MOVIE REVIEW: Terminator 4 – Salvation? Nope!

The most impressive thing about Terminator Salvation is that it features only one character who actually earns our emotional engagement – and it’s not John Connor [Christian Bale using his Bat-voice]. Neither is it sweet, mute, cute, black girl Star [Jadagrace], a kindergarten-aged child who is so obviously planted to manipulate our emotions that the strategy fails, miserably; nor is it Connor’s pregnant wife Kate [Bryce Dallas Howard] whose worries about her husband are so underwritten that the character feels more like an add-on than someone from the original story. It’s not even Moon Bloodgood’s Blair, who follows her heart when it comes to dealing with the character who does earn our involvement, Marcus [Sam Worthington].

John & Marcus

Y’see, we meet Marcus in 2003, just before he’s about to be executed for murder – and Dr. Serena Kogan [Helena Bonham Carter], who is dying of cancer, persuades him to donate his body to science by allowing him a kiss [“That’s what death tastes like,” he notes]. When he awakens, it’s in a desolate 2018 and he makes the mistake of attracting the attention of a T-600 – fooled by its bipedal appearance. He is saved by the teenaged Kyle Reese [Anton Yelchin] who exists, plot-wise, only to provide Marcus with directions and Skynet with bait to lure Connor to his death.

Other than Marcus, the human characters are of the “insert tab A into slot B” variety. Connor is one-note and utterly lacking in any real charm, or charisma; Star is but a blatant manipulation by the writers [who also wrote the disastrous T3]; Blair exists, primarily to convince us that Marcus is human; Kate is there to make think that John Connor can actually care about anything other than beating Skynet. Even the submarine-based Command exists only to make Connor look real – despite some vintage mugging by the extremely ill-used Michael Ironside.

The real star of the film the half-human cyborg, Marcus [which you probably figured out from the trailer]. Outside of Worthington, the movie’s real stars are, as in T3, the machines – and even then, all the quality FX in the world can‘t give them any sense of real intelligence. In The Terminator, and T2, the back and forth between humans and machines seemed like a game of Risk – each move was made within the structure of a plan. Move and countermove. In T3 and Salvation, there’s none of that. As good as look onscreen, the machines of Skynet are random and chaotic.

Even worse, for all its technical skill and well-executed action sequences, Salvation is a machine on virtually every level – excepting Marcus, who is not only engaging, but actually provides the film with its only genuine moment poignancy [if you see Salvation, you know it when you see it].

Sadly, for all its budget and high-powered cast, Salvation is little better than an empty, soulless, but well-made B-movie – which places it in the company of other beautifully made misfires like Max Payne and Punisher: War Zone. This series should died with T2 – and more people should have watched the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, which honored those movies and built upon them.

Final Grade: D+

EM Review by Sheldon Wiebe

Posted on May 23, 2009


  1. I'm not movie "expert" like Sheldon Wiebe, nor I think to be an "elite" person as he or she does (reflected clearly in his lines). I saw the movie and it was great. Has great action and is interesting all the way to the end. There is the little girl Star and the Marcus guy, they are great. As a regular folk, like most of you, I think is a great movie, perhaps better than T3. Your monie will not be wasted, now if you think you are the type of as….le that thinks he deserves to have the theatrer all to himsefl because you're better than everybody else, you may be disappointed as Sheldon was.

  2. Just saw T4. It was awsome. You'll love the "old Huge" Arnold digital cameo. The story was firm and true to the original line. It was way better than the third. We all sorda know the story line, but that's to be expected in a prequal. What made the first terminator great was that nobody had seen something like that before. The effects were groundbreaking for the time, and Arnold stole the show with "I'll be back." 4 doesn't have any catchy one liners. The tech stuff is great, but nothing we haven't seen before. ie. transformers. Still, you can't sell a movie just based on CGI and action sequences. You got to have story and heart. This show has them both. I'm gonna give it a good solid A.

  3. umm…whatdya expect?….T1-T3 were all "B" movies…that's all.And as such,T4was terrific…the action was spot on….the writing wasn't.THEY ARE ALL "B" MOVIES!(dumbass)

  4. Santiago Garcia: I am not an "elite" person [and who are you to be judging that, anyway?]. I am a regular person who is a movie fan and has been for over 50 years. When a movie insults my intelligence, I call it on its BS. And frankly, my review was significantly more kindly than Roger Ebert's [after reading it, I couldn't believe he gave it two stars; his review was savage] – and I don't see you calling him names.

  5. I'm sorry, Maxine, but you seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that B-movies automatically equal crap. Sure, lots of B-movies are crap – but a lot of them are extremely good [some films that we think of as classics were considered B-movies when they were made – and a lot of B-movies were good enough to be remembered today when Oscar®-winners from those years are mere statistics].

    For all their technical expertise, T3 & T4 are poorly written crap, period. T1 & T2 are extremely well written and give us characters [plural] we can [and do] care about [something lacking in T3 & T4].

