Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Jadagrace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Michael Ironside
John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
The End Begins.
In the aftermath of Judgment Day and the takeover by the machines, John Connor (Christian Bale), the destined leader of the human resistance, must counter Skynet's devastating plan to terminate mankind. As Connor rallies his underground street fighters for a last, desperate battle, he realizes that to save the future he must rescue his own father, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). But the most shocking discovery comes with the arrival of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a mysterious loner from the past who challenges Connor with an impossible choice that will determine the future of the human race - leading them both on a brutal journey into the very heart of the enemy.
$51.943 million on 3530 screens.
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Runtime: 114 min. (Theatrical Cut)
117 min. (Director’s Cut)
Release Date: 12/1/2009
• Both Theatrical and Extended Versions of the Film
• Maximum Movie Mode
• “Focus Points” Featurettes
• “Reforging the Future” Featurette
• “The Moto-Terminator” Featurette
• Digital Copy
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
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Terminator Salvation [Blu-Ray] (2009)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 30, 2009)
After 25 years, the Terminator franchise keeps chugging, but I don’t know if we can say it’s going strong. Actually, the series has been more active over the last few years than ever, as it’s not like they cranked out one Terminator effort after another. We got the original flick in 1984, its first sequel in 1991, and its third chapter in 2003. Three movies over 20 years isn’t a very active pace.
Things heated up in 2007 when Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles hit the air. Not long after that, we learned that a fourth Terminator feature film would arrive in 2009.
Though this would seem to mark a golden age for Terminator fans, the situation didn’t play out to as much popular success as many would’ve liked. Chronicles got canceled after its second season, and 2009’s big screen Terminator Salvation wasn’t a huge hit. Sure, its gross of $125 million in the US meant it wasn’t a flop, but with a budget of $200 million, clearly the studio hoped it’d do better. Seriously, who thought Paul Blart Mall Cop would earn more than a Terminator flick?
So it remains to be seen if any further Terminator adventures will emerge. I’d guess they will, though it may take a while to let the dust settle and go for a “reboot” ala the 2009 Star Trek movie.
In the first two flicks, folks fought to prevent Judgment Day. They did the same in the TV series and the third movie as well, but T3 indicated that Judgment Day’s gonna happen no matter what.
Which leads us to Salvation, the only Terminator film to focus on the events after Judgment Day. Mostly, at least, as it starts with a sequence set in pre-apocalypse 2003. Condemned prisoner Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) grudgingly agrees to donate his body to science to help the research of cancer-ridden Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter).
From there the movie gives us a text explanation of Judgment Day and the war against the machines, all of which folks who saw the earlier movies will know. The flick leaps ahead to 2018 and introduces us to John Connor (Christian Bale), one of the leaders of the human resistance against Skynet and all its mechanical operatives.
A mission to rescue human prisoners doesn’t work out well, and only one survivor emerges: Marcus Wright, though he doesn’t know who he is or how he got there. (And neither do we at this point.) As he wanders the wasteland, he meets and befriends Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the man fans know will someday become Connor’s father.
And Connor knows this as well, so he reacts accordingly when he learns that Skynet has targeted teenage Kyle. Connor also volunteers to take on a mission to test a method that might just pull the plug on Skynet; this will allow him the chance to save Reese and thus himself. Much action and various revelations emerge along the way.
Wow, that’s a complicated synopsis, isn’t it? I’ve seen the film twice and still don’t feel certain that I really covered the story very well. Not that I suspect it really matters, as plot nuances and character issues aren’t really the film’s emphasis.
Instead, action comes to the fore, as well it should in a Terminator movie. After three prior flicks and two seasons of a TV series, I must admit I find it more and more difficult to care about the various participants and their quest to save mankind. I think once T3 told us that apocalypse was inevitable, the quest lost some of its urgency.
In fact, I think that setting the film post-Judgment Day gives viewers even less hope of actual resolution. When we saw Terminator and T2, we thought that the participants might’ve prevented the apocalypse. In T3, we actually saw Judgment Day, but that offered its own strange form of conclusion; hey, at least it meant we wouldn’t have to watch various Connors attempt to stop it anymore.
On the other hand, Salvation finds us in a different place. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that John and his partners don’t end the war with the machines here. Perhaps someday the franchise’s producers will decide that enough is enough and they’ll allow John to finish things once and for all, but I doubt it. Even if that does occur, the tangled time travel web the series weaves always means something could happen to alter apparently decisive events.
