It’s a sad state of affairs when the McG-helmed Terminator sequel will perhaps be best remembered for Christian Bale’s profanity laden on-set tirade rather than for the film itself.
That’s not to say that the film is memorable – whatsoever – but it almost makes you pity the production rather than resent it. It helps that Jonathan Mostow and Terminator 3 already popped our Cameron-less cherry, so another Terminator sequel doesn’t feel quite so offensive this time around.
With the sacred cow fully slain, and Hollywood milking its dead corpse without remorse, it’s kind of unsurprising to find out that this Terminator sequel is roughly the same quality as the last Terminator sequel.
(Except this one is in the future.)
McG’s dark and grimy look at a post-apocalyptic future that Cameron only hinted at with his first two installments is fully realized with this solid Blu-ray release, but its supplemental material doesn’t do the underwhelming production any favors.
So does the audio and video presentation carry the film?
Terminator Salvation is about how we define humanity. I know this, because the film said so in the form of a rhetorical question in a voice-over, as all lazy films do.
Set sometime next month in a rundown part of Los Angeles, SkyNet has apparently succeeded in its mission to wipe out most the human population.
That is, except John Connor (portrayed by Christian Bale in a performance that looks like it was borrowed from The Dark Knight), teenager Kyle Reese and a mute black girl that seems to come up with a necessary plot device at the most convenient times. Her character is like the Swiss army knife of lazy writing; she has the right tool for every dilemma, and can shepherd the film from action beat to action beat.
Also somehow alive, after an extremely awkward opening segment with Helena Bonham Carter, (doing her best Nosferatu impression) is Sam Worthington’s character – Marcus Wright. Worthington is about the only bright spot in this otherwise mediocre production, maybe because he knows he has a real career after this movie (thank you, Jim Cameron!).
What entails is two hours of trying to put Connor and Reese in the same room, so Connor can one day tell his new teenage pal to go into the future and impregnate his mom. Now that is a conversation I’d pay money to see; it’d be like a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode with cyborgs.
In the mix is Marcus Wright, as the well-intentioned plot device created to bridge these two characters together. Wright has a compelling character arc and personal story, but it’s unfortunately truncated in favor of giving Bale more screen time, which drags the film down as it lurches to its telegraphed climax.
And while you can see the plot twist coming from a mile away, what was unexpected was the insulting denouement; a ridiculous slap-in-the-face that is the final nail in this coffin of mediocrity. I was completely surprised with how McG chose to resolve this installment, considering the many obvious alternatives that would have been much better suited.
A quick Google search reveals that massive rewrites occured once Bale was brought onboard, limiting Worthington’s role and likely tossing out the ending as originally intended. If that is the case, then we have nobody to blame but Bale’s ego for breaking what could have been a pretty good script.
In the end, Salvation is not the slight against humanity that some critics decried it to be, nor is it the imaginative, dark fantasy that many of us conjured up in our heads during recess after seeing glimpses of Judgment Day in Terminator 2.
It’s just forgettable.
Terminator Salvation’s strong 1080p, 2.39:1-framed transfer is as scorched as the Los Angeles soil featured prominently throughout the film. Director of photography Shane Hurlbut presents a world without color, charred with the remains of its survivors, but not without certain panache.
It’s worth noting that Hurlbut was the specific crew member that Bale directed his on set rage towards (during the infamous tirade), and contrary to Bale’s emotional opinion, Hurlbut has done an admirable job here.
The transfer itself is another fantastic Warner Bros. release, with absolute stunning clarity, almost no print anomalies to speak of and an added sheen of texture that shines in high definition. With no other defects to speak of, it’s a fantastic transfer.
An auditory powerhouse, Salvation’s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is a reference track that justifies the purchase of a solid surround sound system.
McG, a big fan of blowing things up, puts his sound design team to work with a film littered with not just bullets and explosions, but robots, high-speed chases, helicopters, jets, the works. Barely fifteen minutes go by before something blows up, so if your ears are sensitive, may I recommend a romantic-comedy instead (you wussy!).
The virtual sound stage is used to its fullest, with dynamic direction audio that pops with outstanding clarity. Vocal audio is also superb; a clear, distinct track that is never muffled by all the concussive audio.
Like any number of Warner Bros. big-ticket releases, the soundtrack really contrasts the difference between DVD and Blu-ray productions, with audio presentations benefitting the most from the additional bandwidth.
Terminator Salvation arrives as a three-disc set, complete with a fancy disc sleeve, and two BD-50 discs. The other disc is a standard definition DVD that stores the digital copy of the film.
The second disc is the much ballyhooed director’s cut, which is all of three minutes longer and kind of joke. The only noticeable addition is nudity – beautiful, voluptuous nudity – but that barely justifies an entire BD-50 disc dedicated to a pretty tame director’s cut.
The first disc contains the theatrical cut and Maximum Movie Mode, Warner Bros. sanctioned Picture-in-Picture commentary that lets the director breakdown the film in three-dimensional space. It’s a pretty neat feature, one we’d like to see in more films, and McG makes adequate use of it here.
Most of the features are also available for individual browsing, and are broken down into digestible segments. Coupled with the second disc’s BD-Live support, it’s a decent set of supplemental material.
That said, compared to the studio’s own summer offerings and competition, it comes up way short. The director’s cut is nothing more than a marketing ploy and there’s not much in the way of supplemental material outside of Maximum Movie Mode.
But – hey – maybe we don’t really want to know what went on behind-the-scenes. We already had enough of that a few months ago, right?
Dark, gritty and explosive – Terminator Salvation is not much else.
McG does realize the dark, bleak future of the Terminator franchise, but fails to create a meaningful, memorable narrative. Hampered by uninspired performances, save for Sam Worthington, and a dodgy script, it’s as about as disposable as a paper plate.
The sad thing is there is a story here, a story worth telling. McG could have really put his mark on the franchise, and push the boundaries of the genre by redefining the rules. Instead, he opts for a ridiculous ending that caps pretty standard action fluff.
The director’s cut is a joke, and there’s not enough material here to warrant a three-disc set sold at such a high MSRP.
The audio and visual presentation is pretty great, but there are better values out there for reference tracks, and the film – quite frankly – is not worth owning.
Salvation is worth a peek for the ardent Terminator fan, but the rest of us would be fine just catching it on cable on some lazy Sunday afternoon.
There is no fate but what we make, right?