    One more thing. Just because you show an appalling ignorance of what B-movies actually are, doesn't mean I get to make a personal attack on you. So watch the name-calling.

    Casey B: While I find it hard to believe that you and I saw the same movie, you stated your case intelligently and without being rude. Kudos to you.

  6. High Hopes Killed

    I agree with the main review. This movie was a major let-down. I had the same feeling when I watched Matrix 3, which also sucked in my view. The producers should have spent part of that 150+ million dollar budget to get some real writers, and a director that actually cared about the franchise. Aside from one action scene( motorcycle chase scene), I thought the move was slow paced and boring. The movie also under utilized Christian Bale. But overall, lets not kid ourselves; I mean who the hell makes a TERMINATOR movie rated PG-13??? How much terminating can a movie show, which is only enabled for the eyes of a 13 year old? It's a total slap to face of this entire franchise. This movie was a disapointment in almost every angle.

  7. I saw Terminator Salvation. The midnight showing. The best part of the movie is that the story draws you in at the very beginning of the movie and it doesn't let up until the very end. Christian Bale does a great job as John Connor, better tan anybody else could have hopped to have done. The whole him doing the batman voice thing, is that it is his voice, if you watch the older equilibrium or anything else that he does you will notice that it is just the sound of his voice. I'm getting really irritated by the stuck up retards who think that since he was in batman he shouldn't talk the same way that he does in that movie. He doesn't do the actual batman voice that would sound just retarted outside the movie. It was and is a great movie and there isn't any letting up being done with the movie. We can all expect big thins from the other two movies.

  8. All that matters when making a fourth installment is does th movie add the original story. I believe that it does. The movie wasn't "Michael Bayish" in its attempts to blind you with explosions, the action was solid to keep you involved, and Marcus stole the show with his internal struggle. T4was horrible, I think we can all agree to that. This movie is what Terminator needed to resurrect it. True fans of the story are sure to appreciate it. Especially the funny little nods toward Arnold.

    Your right about the writting though. Something was lacking. That was a big problem from the beginning, and initially why Christian Bale wanted nothing to do with the movie until the script was written well enough.

    Overall it had its flaws but it was an enjoyable movie and added something that we all wanted to see ever since the first Terminator movie when they showed brief flashes of the resistance fighting terminators.

  9. And I agree that Christian Bale was talking normal. He was not doing the Batman voice. He was yelling sometimes but he's way to good of an actor to reuse a characters sound. As posted above check out Equilibrium or the Machinist.

    On a side note did you notice the part where John Connor attempted to destroy the , first with the super heated liquid metal, and then with the freezing power from an overhead pipe. I thought that might be a nod toward T2. The destruction of the T 800 ( Arnold), and the T 2000.

  10. Thoroughly crap movie. I wasn't sure if I was watching batman, transformers, the matrix or robocop, apart from great special affects, the characters, interactions, behaviour and overall storyline was terrible, I think I can safetly say this is worse than T3; not a film I'll ever watch again.

    They even screwed-up the terminator music during the opening credits!!!!!!!!!!

  11. just saw this last night… it took over an hour to get "good" the pace was awfull and though i could see what they are trying to do, i think they failed. Im getting sick of this "lets hang the camera on a bungee cord and swing it around" school of action filming.

    It had none of the slickness of T2 and to be honest i nerly walked out of the cinema half way. There WERE some nice touches but you need more than that to make a classic. Ill watch it again at some point but it wont be anywhere neer how many times ive seen T2 (my favorite film of all time).

  12. major let down and a huge disappointment even though i did like previous terminator films. the best bit which made me laugh was the stupidity of John Conner and the script writer when he said something about Kyle still being alive or not after he was captured – well of course he is you mindless idiot otherwise you wouldn't be! this comes after we are reminded countless times in the film of the importance of keeping Kyle alive.

    there are some really stupid scenes in this film such as the USB connector on the Terminator! oh and the miracle heart operation which seems to be carried out like changing a spare wheel!

    i dont rate Christian Bale as much as an actor after seeing him in a few films – I think Arnie had much better acting skills and thats saying something! At least Arnie wasnt pretending to be something he isn't unlike this mindless idiot who just loves himself soo much – personally if i was in-charge of this film after his little outburst and tantrum on the set during the making of it then I would have told him to get lost and re-filmed it with a much more deserved actor.

    Out of the two the film didnt even make a scratch compared to the new Star Trek film.

  13. Go and see the film, make up your own mind.
    Critics seem to exist not to add anything creative to this world, but in the main simply to coat any other work with a layer of negativity that would bring down even the most positive of people.
    Those of you who don't like to destroy other peoples work by choosing a vocation which does just that, I'm sure will enjoy it as much as i did. Mr Wiebe – i doubt you would have a good word to say about any mainstream film (judging by this review), so go back to masturbating over scenes from 'clerks' or 'space 2001'.

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