway point, McG trades genuinely frightening early set pieces for dull sensory incoherence. Blessedly, it's not the nerve-frying visual lunacy of a Michael Bay film, but just the undistinguished smash-bang nonsense that has characterized vast swaths of the past two decades' action films. That such mediocrity has befallen that Terminator saga is all the more frustrating given that the film-makers are clearly besotted with the previous films, loading Salvation with references and homages that range from the blatant to the clever. If only fanboy enthusiasm alone were sufficient to conjure a good film.