Terminator Salvation (2009)

Terminator Salvation (2009) May 21, 2009


This review was originally published at Filmwell.

When Arnold Schwarzeneggar first uttered the words “Ahl be bach!“, people laughed and cheered. James Cameron’s The Terminator was suspenseful,  exciting, and funny in a way that only the best B-movies can be. We loved the idea of an android assassin from the future hunting down a pregnant SWF who had no idea that her son would grow up to be humankind’s savior during an onslaught of rebel machines. Arnie’s wicked killing machine quickly became an iconic big screen monster. We loved him, and we wanted more.

When Cameron’s ginormous sequel arrived, the first film’s simple ideas swelled to epic proportions. With Planet Earth on a course for nuclear devastation, another Terminator came back to try and kill young John Connor. But a “good” Terminator came after him to save the day. The time travel aspect was interesting, but simple enough that it didn’t disrupt the action. And Terminator 2: Judgment Day set a new standard in special effects and action set pieces, becoming one of the biggest sci-fi action flicks ever released. Cameron managed to enthrall us with by developing a style that was both fun and dire, exhilarating and exhausting, clever and cacophonous. He surpassed the Road Warrior franchise by framing his explosive marathon chase sequences within a compelling story about three characters who made us care:  Sarah Connor, her son destined for greatness, and their otherworldly protector.

That all feels like a long, long time ago.

Since then, Cameron left the franchise for even more ambitious projects. Jonathan Mostow tried to keep the series going with a third Terminator film — Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines — that was, thank goodness, only disappointing, not a disaster. The action was frantic, the effects impressive. By preserving the personality and humor of our favorite Terminator, Mostow narrowly avoided joining Bret Ratner (X-Men 3) and Richard Lester (Superman 3) on the list of directors who have ruined franchises with lame third installments. But the storytelling began to show signs of strain. Things were getting tangled up as time-travel convolutions became more complicated. And the story’s chase-movie conventions began to feel a little too familiar.

The obligatory echo of Arnold’s famous line began to sound more like a threat than a promise.

Today, the fourth movie in the Terminator series, Terminator Salvation, is here. This time the director is McG (Charlie’s Angels). And if that name makes you think of McDonald’s, you’re on the right track.

Just as McDonald’s burgers never look like what you see in McDonald’s commercials, this movie is a betrayal. T4 tastes like it was thrown together in a greasy kitchen by folks who ignore instructions for good hygiene, press heavily processed ingredients together into cardboard containers, and hand it to us with a scowl. And when Arnie’s favorite line occurs at last, you’re likely to hear the audience protest: “No! Don’t come back!” Especially since it comes this time from the film’s most annoying character.

But let’s focus on the positive. I’ll review some of my favorite memories from seeing Terminator Salvation:

  • Christian Bale’s feverish intensity as the leader of the resistance in a post-apocalyptic world where human beings are struggling to survive in dark, hidden bases around the world. Oh, wait. That was Reign of Fire.

  • The slow reveal of the glittering skyline by night, punctuated by bursts of flame. I’m sorry, that was Blade Runner.
  • The scene in which ragged, dredlocked survivors try to escape the bad guys in a fleet of 4WD vehicles, leading to a long freeway demolition-derby marathon action scene. Gotta love The Road Warrior.

  • The conflicted anti-hero who is “more machine now than man” (I’m sorry, I’m thinking of Star Wars) struggling to know what he/it really is, wrestling with what he’s been programmed to do and what his remaining traces of humanity want him to do. Oh, wait. That was… sheesh, where do I start? Blade Runner? Battlestar Galactica? A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)? Rintaro’s Metropolis?

  • When those nasty, swimming, tentacled beasts with clusters or red eyes — the Sentinels — attack our heroes. I’m sorry, am I thinking of The Matrix? And look, here they come again in Shane Acker’s upcoming sci-fi actioner 9.
  • When John Goodman staggers through a rainstorm in the night, covered in mud, roaring like a beast. Or was that Raising Arizona?
  • The moment when one of our heroes, Bishop (Lance Henriksen), is suddenly impaled by an enormous spike and raised up off the ground spewing “blood.” Ah, right: That was Aliens.
  • And, awwwww… such a cute-as-a-button kid hanging around with the heroes, serving little purpose except to increase our anxiety when the enemy attacks. That seems awfully familiar…

Has there ever been an action movie that is a great amalgam of other action movies?

