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System failure 

‘Terminator’ reboot crashes.

click to enlarge TIME TO TERMINATE: 'Salvation' ought to end the series.
  • TIME TO TERMINATE: 'Salvation' ought to end the series.

When it comes to “Terminator: Salvation,” I'm torn.

On the one hand, as someone who really digs a big, dumb summer movie, I liked it. It's got big/dumb street cred for miles: giant robots, crotch-rocket motorcycles from hell, an armored tow truck borrowed from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and lots and lots of explosions. Oh yeah.

As someone who really loves the “Terminator” franchise, however, I'm crushed. Beyond all the explosions and cool CGI mega-bots is a plot so flimsy, so full of holes, and so out of touch with the rest of the series that it seems like the only thing it shares with the other films is Arnold (albeit computer generated) and the name. Though producers had talked about making two more Terminator films, this might be the place where the whole shebang finally powers down.

The story begins with Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a convict about to be put to death in 2003 for the crime of murder. Before he rides the needle, however, he is approached by a brilliant scientist named Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter), who wants him to donate his body to her program, run by Cyberdyne Systems. If you're a Terminator freak, that name ought to ring bells. It's the company that builds the evil computer system called Skynet, which eventually destroys most of mankind with a coordinated nuclear strike, then sends legions of killer robots to wipe out the survivors. Wright agrees to give Kogan his mortal remains, then heads to what he thinks is his doom. This ain't curtains for the killer, however. Fast-forward to 2018, and Wright is crawling out of a smashed Skynet laboratory, which has been recently pulverized by an air strike launched by the human resistance to Skynet. Stumbling into the ruins of Los Angeles with no memory of how he got there, Wright meets up with Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who is the father of resistance leader John Connor, who was born in 1984 after Reese time-traveled back to save him from … look, if you don't know what I'm talking about here, get on Netflix and rent “The Terminator.” It's a much better movie than this one anyway. With Reese's help, Wright makes his way to the human HQ and finally meets up with John Connor (Christian Bale) after it is discovered that — gasp! — Wright is actually a human/cyborg hybrid, programmed to think he's human. From there, it just gets bigger and dumber, and the plot holes grow to Grand Canyon-like proportions (Example: Given that we know that the cyborgs know that Kyle Reese will someday time-travel back to 1984 and father their enemy, John Connor — who they have spent four movies and a television series trying to rub out — why don't they just put a bullet in Reese's head when they catch him and then go for beers?). Before long, “Terminator: Salvation” ends up standing in the woods, joints frozen, murmuring “Oil can! Oil can!”

I'm not totally being a fanboy here. I understand it's a reboot, and I understand that the whole point of a reboot is to take the expectations of the audience and turn them on their noggin. But even if I had never seen any of the incarnations of the Terminator franchise, I guarantee I would still have been left scratching my head over some of the decisions made by the writers and director. And the ending? Let's not even talk about the ending.

Above all, the film just seems piecemeal, built by committee, screwed together in a factory by machines. The tolerances are tight, but there's no heart. While the result isn't as bad as some summer flicks I've seen in recent years — it ain't even as bad as the last film in the series, “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” — it surely isn't up to the level of the first two Terminator films. Did we really expect anything less from “Salvation” director McG, the one-name ass pirate who brought “Charlie's Angels” to the big screen?

At this writing, it looks like moviegoers are seconding that verdict with their ticket buying. Given that, I'm betting that “Terminator: Salvation” is going to be hasta la vista, baby, for the entire series.

 

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