In any case, Salvation lacks the sense of conclusion that we found with the first three movies. Even if we suspected that those flicks would generate more adventures, they would’ve worked as finales. Salvation doesn’t succeed in that way. It comes across like a chapter in a much bigger book, not something that stands on its own particularly well.
That sense of transition makes it more difficult to invest in the characters. I suppose we hope that John and Marcus will save Kyle because of the character’s fate as an adult, but that area opens a big old can of worms that has always been the series’ biggest logic weakness. In the first film, John sends Kyle back to 1984 to save Sarah. Kyle and Sarah get it on, and the resulting pregnancy creates John.
Which always left open the big question: how did 1984 Future John – the one who told Kyle to go back in time and protect his mama – come into existence in the first place? In some timeline’s 1984, someone other than Kyle had to knock up Sarah to create 1984 Future John or else he couldn’t tell T1 Kyle to travel in time.
Oy, that paradox makes my head hurt! And it always will, as the series will never adequately resolve it. Since the series plays so fast and loose with logic, this means we find ourselves less invested in the characters’ fates. Even if Salvation’s circa 2018 Kyle gets iced, who’s to say other time travelers won’t hop to another era to protect him and alter the events of 2018?
We also feel pretty sure that John won’t die. Not only is he the lead and Bale the movie’s biggest star, but John has to live another 10 years so he can send Kyle back to 1984 to knock up his mama. (Ugh – my head’s hurting again.) The movie toys with John’s mortality, but we never really feel a threat against him for these reasons.
Because of this, only Salvation-exclusive characters allow us to feel any emotional investment. This mainly means Marcus as well as John’s wife Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Marcus’s gal pal Blair (Moon Bloodgood). Honestly, we don’t really care what happens to the two women. Kate receives so little exposition that she’s there as nothing more than a prop. Blair gets better development, but we sort of expect her to die, so in a perverse way, it doesn’t matter if she does. She’s kind of like a red shirt in Star Trek; she feels like cannon fodder.
This leaves Marcus as the movie’s emotional heart, and he works surprisingly well in that capacity. (Alert: potential spoilers ahead!) As we learn about halfway through the movie, Marcus is an unwitting double agent of the machines; he’s an infiltration terminator who doesn’t even realize this is his lot in life. (You may already know this from the trailers, as they revealed too much and eliminated the surprise from the movie’s big reveal of Marcus as terminator.)
Marcus displays the most emotional range in the movie as he attempts to cope with his half-man, half-machine status. He’s the first terminator to show actual feelings, and he’s also the one who most actively combats his status as a killing machine. Oh, others showed some self-awareness, but their human sides resulted from programming, whereas Marcus’s humanity comes from his source as an actual person.
I guess. As I’ve already noted, the Terminator series has never been very good about logic and continuity, and Salvation doesn’t give us a solid understanding of Marcus’s creation. I’ve seen the flick twice, and I must admit I still don’t really understand how the executed prisoner from 2003 turned into the man-machine of 2018. Maybe I’m just slow, but I don’t think the movie does much to explain this, and it also makes little sense that in an era during which Skynet is just starting to make T800s – ie, the Arnold Terminator – they can produce such a sophisticated hybrid man-machine. I realize he’s a prototype, but he still seems like a big leap ahead in terminator technology.
Despite all these question marks, Marcus at least gives the movie a sense of real emotion and heart. He takes us on a journey that the others can’t accomplish, and he also offers the only major character whose fate seems up in the air. Worthington does a good job in the role and allows us to really care about the character.
Bale is less effective, though I don’t fault the actor much. Though he’s the nominal lead, Salvation remains much more invested in the Marcus story, and it doesn’t seem to worry much about Connor. John often feels like a supporting role, and the movie seems to forget about him for long stretches. In reality, I think he gets a fair amount of screentime, but it just doesn’t feel that way. Connor’s a reasonably active participant but he’s not as major a factor as I’d expect.
That said, as a fan of the franchise, I think it’s fun to learn more about the various participants and see the nuts and bolts of the Future War as depicted in Salvation. Every other Terminator effort just gives us hints and tidbits of the post-Judgment Day world, so Salvation is the only one that really engulfs us in its reality.
I also like the “full circle” feel to the tale. As I mentioned earlier, the film shows the timeline’s introduction of the T800, so we get the impression that we’ve come back close to the era of the first flick. That’s not really true - T1’s John and Kyle are a good decade older than Salvation’s characters – but I like the feeling of progression and development.
