Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Michael Ironside
Synopsis: The war against the machines is well and truly in progress. John Connor is not yet leader of the resistance, however he is a source of inspiration of pockets of survivors through regular radio broadcasts. The Resistance discovers a signal that can be used to turn off machines within range, and it is Connor’s mission to test it. Meanwhile, he discovers a young Kyle Reese is Skynet’s current primary target.
A Review by Film Nerd.
After thescripting shambles of Rise of the Machines, the plot is now firmly established within the story of the war in which John Connor shall eventually take the most prominent role. Given all the leaps in logic to continue the franchise have already been taken, this film is actually very enjoyable, as no excuse need be made for it existing. The continuity in this film is never an issue, though familiarity with the previous three chapters I would argue is a must if you are to fully enjoy it. I regret I did not discuss the franchise more fully with Bride of Film Nerd prior to our first viewing, as it was about half an hour into the film I realised this was the first time she had ever seen a terminator film. This was much to my shock and horror at the time, I will admit, though hindsight would suggest that this was entirely within character for her!! My bad in the end.
McG seems a curious choice of director, veteran of the recent Charlie’s Angels films and of music videos before that. I get the impression though he was intentionally trying for something grittier and much more serious with this piece. He convinced Bale of this fact, managing to get him on board another potential franchise, something he was at the time reluctant to do being already associated with Batman. Having Bale on board is where the great impact of this film lies. He is in my opinion the best actor to portray John Connor yet. The character he portrays is a man I would take leadership from, something I would not have said about the previous incarnations. The talent does not stop there though. Dallas Howard picks up where Claire Danes left off as Kate, wife of John Connor, and she is convincing in a comparatively small role. Star Trek‘s Yelchin also showed there is much more to him than Chekov, being very convincing as a young Kyle Reese, before he was fully trained and bad ass as played by Michael Biehn in the original Terminator (hmmm, I wonder what young version of an iconic character he will play next!!). Bonham Carter is also quite extraordinary despite the brevity of her small role as a cancer sufferer. The acting side of things is slightly let down by young resistance fighter Blair (Bloodgood) and the mysterious Marcus Wright (Worthington). Their performances are serviceable to the plot, but do little special.
As far as plot goes, it is an enjoyable ride. It is a mix of classic war story, with very gritty POV camera work defining early battles, very similar to the cinematography used in the D-Day landings of Saving Private Ryan, with more traditional sci-fi, with enough reference made to the original films indicating the victory we know is to come. The references made to past films are sprinkled throughout to very good effect. As in every film, there is even a variatioon on the classic “I’ll Be Back” (admit it, you hear every word with a capital letter in that phrase too!!). CGI was also effectively used to ensure a brief appearance from an actor who was not present, yet without whom this is not a Terminator film. The film ends satisfyingly enough… in a way that hedges the bets….this works as a stand alone film just as much as it works as the start of a potential second trilogy. I have heard no new word on whether there will be a continuation from this point, but unlike Rise of the Machines, I feel it is justified in this case. I would certainly invest some coin to go watch it.
This does not reach the lofty heights of Judgement Day, but given the quality of that film that is a very high benchmark to set. It is a worthy addition to the Terminator cannon, however, and washes the bad taste left in the mouth by its predecessor.
3 stars out of 5