Terminator Salvation director McG has constructed what may as well be the first cut-and-paste feature film. It’s a flashback-inducing fever dream in which familiar ideas come so fast and furious that you have no room to think about the plot’s confounding time-travel convolutions. “A person can go crazy thinking about this,” groans the voice of Sarah Connor through a voice recorder. Viewers may conclude that’s exactly what happened to these storytellers.

(Note: These are the screenwriting geniuses responsible for Catwoman and the unforgettable The Net 2.0.)

We’re living in an age where to recycle is a virtue. But that doesn’t hold true for movies, unless you bring something new to the process that infuses the result with freshness and usefulness. Compared to its already-derivative inspirations, Terminator: Salvation is too familiar, too frantic. It’s so derivative, even its lessons seem wrung out.

Oh, from time to time there’s an impressive flourish of cleverness in the action. There’s an insane bravado in the film’s gigantic chase sequence across a bridge. But that’s not enough to justify the headache-inducing marathon of demolition derbies. It eats up the screen like some acidic secretion from other action movies. Any given five-minute stretch seems to be based on not one but several other popular sci-fi action films. It may well turn out to be a black hole, that sucks so many greater experiences into itself. It’s telling that the character who gets the biggest cheer of the movie is, in fact, a sort of digital cut-and-paste taken from another film’s footage.

There have been other arguments made in recent years that mainstream entertainment is no longer relating to real human experience anymore, because entertainment is feeding on itself, becoming more and more removed from anything relevant to our lives. I’m more inclined to say that this is nothing new: Storytelling has always been a matter of combining elements borrowed from other sources. There’s nothing new under the sun.

But there’s something to be said for combining ideas with creativity, and for fusing them into a meaningful whole, in which nothing is gratuitous.

Case in point: Moon, starring Sam Rockwell, will open soon. It’s an amalgam of 2001: A Space Odyssey and several other sci-fi films. But it combines these elements with admirable cleverness. It gives us an interesting central character who wins our sympathies. Its special effects are employed in ways that create a mood and an environment we can believe in. It makes us think, ask questions, and want to watch it again. It’s not perfect, but it gives us a unique experience that prods us to consider the human condition in new ways. I highly recommend it.

Any “meaning” in T4 is supplied in the form of obvious platitudes and shoved into the dialogue like vitamin tablets into a cake. That way we don’t have to do any actual thinking for ourselves. It’s pretty obvious that the movie is, for the most part, a desperate attempt to hold our attention through one severe, outlandish, preposterous crisis after another, based on what has worked in other movies, without a single original or interesting character to earn our sympathies.

Terminator Salvation has Sam Worthington, a heavily hyped talent from Australia who seems to be making a career of “re-making.” He’s already signed on for a remake of Red Dawn (I’m not making that up) and a remake of Clash of the Titans. (Maybe his performance in James Cameron’s Avatar will give be as visionary as it’s cracked up to be; that could help Worthington escape his likely nickname of “The Recycler.”) He may as well be an actor receycled from other action actors, perhaps a fusion of Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Jason Statham.

Truth be told, Worthington’s the most interesting presence in the film. But that’s more of a slam against his costars than a compliment to him.

The less said about Helena Bonham Carter, the better. It seems like she’s decided to draw from her worst big-screen turn — as the Bride of Frankenstein in Kenneth Branagh’s laugh-out-loud production of Mary Shelley’s Frankstein, instead of from her best work. How can this be the same actress we knew in A Room with a View, Howard’s End, or even Fight Club?

What’s concerns me most is this: Christian Bale, who is capable of subtlety and nuance (see his turn in Malick’s The New World) seems increasingly crippled by Tom Cruise syndrome. He equates one-note intensity with acting. He chooses determination over dimension, angst over exploration. He looks like he is constantly suffering from a migraine. Even the skull-faced androids have more range than Bale in this movie. All of his energy is in his furrowed brow, giving us no sense of any intelligence behind those eyes. Apparently Bale demanded a revision of the script to give his character more screen time. That’s a shame; his perpetual brooding burdens the movie, adding to what was already an excess of “grim and bear it.”