Director McG doesn’t have much skill in terms of story and character development, but he knows his way around an action scene, so that side of Salvation succeeds reasonably well. The film integrates its many CG creations into the real environments in an effective manner and it gives us more than a few exciting set pieces.
And still, I find myself somewhat disenchanted with Salvation due to the lack of character investment. When I saw it theatrically, the action scenes worked well enough to carry the day, but on second viewing, the film’s shortcomings become more apparent. Salvation has enough good action to make it reasonably enjoyable, but the lack of strong character drama means that it leaves a hollow feeling.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A/ Bonus B+
Terminator Salvation appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently excellent presentation.
At all times, sharpness excelled. Even in the widest shots, the movie looked precise and well-defined. If any signs of softness occurred, I failed to notice them; this was a tight presentation. No jagged edges or shimmering marred the presentation, and the movie lacked edge haloes. Source flaws also remained absent.
To fit its post-apocalyptic wasteland setting, Salvation went with a severely restricted palette most of the time. In essence, we got faded browns or chilly blue-greens; a few other tones emerged on occasion, but this usually remained a very limited set of colors. Within those constraints, the hues looked just fine; I found no concerns related to the tones, as they accurately replicated the visual design.
Blacks came across well. Those elements seemed deep and firm, without any inkiness or drabness. Shadows were also clear and smooth, as low-light shots appeared smooth and distinctive. Salvation didn’t offer the best-looking Blu-ray I’ve seen, but I sure couldn’t find anything to criticize.
In addition, I felt very pleased with the film’s stellar DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. As I expected, Salvation offered a dynamic soundfield that cranked out material from all five speakers on a near constant basis. Packed with action sequences, the movie used the different channels to great effect. Various vehicles, gunfire, explosions and other elements cropped up all around the room and created a terrific sense of excitement. They all blended together well and formed an immersive setting that served the film in a compelling manner.
Audio quality was very satisfying as well. Effects played the most prominent role, and they kicked butt across the board. Everything sounded clear and accurate, and these elements offered terrific low-end response; bass was consistently deep and firm. Music presented good range and clarity as well, and speech was crisp and concise. I felt totally satisfied with this excellent soundtrack.
How did the picture and sound of the Blu-ray compare to those of the standard DVD release? While I really liked the DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, I thought the Blu-ray’s DTS-HD audio worked even better. It added more range and oomph; it came across as more dynamic, powerful and immersive, at least to a minor degree.
On the other hand, the Blu-ray’s visuals boasted a significant improvement. The DVD looked somewhat murky and rough, while the Blu-ray was darned near flawless. Without a doubt, the Blu-ray offered a radical visual step up compared to the DVD.
Though the DVD provided virtually no extras, the Blu-ray offers a decent selection. First of all, we get both the theatrical “PG-13” version of the film and an “R”-rated “Director’s Cut”. The theatrical edition goes for 1:54:36, while the Director’s Cut lasts 1:57:31.
What does that extra two minutes, 55 seconds show us? I’ll be darned if I know. I only noticed one definite difference: after Blair and Marcus set up camp early in their relationship, she takes off her top in the rain. (A reader once referred to me as a “boob-obsessed moron”; he’ll be unsurprised that this was the only change that stood out to me.)
Even though the Director’s Cut was my third time through Salvation, I really couldn’t detect any obvious alterations. I suspect that some scenes boasted minor extensions; I’d be surprised to learn that the DC added any entirely new sequences, especially given the fact it really doesn’t run much longer than the theatrical version.
Whatever change we find, I don’t think they do anything to affect the film. My impressions of the theatrical cut still apply to the DC, so you shouldn’t expect the longer rendition to make the movie any better – or worse, for that matter.
A Blu-ray exclusive called Maximum Movie Mode accompanies the theatrical version. This provides a mix of different components. A “Terminator Mythology” timeline lets us understand when various events occurred in the series’ world. “Director Walk-Ins” feature McG and act as a semi-commentary; he trots onscreen to point out various tidbits and introduce some behind the scenes footage. In addition, we find still galleries with costume sketches, character designs and production photos; storyboards also occasionally run across the screen.
The most dominant element in “Maximum Movie Mode” involves picture-in-picture material. These clips feature behind the scenes footage and interviews. We hear from McG, ILM visual effects supervisor Ben Snow, set decorator Victor Zolfo, production designer Martin Laing, Kerner Studios miniature photography unit creative director Brian Gernand, terminator make-up and animatronic effects creator John Rosengrant, key mechanical operator Matt Heimlich, executive producer Jeanne Allgood, stunt coordinator Tom Struthers, key powder foreman Anthony Simonaitis, ILM animation supervisor Marc Chu, visual effects art director Christian Alzmann, assistant art director Greg Hooper, fight coordinator Buster Reeves, digital compositing supervisor Jeff Sutherland, CG supervisor Pat Conran, key artist Michael Ornelaz, and actors Common, Christian Bale, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, Sam Worthington, and Bryce Dallas Howard.
