Kyle Reese spoke of him 25 years ago in the original Terminator with awe and reverence. Hes the Messiah in the series, but most attempts to humanize him have come across as whiny (Terminator 2, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) or just plain goofy (Terminator 3.) Christian Bale is one of Hollywoods best, but as John Connor hes pretty much Bruce Wayne who shouts. A lot.
Well, what about the story you ask. Does it help? As director McG has stated many times, this reboot is about dropping the admittedly overused Terminator formula and putting in something new and fresh. The formula: terminator tries to kill anyone with the surname "Connor" might have been tired but at least it was effective. The new and fresh Salvation? Um, Thunderdome? Post apocalypse pics certainly arent new and with Resident Evil: Extinction and Doomsday recently ravaging the multiplexes this sure aint fresh.
Judgment Day has come and gone. The modern world is utterly devastated. Enter a man from the past, death row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington.) Seconds before his execution, Wright signs away his body to a mysterious weirdo gal scientist played by Helen Bonham Carter. Flash forward to 2018, and Wright wakes up to find his world gone and (thankfully) his good looks intact. He heads out to find the aforementioned weirdo gal and along the way meets up with a teenage Kyle Reese (Star Treks Anton Yelchin) and a kick ass babe whose real name is Moon Bloodgood but her characters just plain old Blair.
Doomsday might have been a mess but it did understand the manic crazed tone of a world gone mad. Salvation seems content with giving us great-looking set pieces but no real emotional resonance. Frankly, if all youre looking for is a great after-the-bomb world, last years Fallout 3 is much much better. (And since its a videogame you get to level up!)
Thankfully, there are some pretty bad ass action scenes. The many terminators in Salvation still feel scary and powerful. Every bone crunch is delivered with sonic bursts and there are plenty of eye candy moments of charred metal ripping apart those pesky organic life forms. Alas, this is a PG-13 Terminator and it shows. I know, Im supposed to say I dont need cheap thrills like blood and guts but yeah, I want them in a film about machines that tear people from limb to limb. The lack of R-Rated fun is a letdown.
Ultimately, its not a disaster though. Sam Worthington is pretty compelling to watch onscreen and unlike Bale, he doesnt have the burden of all that backstory to live up to. Hes just a guy thats trying to make sense of the mess thats all around him. He fares much better than the director.