The machines win this one, just. McG talked a good fight in the run up to this Terminator reboot. He orchestrates some good on-screen fights, too.
But Salvation never quite teases the humanity from its mechanised mayhem, leaving us jostled but niggled by a worry that the series didn’t need this.
There’s a sense of box-ticking to the references (Arnie’s mush, a truck pile-up, Guns n’ Roses); a sense of gap-filling to the future-set backstory. Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) ‘dies’ on death row in crucifix pose; he’s reborn, plus internal tinkering, post-Judgement Day to meet Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and resistance godheadto- be John Connor (Christian Bale). Promising epic character arc? Sure, but Wright’s story plays more as device than depth charge.
Struggling for air between man-machine dust-ups and franchise inquotes, he exists largely to link Reese and Connor – and we knew that was coming. Which brings us to the main letdown.
McG has allegedly said that the director’s cut will pack an extra 30 minutes. Well, they’re not here. The extended cut adds three minutes, none of which fixes the film unless you desperately needed that pointless shot of Moon Bloodgood topless.
But the disc shines elsewhere, buffed and fit to robo-rumble. Bale’s sweat glistens, gun-metal gleams, the roar of battle smacks you battering ram-style. Salvation isn’t a great Terminator movie but it verges on a thrillingly visceral war movie.
Extras wise, Making Ofs explore future designs and that groovy toy tie-in, the Moto-Terminator. The major USP is Maximum Movie Mode, a mightily souped-up take on talk-tracks of old. Picture-inpicture commentaries from cast and crew, storyboards and ‘focus point’ featurettes combine with whole-screen scene breakdowns from McG, who admits there were on-set “fireworks” but stops shy of discussing The Bale Rant.
Grumpy chops Bale actually adds levity, ribbing the unitard-wearing stunt double who “played Terminator” in the pre-CGI Connor fights: “He looked kind of like Andy Pandy in his pyjamas.”
He explains two alternate endings, one of which spoiler hunters know to a point (it’s dark, but daft). But he’s equivocal on which they should’ve picked, which isn’t good enough. He emerges more as a wide-eyed orchestrator than an auteur with the fierce vision needed for a revered franchise.
As it was after Bale’s rant, you’re left wondering who’s boss. Wasn’t like that with T2, was it? Salvation stacks robots, references and part-baked ideas but leaves any core story squashed. Professional? Sure. Inspired? That’s a negative.
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