They discuss character/story/script issues, visual effects, production design, prop/terminator design, cinematography and film stock choices, cast and performances, McG’s influence on the production, sets and locations, stunts and action, and sets/locations.
These interviews don’t appear quite as frequently as I might like, but they add a lot to the proceedings. The participants cover a good range of subjects; while technical elements dominate, we still find a nice mix of topics. We learn a fair amount about the movie through the P-I-P bits.
As for McG’s “walk-in” segments, they work well – when they appear. He pops up nine times during the movie to offer more thoughts about various sequences. McG includes quite a few good insights; I especially like his discussion of an extremely dark alternate ending. My only complaint is that we don’t get more of the “walk-in” pieces, as they’re very good.
Despite that problem, I find a lot to like about “Maximum Movie Mode”. We find a low of good shots from the set, and the information provided proves quite stimulating. Not all parts of “MMM” fly, but the feature satisfies.
We can check out the 11 Focus Points on their own or as branches of “Maximum Movie Mode”. These include “Creating the VLA Attack” (2:46), “Digital Destruction” (2:30), “Enlisting the Air Force” (2:48), “Stan Winston Shop” (3:04), “Building the Gas Station” (2:52), “Napalm Blast” (2:46), “Hydrobots” (2:19), “An Icon Returns” (3:01), “Terminator Factory” (2:17), “Molten Metal and the Science of Simulation” (2:09) and “Exploding Serena’s Lab in Miniature” (2:38). Across these we hear from Snow, Conran, Chu, McG, Bloodgood, Hooper, Simonaitis, Sutherland, Gernand, Rosengrant, Laing, Alzmann, Reeves, Bale, digital production supervisor Philippe Rebours, producer Jeffrey Silver, DOD project officer Charles E. Davis, A-10 aerial technical advisor Captain Jennifer Schoeck, aerial coordinator Major Brian Reece, second unit director/visual effects supervisor Charles Gibson, special effects coordinator Michael Meinardus, location manager Michael G. Burmeister and puppeteer Richard Landon.
These quick featurettes look at various effects, stunts and action, set design and creation, and military cooperation during the shoot. Despite their brevity, they provide nice details about the various topics. I especially like the look at how they recreated circa 1984 Schwarzenegger for one sequence. With plenty of behind the scenes footage along for the ride, the “Focus Points” add to our understanding of the technical areas.
Two more featurettes follow. Reforging the Future goes for 19 minutes, one second and features McG, Bale, Allgood, Silver, Worthington, Laing, Hooper, Burmeister, Bloodgood, Yelchin, Zolfo, Rosengrant, Alzmann, Chu, Gibson, Meinardus, Simonaitis, Snow, Rebours, Conran, producers Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson, associate producer Steve Gaub, and costume designer Michael Wilkinson. It examines how McG came onto the project, some story/character topics, sets and visual choices, terminator and costume design, practical effects, and digital techniques. I worried that “Future” would just regurgitate info found in the “Focus Points”, but it usually sticks with new material. Though a promotional side occasionally imposes, plenty of useful material pops up in this engaging program.
Disc Two finishes with The Moto-Terminator. In this eight-minute and 33-second piece, we hear from Gaub, McG, Alzmann, Laing, Bale, Chu, illustrator Victor Martinez, stunt players George Cottle and Rick Miller and assistant art director Desma Murphy. As expected, the show looks at the design and creation of the film’s moto-terminators. It’s another interesting and informative piece.
Over on Disc Three, we find a Digital Copy. As always, this lets you transfer the movie onto a computer or portable viewing gadget. I’m still waiting to find someone who uses this feature, but I suppose that person exists.
As a film, I maintain a lukewarm attitude toward Terminator Salvation. On one hand, I like its many exciting action pieces, but on the other, it doesn’t have much else going for it. Only one character takes us on any sort of emotional ride, and the rest of the film leaves us feeling curiously cold. The Blu-ray provides stellar picture and audio, and it also includes a pretty good set of supplements. I can’t say Salvation bowls me over, but I feel very pleased with this Blu-ray.
To rate this film, visit the original review of TERMINATOR SALVATION