It may be that his obvious anxiety comes from the fact that the script has given him ludicrous things to say. He’s assigned to recap the plot for us every few minutes as if he’s been informed that the theater is full of idiots. We know Connor’s gone back in time to save his father in order to preserve hope for the world, and yet, late in the film, he’s still explaining to his pregnant wife, “No Kyle Rees, no John Connor.” The only way to make this John Connor seem like a leader is to make his followers little more than automatons… and that’s the case here.

If anybody has done their career a favor in this film, it’s Anton Yelchin, who somehow manages to play a convincing, younger version of the Michael Biehn character from the original film. And not once does he make anybody think of his delightfully funny turn as Chekov in Star Trek.

But Yelchin can’t save the film. At this point, I doubt even James Cameron himself could pull this series from the damage it has done to itself. It’s sinking farther and faster than the Aliens franchise did, diminishing the memory of its previous episodes by dulling the impact of its trademark names, images, and lines—recycling them until they give new meaning to the term “Post-Consumer Waste.”

At the climax of the film, Christian Bale staggers into a factory where Terminators are made. He doesn’t see anything there that we haven’t seen before. “There are so many of them,” he gasps, pointing out the obvious yet again. Yep. And yet, the more of them we see, the less interesting they become. That’s how it is in this business. Too bad. There was a time when the sight of those red eyes sent shivers down my spine. The thrill is gone.

This franchise, like its villains, has become more machine than man. We’ll have to hope that what Michael Ironside says early in the film is true: Every machine has an OFF switch.

Moviegoers… if you’re out there reading this… you are the resistance.

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22 responses to “Terminator Salvation (2009)”

  1. Opps! Should have read the article in the previous post first as it covers most of what I said but with more insight. That will teach me!

  2. “Then they re-write it on the fly to suit Bale.”

    Yes, I think it was a mistake to increase the size of Connors part, I think I heard somewhere that Connor was going to be a character in the peripheral with the war going on in the back ground and the story would be more focused on Marcus.

    It seems that as Bale is such a “big star” (and he is in most cases bloody good) they had to give him more screen time. I wish they could have been braver and left him to T5 or 6.

    Good action films with a good story tend to be focused and taught this one had too many subplots (bale was not needed and just ended up giving plot updates for the audience); a need to jump between them all the time and to scamper as fast as it could it could to the next big set piece.

    I think the most distracting thing for me was the cutting of the film. It seemed so abrupt and harsh in places and other times comical. I might be wrong and it could have just been the cinema I watched the film in but the scene at the camp (which by way never seemed that scary as they NEVER showed what skynet was up to!) with the man climbing the wall. Robot….. Man climbing….. Robot shoots…… Man asleep on wall…….. Robot ………. Man…… Robot (again) Cuts to new scene. WTF! It just looked stupid like a double take or maybe it was my head overheating at this point.

    Basically we need a re-edit for DVD/bluray not a director’s cut not a special edition. I know you cannot make a silk purse out of s sow’s ear (as they say) but someone needs to get all the material shot and lock themselves in a editing suite for two months then we may just may have something worth watching again.

    Yea, McG…. wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt but the loony first ending (Marcus with Connors skin!?!?!) and the possible Sky net army travelling to London 2011 for terminator 5 makes me think we got off lightly. Perhaps someone behind the scenes is reining him in when ideas get too crazy!

  3. The review was spot on with its criticisms of the cut and paste approach which were obvious as the scenes that inspired them and yes there were only a few interesting scenes amongst the recycling. It seems that the film industry has jumped on the retro rehash band wagon along with music and fashion industries in seeing an opportunity to sell the recycled ideas and fashions of a bye gone decade to a demographic that are too young to remember them the first time around. But I guess they are trying to appeal to the people who will spend the money.

    On the topic of time travel, there are a few rule sets that a narrative can use and I recommend the following site for the interesting but also sometimes confusing low down on the subject.


    It seems that the future that we are seeing in Salvation is the time line brought about due to the meddling in the previous films, hence Connors “this is not the future my mother told me about” and Skynets technological research being more advanced.

    I though Having Skynet talk to Marcus was a mistake, I appreciate that the image of the doctor was just a avatar but in that one scene Skynet lost all its mystique and dread ending up being a 2 dimensional baddie that gives its master plan away allowing for it to be thwarted.

    Here’s to the extended cut as I have heard that there was a massive 40 minutes of footage not included so they could squeeze another showing in per day at the cinema. I am hoping that at least 20 minutes of that is “character building” footage which what was desperately missing from this film.
    I want to give this new trilogy the benefit of the doubt and I keep reminding myself that although the Star wars prequels were (in most people’s opinion) not as good the first three, Revenge of the Sith was monumentally better than the Phantom menace aka “Muppets in space”.

