WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
In this fourth installment of the durable Terminator series, the year is 2018, and a nuclear holocaust has effectively ended civilization as we knew it. With Terminators snapping up what little remains of the human race, a small group of survivors have gone underground in an effort to battle the controlling organization Skynet, which shocked the world by triggering the apocalypse. Standing up against all odds is John Connor, the one man who knew this was going to happen, and Marcus Wright, a death-row inmate who's about to be executed when he's given a new lease on life by Dr. Serena Kogan, a scientist with big plans for this dead man walking. Though Connor is highly suspicious of Kogan's creation, he forms a precarious bond with the resuscitated Marcus as the two search for a way to infiltrate and conquer a very imposing enemy.
WHO'S IN IT?
Let's start by stating who isn't in Terminator Salvation: Arnold Schwarzenegger, star of the three previous installments, is busy in Sacramento, so except for his brief reappearance via the miracle of CGI, this is a whole new ballgame. Taking on a beloved movie franchise just as he did in 2005's Batman Begins Christian Bale steps into the adult shoes of John Connor, who was previously portrayed in T2 and T3 by Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl, respectively. As the one key link to the entire series, Bale's Connor is intensely serious and dedicated to the task at hand even though he's vastly outnumbered. As Marcus Wright, Sam Worthington gets to play both sides of the coin as a hybrid of human and machine, delivering the most unique and convincing performance yet seen in the series. Both Bale and Worthington carry on this legendary series in style, but it's Worthington who gets the big scenes, bringing an ironic element of humanity to the whole enterprise. Also noteworthy: Helena Bonham Carter as the doctor who creates a modern version of Frankenstein's Monster; Anton Yelchin as future time-traveler Kyle Reese, Moon Bloodgood as Resistance warrior Blair Williams; and rapper Common as Connor's second-in-command.
Director McG (Charlie's Angels) tackles the daunting task of carrying on this series without its signature star and pulls it off with first-rate action set pieces, flawless production values and a fascinating new wrinkle in Marcus Wright, a character at odds with himself as well as John Connor. In the time-honored tradition of a classic cinematic showdown, these are no ordinary heroes. They're conflicted warriors faced with a task that is truly overwhelming in its scope.
With such a strong story, the filmmakers probably didn't have to resort to so many motorcycle flips, explosions, and truck and plane chases not to mention a pulsating soundtrack that's amped up so high you may need earplugs. But with so much excitement on the screen, it doesn't really matter. Action fans will be wetting their pants.
MEMORIES OF THE GOVERNATOR:
Arnold appears briefly (in the nude, no less) in what appears to be a CGI pastiche of his classic character. But don't blink, or you'll miss him.
Terminators won't die, and neither will its signature line. When Blair asks Connor what she should tell his men after he's gone, he replies in earnest: "I'll be back!"
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
It will be movie theaters' OWN salvation this summer.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.