Andy Bockelman: ‘Terminator’ needs to power down |

Andy Bockelman: ‘Terminator’ needs to power down

"Terminator Salvation," 2.5 out of 4 stars; Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard.

When the classic line “I’ll be back” was first uttered 25 years ago in “The Terminator,” nobody could have expected that a sequel was on the way. Then another. And now those murderous machines are back yet again in “Terminator Salvation.”

The future of humanity is bleaker than ever in 2018 as resistance fighters rebel against the evil, unfeeling robotics manufacturer Skynet. As the waves of trademark automatons raze more and more humans each day, resistance leader John Connor (Christian Bale) attempts to grasp on to any remaining hope.

While Connor combs the endless deserts that once made up the United States for help, new information comes to his attention: unless he saves teenaged soldier Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) from Skynet’s clutches, all possibilities of saving mankind will be null and void. But upon meeting a mysterious stranger named Marcus (Sam Worthington), Connor and his troops realize they may have found their savior.

Or their worst enemy.

After seeing Connor portrayed as a rather sniveling runt by Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl and Thomas Dekker in earlier installments, it’s downright anticlimactic to have Bale’s intense energy changing around the dynamic of the character. Where there was humanistic bewilderment and uncertainty in John Connor before, Bale has brought a one-dimensionally ruthless temperament that makes him a better candidate to play one of the titular T-800 killing machines instead of their adversary.

Ironically, Worthington is less synthetic playing Marcus, a convict who signs his life away in 2003 only to resurface more than a decade later looking exactly the same, yet seeming more durable. Needless to say, it doesn’t take much to figure out why magnetic land mines are attracted to him.

The face-off between these two is the film’s main focus, but Yelchin gets some attention as well, portraying Reese, who, according to “Terminator” canon, will travel back in time to impregnate Sarah Connor in 1984.

The cycle begins again for an increasingly convoluted plot line, made even more drawn out by so many needless characters. Bryce Dallas Howard is wasted as Connor’s pregnant wife, Kate, and the film’s strongest acting talents, Jane Alexander and Helena Bonham Carter, are reduced to minuscule roles that could be cut out completely.

There’s such exorbitance in the storyline as we see Skynet take over land, sea and air. Director Joseph McGinty Nichol – aka McG – piles on action sequences to the hilt, and while his latest is hardly at the embarrassment level of his “Charlie’s Angels” franchise, he’ll always be a music video maker.

To be fair, McG maintains the grittiness of the series, respecting and adding to the terror of the techno-dystopic not-too-distant future that James Cameron made a reality. But as the years go on, it’s hard to be scared by this as we become more familiar with technology.

Case in point – Marcus’s anguished wail of “No!” upon seeing his inner self has the opposite effect as those of us in the audience yawn, “So?”

“Terminator Salvation” has all the makings of a good movie, but upon reaching its silver anniversary, the franchise needs new batteries. What makes this worse is knowing that we still have yet to see the grand finale for the battle against Skynet and its forces.

At least the glowing, red eyes of the T-800s eventually shut off, but the rest of us aren’t so lucky.

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