  4. I love the original review but you forgot the clear rip off of The Transformers and then the scenes stolen from Deliverance and The Great Escape. It was like McG wanted to re-film all the best scenes in his favorite movies. I didn’t expect an Oscar caliber movie but if I wanted if I want Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, I’ll go see Transformers. This movie is a sad betrayal of the original masterpiece. The only thing I think he did right was not try to insert lame humor like T2 and T3, but the cheeseball heart plot device blew any goodwill he created.

    I will undoubtedly go see the sequel, because I am a die hard Terminator fan, but I can’t imagine ever watching Salvation again.

  5. holy shizzle, you guys really nitpick over this stuff (although I won’t blame you because that’s partly proof that you care about the story)

    I just saw “Terminator Salvation” a second time with some other friends who haven’t seen it before. It was still a fun & enjoyable film, here’s a few things I didn’t pick up on the first time I saw it –

    1 – geeze, this whole film just really seemed like an introduction – it ended and my little brother turned to me and asked “that’s it? … that was just like watching long movie trailer, let’s get things started now …” – John Connor has his scar and is now looked at as the resistance commander, Kate’s pregnant, Kyle is idolizing Connor, there’s a little more proof that some terminators can be good (or are actually half human), and now the war/story can really begin … if this was all a set up for the next 2 films, then the next 2 films should be pretty amazing

    2 – Christian Bale is perfect for this character – he has the fire/charisma inside him to play a very charismatic leader of men – the whole smoldering, just about to explode, intensity thing Bale’s got going is just what you’d expect of John Connor (a man should be incredibly paranoid right now, he’s got machines constantly being sent into his past trying to erase his existence, he’s been told that the machine he grows closest to is going to kill him, and he keeps against his better judgement growing attachments to different machines)

    3 – Connor grows to trust and risk his life to save Marcus Wright, knowing that Wright is a machine (and oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT – who’s putting money on Marcus Wright coming back in this series again? all he needs is one thing, and suddenly the resistance has a kick-ass ally on their side)

    4 – Kudos to Danny Elfman’s soundtrack by the way – I thought the music was better than usual, didn’t notice it the first time, but that was Tim Burton’s favorite composer

    5 – Sam Worthington’s career prospects look really bright because of this movie (I don’t know why, but it seems like the Australians we bring over to Hollywood are always the man’s man type of actors that are getting rarer these days)

  6. Not exactly on topic, but the last Bale performance that I really enjoyed was his role in The Prestige. I definitely prefer him in the smaller films he’s done.

  7. >>>>Sorry, I can’t subscribe to the idea that T1 changed the timeline and T2 changed everything back to the way it was. How do you explain John Connor, then? How do you explain “the photo”?

    John could have had a different father initially. As for the photo… okay, you got me. :) As Captain Janeway says, one rarely gains by dissecting this stuff too closely.

    I completely respect the choice to disregard all sequels to T1. But if you allow sequels, I think you’ve got to believe that the war is preventable.

  8. I might as well quote what I wrote at A&F in response to that too, then:

    “Well, in fairness, John did learn in T3 that he would be killed in the future by a T-800 who took advantage of his closeness to that model. Maybe he’s swung too far the other way, but you can understand why he’d want to cut off any emotional ties he might have to the machines. (The Sarah Connor Chronicles, incidentally, had an entire subplot devoted to the question of whether members of the Resistance might go out of their way to undermine Connor’s attachment to the “good” Terminators.)”

  9. This was posted over at Arts and Faith, and I totally agree:

    “I want to root for John Connor but here he’s kind of an out of control, self centered egomaniac. Why not give a scene or two of him struggling with how to deal with the machines? In T2, as Sarah Connor points out, Arnold’s terminator is the father John never had. Young John obviously loves the machine and cries as he orders him not to destroy himself. Bale’s John Connor is all rage and and hatred towards Wright’s man/ machine hybrid when he is the one who should have some compassion for him, not Blair. Speaking of Wirght, he is the more interesting character in this film. John Connor gets lost in it at several points. I can totally see now the additions Bale must have asked for. Apparently John Connor has to remind a pilot in the middle of a dogfight to make “Evasive maneuvers!” and “Bail out!”.”

