"terminator salvation" was on high on my list of summer movies to see. maybe the expectations for t4 were too high, but "terminator salvation" was a let down. i'm not a big science fiction fan - the terminator movies and star trek franchise are about the extent of my interest in the genre. while the star trek reboot via prequel was a success, the terminator fast forward to 2018 seemed flat and uninspired. what saved the movie was sam worthington's performance as marcus. christian bale, as john connor, phoned in a one-dimensional angry action hero.
the movie opened with connor's team annihilated during an attack on skynet research facilities. connor glimpsed the next-generation terminators and is rightfully worried about the future to come. as he makes connor makes his escape, out of the muck of battle emerged marcus (via the primordial sludge, as contrasted to the earlier, time transported terminators). while marcus grappled with his rebirth (we first meet him on death row, for his scheduled execution), connor is off to see the resistance command.
this particular sequence - and so early in the film - was unbearable (and unbelievable)! the bunker is a submarine (how schlocky can it get?) and the leadership is a cliched group of retro, recycled 1960's quasi-james bond villain-like buffoons. how could a john connor (bale) respect these quivering cowards sulking in an underwater hideout, play-acting as generals, is truly baffling - to put it mildly. from that point on, it was difficult to take the story line (or movie) seriously.
on the other hand, the jason bourne-like puzzle confronting marcus as he tried to piece together how he suddenly found himself alive is fascinating. as he traveled across a post-apocalypse, mad max/road warrior razed landscape, marcus kept me interested. even as we rolled into some predictable clashes with the futuristic (retro) terminators - the transformer-like giant that tore up the gas station was especially nifty. along the way he meets and befriends the teenage kyle reese (who needs no introduction to terminator fans).
he loses kyle in a "war of the worlds-esque" battle with terminators sent out to harvest humans for research. but, in losing kyle, he meets blair williams and finds his way to john connor. on this journey he learned the shocking truth about himself and his new-found life (and may explain his lack of romantic interest in blair). during the eventual connor-marcus confrontation i realized that i (and probably the audience - and at least one member of the resistance) cared more about marcus than connor!
i won't go into the remaining plot line, suffice it to say that connor ignoresd the resistance command to rescue kyle (with the assistance of marcus) - who a prisoner at skynet. connor engaged in some very familiar battles with arnold generation terminators. some might see this as an homage to the franchise, i however, considered it recycled and wore thin. the movie wrapped up in at just under 2 hours, and had a pseudo-bit of quasi self-termination to tie up a few some loose ends (namely the marcus/machine among them).
overall, terminator salvation is the weakest of the four terminator movies. i'd give it a b/b- letter grade, in large part as a result of sam worthington's excellent work as marcus. it's ironic that we found ourselves caring more about an executed murderer who resurfaced as a proto-terminator (and truly earned his second chance), at the expense of the movie's human characters. although it is conner who get the best line of the film (and gets to use it twice), broadcasting over the radio:
"this is john connor. if you are listening to this, you are the resistance."