The Terminator franchise is haunted by a certain set of dreams, and I don’t mean those of punch lines from the unstoppable villain (turned father-figure and savior in later reel-life installments and ideologue-busting governor in the real). No, the best moments in the narratives come via memories and dreamscapes of a burned-out future where humans are little more than cockroaches scurrying in dark corners while the machines stomp their boots, grind us into pulpy smears and walk on by without any thought of wiping away the mess, because in those glimpses, we see fear and hope, the last remnants of our humanity.
The first movie was strictly speaking a horror story about a relentless (and quite literal) killing machine. By the second movie, the horror gave way to an action-chase extravaganza with bar-raising special effects. The third installment, Rise of the Machines, was an anomaly — the one that simply shouldn’t have been made at all. So now McG (of Charlie’s Angels infamy) seeks to make us forget the blip by resetting the system and his salvage job works surprisingly well.
In 2018, the Resistance — better yet, the Resistance within the Resistance — is led, as we all know, by John Connor (Christian Bale), eager to bust up Skynet (the computer controlling the machines), although he knows he also has to save the boy who will become Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin doing another fine job as a stand-in for a familiar character). Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), mysterious shell of a man from the past, complicates the present and future of things, but he (and his story) fit right into this grim battlefield of dreams. Worthington is the heart of Salvation, but McG proves here that he has a filmmaking soul worth saving. Grade: B
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