  10. Sorry, I can’t subscribe to the idea that T1 changed the timeline and T2 changed everything back to the way it was. How do you explain John Connor, then? How do you explain “the photo”?

    T1 — like many other time-travel stories of its era, such as The Final Countdown and The Philadelphia Experiment — worked on a closed-loop theory of causality, where the past creates the future and vice versa. That may be a problem for at least some theories regarding free will (we could say the same thing about some of the prophetic utterances in the Bible), but it is, at least, internally consistent on a narrative level.

    The reason I disregard T2 and all the other sequels as apocryphal is that they create an INCONSISTENCY within the franchise that they have never been able to resolve.

    As you say, the franchise has become quite convoluted, so my own private interpretation remains what it has been since the ’80s, namely, it is impossible to make a sequel to T1. :)

  11. I respectfully reject the nihilistic notion that the war is inevitable. Call it my atheistic bias if you like, but I do believe that there is “no fate but what we make,” and that neither “destiny” (that cheap screenwriting catch-call) nor deities can say otherwise.

    In my view, the USAF created Skynet, per T3. The events in T1 allowed Cyberdyne to develop the chip prematurely, and its destruction in T2 merely reverted the timeline to its original trajectory. Notice that while the T-850 in T3 says that “Judgment Day is inevitable”, he also says, in that same sentence, that “there is insufficient time” to stop it, suggesting that it not absolutely inevitable. Ergo, had John and Sarah discovered and destroyed the USAF Skynet, the war could indeed have been prevented.

    With a story as convoluted as this, one is essentially allowed to give private interpretations, I think. As Captain Janeway says, too much talk about the mechanisms of space-time’ll give you a headache. :)

  12. Gaith: Didn’t John Connor already destroy Skynet in T2? Why on Earth would he have to singlehandedly probe the Air Force looking for evidence of his own failure to do what he should clearly remember doing?

    The REAL reason John Connor should be feeling guilt is that his actions (and his mother’s) in T2 have erased the future that was revealed in T1. In T1, we were told that war was coming but John Connor would lead us to salvation. Instead of accepting this prophecy for what it was, Sarah Connor tried to PREVENT the war from happening — with disastrous effects.

    First, in deleted scenes from T1, we learn that Sarah convinced Kyle to go looking for Cyberdyne so that they could blow it up — and THAT is why they were in the vicinity of that Cyberdyne factory when the Terminator followed them there and left its parts behind. (Just as Skynet tried to prevent the birth of John Connor, thus drawing Kyle Reese towards Sarah and GUARANTEEING the birth of John Connor, so too Sarah tried to prevent the birth of Skynet, thus drawing the Terminator to Cyberdyne and GUARANTEEING the birth of Skynet.)

    And then, second, Sarah tried to destroy Skynet again in T2 — and this time, she succeeded in altering the timeline. But as T3 reveals, she did not prevent the war, she merely delayed it by several years — and because she altered the timeline, John Connor no longer has any guarantee of victory. (In fact, T3 tells us that John Connor himself will be killed in the future. And in the trailers for T4 — though not, I think, in the film itself — John Connor tells us that this is not the future his mother warned him about, and thus he does not know if he can win this war any more.)

    So I’d blame Sarah more than John, here. And I would say, based on the evidence, that trying to PREVENT the war from happening is precisely what they SHOULDN’T have done. At any rate, efforts to prevent the war are what made it happen, and what made it worse than it used to be.

    I say this, by the way, as one who loves, loves, LOVES the original Terminator but regards all the sequels — including T2 — as essentially apocryphal. I used to tell people that T1 tied up its loose ends so perfectly that there simply wasn’t any room for a sequel — and then T2 came out and, well, it failed to change my mind. It’s got great special effects and action sequences, I’ll give it that. But like David Foster Wallace, I basically regard T2 as an “appalling betrayal” of T1.

  13. This could have had so much potential. I was looking foward to an intense action fiilm about humanity being pushed to the limit, but ultimatly having hope. There were so many themes they could have covered like how Sarah Connor said the machines will take the greatest thing about you and turn it against you. How interesting, too bad we never saw it. Or towards the end when John Connor told his followers that there has to be a difference between them and the machines. What an awesome theme to also run along through-out the film, too bad we never saw it. Christian Bale and Bryce Dallas Howard are great actors yet do nothing here because they are given nothing in the script. What kind of relationship do they have? She is pregnant and he is the leader who could die at any moment; that could be interesting stuff. I felt it was a B movie script that was given a 100 million dollar budget. You are right the thrill is gone.

