Turns out a Bat can’t replace The Governator after all.
“Terminator Salvation,” the fourth entry in the sci-fi franchise, relies on Christian Bale to offset the absence of the big robot himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But Bale’s John Connor isn’t really the star here. Sam Worthington, chosen to anchor James Cameron’s upcoming “Avatar,” gets the meatier role as a man from the past with an uncertain future.
Both Bale and Worthington take a back seat to the film’s actions sequences, which will have audiences’ jaws dropped for nearly the film’s full running time.
When the violence ebbs, we’re left with a screenplay that often gives the actors no more than a syllable or two at a time.
It’s 2018, and John Connor is leading the resistance against Skynet and its robot army. The world is in full post-apocalyptic mode – every building has been reduced to rubble and only a few humans are left. But Connor thinks he may have found the robots’ Achilles heel courtesy of a jamming device which could change the balance of power in the ongoing battle.
Connor’s mission gets complicated when a stranger named Marcus (Worthington), a convicted killer who we learn from the opening scene was sent forward in time for reasons unknown, ends up in Connor’s dank headquarters.
“Salvation” is one loud, depressing movie, the kind that cries out for comic relief. The robots clank around the screen in a series of visually stunning action sequences, but after a few of these you’ll start to wonder why we should root for the human survivors.
Bale’s performance is perfunctory, and the movie needs so much more than that. Where’s the charisma that made John Connor such a pivotal player in the franchise? And why does the final battle sequence have more holes than Robert Patrick’s body in “Terminator 2?”
Even Worthington’s intriguing turn can’t make “Salvation” worthy of the franchise’s first two installments.
Those films had a sense of humor. Here, all we get is Bale robotically repeating the franchise’s signature line.
Say what you will about Schwarnegger’s acting chops. His absence is felt deeply despite an electronically manufactured cameo.
Bryce Dallas Howard appears as Connor’s supposed love interest, complete with pregnancy belly, but the impending birth isn’t referenced, nor does Howard get to do anything but look concerned when appropriate.
Director McG has been talking about how “Terminator Salvation” would be his coming out party, the film that proves he’s so much more than just a highly mockable name.
He got the money, the cast and the franchise to prove his point. But he’ll have to wait for another summer to prove he’s more than Michael Bay 2.0.