© Sony Pictures Releasing GmbH

Terminator: Die Erlösung (Terminator Salvation)
U.S.A./Germany/U.K. 2009

Opening 4 Jun 2009

Directed by: McG
Writing credits: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Principal actors: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin

Terminators are huge machines which wage war against mankind. The struggle started in 1984 with the first Terminator film and continued with episodes in 1991 and 2003. Director McG deserves credit for shouldering this next instalment in 2009.

Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), on death row in line for execution, donates his organs to science. What he doesn’t know is that he will be turned into a machine with mechanical arms and legs and human brain and heart. He has no memory of any of this, searches for his identity and vacillates between past and future, machine and Mensch. Pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) adds to his confusion with her feminine allure. Probably Marcus Wright is the role that Arnold Schwarzenegger would play if he decided to abscond as governor of California and return to the series which made him famous.

John Connor (Christian Bale) must save what is left of the human race. After all, humans believe in trust and a second chance. Salvation in the year 2018 is difficult since Skynet, a kind of artificial intelligence and creator of the machines, has destroyed everything. Ruins and wrecks totter on a moonscape under a yellow sky. (Imagine the world of Wall-E without the cuteness.) The few survivors scrabble for food (two-day-old coyote) and continue their resistance. One of these is Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and little six-year-old Star. The tension grows, much like a nightmare where you attempt to flee but can’t gain ground.

The film’s merits are terrific special effects and roaring sound and music. No need to turn off your cell phone; nobody would hear it ring. Obviously the production team tremendously enjoyed creating the various robots and robot assembly lines and weapons and helicopters and motorcycles (from the Italian Ducati Company), not to mention the costumes and make-up. They filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a hangar at Kirkland Air Force Base. In the surrounding area they dug huge holes for helicopters to crash into and spent 12 weeks organizing a 200-foot-high fireball. They were particular about each figure and “wanted the metal terminators to be dirty and rusty, to look like tanks from Soviet Union days,” according to John Rosengrant, effects supervisor. The actors are secondary, as Christian Bale admitted in an interview.

Basically, the script is also secondary. Connor’s wife Kate asks, “What shall I tell your men when they find out you’re gone?” He quotes Schwarzenegger’s famous line, “I’ll be back.” Some references can be confusing to Terminator novices. It helped me to view the first version by James Cameron. Suddenly I understood: “I’m not a good guy.” “You are; you just don’t know it yet.” Or “You killed Sarah Connor…and my father.” Or “I have to keep you alive so that you will live long enough to become my father.” Or “Come with me if you want to live,” a reference from the 1984 version.

It’s an open-ended film, obviously to make way for the next sequel, e.g., John’s wife is pregnant, certainly a symbol of things to come. If for no other reason, a sequel would be a treat, simply because we need more of Anton Yelchin (who also just appeared in the new Star Trek); he was a highlight of the film. (Becky Tan)

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