Latest ‘Terminator’ could mean salvation for action movies


‘Terminator Salvation’

Rated PG-13

Grade: A

Opens May 21

As promised, the Terminator franchise is back -- this time as “Terminator Salvation,” the fourth installment in this tremendously successful action franchise first launched by director James Cameron and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1984. Now it’s post-apocalyptic 2018 and John Connor (Christian Bale) leads the Resistance against the machines that have destroyed and taken over the world.

It’s a bleak planet, with survivors hiding among the rubble from the increasingly sophisticated Terminators created to destroy the human race. The machines’ latest prototype, a human/machine hybrid built using the body of an executed killer (Sam Worthington), is inadvertently released during a battle. Believing he’s still human, this new Terminator is the embodiment of the struggle between man and machine -- and he/it must decide which side to fight for.

“Terminator Salvation” could very well be the savior of the modern action movie, which has been plagued by shallow, over-the-top stunts and chase scenes designed for brief “wow” moments that fade once the lights come up. Director McG, who comes from a background that includes plenty of TV and action romps like “Charlie’s Angels,” clearly has a different vision for the genre and delivers a product worthy of a more sophisticated audience -- while still appealing to the action junkies.

In a way, the film itself is a hybrid -- an action/science fiction tale with a video game sensibility (yes, this can be a good thing when done right). Like a well-designed, interactive game, the movie takes you through the story, unfolding increasingly difficult levels that introduce an exciting new threat alongside plenty of action-packed scenes bursting with visual effects. But these scenes are more than just stunts. They keep you on the edge of your seat and in the action, while still telling a story that has lasting impact.

Christian Bale is spot-on as the prophesied Resistance leader we’ve been following all these years. He exudes an intensity that almost explains away his now-infamous tirade on the set of the film last year.

But the breakout star of “Terminator Salvation” is easily Sam Worthington as the conflicted Terminator prototype who single-handedly carries the heart of the movie along with all of his character’s hard wiring. Look for this Aussie newcomer in many more things to come.

It took 25 years for the “Terminator” franchise to get to this exceptional point in its journey, and the newest tale pays tribute to its predecessors in a few memorable moments. Though the planet may be in ruins on-screen, the future certainly looks bright for more sequels to come. Hopefully they will live up to this most recent effort.