  14. T2 is my favorite movie, and I love the much-maligned T3 also, because it’s *about* something. It’s about how JC should be willing to die for our sins… but that’s not enough. Anyone can be a hero when the world is at stake and the danger in your face. To be a truly good person, we must not only be willing to die for good but to work for it, too, even in obscurity, without recognition or accolades.

    T3 showed that the all-too-human JC had slacked off, drinking Budweiser instead of discovering the Air Force’s Skynet program, and that billions of people died for his errors. If T4 doesn’t give him any guilt over this, I’m forced to conclude that it’s intellectually and morally bankrupt.

  15. Man, it seems like almost everyone I know is knocking this movie for not being Oscar-caliber material. I have to say I really enjoyed it. I like reading and agree with most of your reviews, Jeffrey. I’ve read your book and I love the great classics that have depth, thoughtfulness, and force you to reflect on life questions (and I’d put The New World in that category).

    But, I really liked “Terminator Salvation” too. It’s not meant to be deep, and it’s not meant to a stand alone film either. It fits perfectly into the Terminator mythos – Connor meeting his teenage dad for the first time, Skynet figuring out how to build the human look-alike T-800, a dark, depressing, hopeless war against the machines, a resistance movement in need of a leader. It’s just having fun. The director was goofing off and enjoying himself coming up with those action scenes and they were pretty good (who cares if it wasn’t original, I’d take old-school action scenes over hyper-stylized desperation to be cool like in Wanted any day). It was familiar and that’s why it was fun.

    Sure, the story is now in the future/present now, but you’ve still got a climax terminator vs. terminator at the end. Maybe I didn’t have really high expections, but I was actually surprised at some of the actors – Worthington turned out a stronger performance than I expected, and Yelchin nails both Michael Biehn’s mannerisms and voice inflections for a much better Kyle Reese than we could have ended up with. Christian Bale is given more to work with here than he was in Batman – I wouldn’t blame him for playing it low key, supressed inner intensity is what he does best, and it was exactly what the role of John Connor called for. All in all, it was fun action film. An action film that really felt like just the introduction to a whole new Terminator story – they have to make at least 2 more. Personally, I’d look forward to seeing further character development of Bale as Connor, along with Kate, Kyle and whoever else the next new good terminator is (maybe they’ll even bring back Marcus).

    Nothing to give out any academy awards for, but at the end of the year, I expect I’ll probably still be liking Terminator Salvation far more than Star Trek, Crank, Wolverine, Transformers, or G.I. Joe.

  16. Uh, my comments about Bale have *nothing* to do with the temper tantrum. And my opinion of Cruise’s acting has nothing to do with the couch. I’ve been saying this about Bale for several movies now (with The New World being a wonderful exception).

  17. I think it is the critics that are increasingly infected with Tom Cruise syndrome. The guy jumped on a couch, who cares. Bale flipped out on set, who cares. Stop whining.

  18. An intriguing quote from an IMDB review (where Terminator Salvation currently has an 8.3 rating): “This is Apocalypse Now set in 2018 with robots in place of the Vietcong.”

  19. Glad to see a reviewer who hated this movie just about as much as I did. I felt like I was watching a sixth grader at a talent show butchering a guitar solo: you get an E for effort and a couple of parents applaud politely, but nobody cares to hear you play again. Your review is spot on.

  20. That’s too bad. I haven’t seen it yet, but a buddy of mine got to screen it a few months ago and said pretty much all of what you wrote. I was hoping he was wrong, but the reviews have been backing him up. I can’t understand why McG was picked to direct or if that even matters if the script was that poorly written. I was hoping it could recall what made the first one so great; apparently not.

  21. I think you’re being hard on Helena Bonham Carter, who seemed to do the best she could with what she was given, like a poisoned man given a cat from which to milk the antidote; it’s unsavory but injected some much-needed life into otherwise DOA dialogue.

    In T1 Arnie was the machine; in T2 it was Linda Hamilton; T3 gave us a mechanical script; now we have T4, an engine patched together from so many spare parts that the entire film feels like its goal is to terminate creativity.

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