The original Terminator worked because it was a movie about time-traveling killer robots. It was simple and blunt and everybody knew that it was simple and blunt and it accepted that it was simple and blunt. Terminator: Salvation introduces an army of killer robots in our dystopian future and when those robots are running around trying to kill people, guess what? The result is an awesomely blunt action flick that will leave you staring in slackjawed amazement at the CGI and the action and the explosions – which is what Terminator fans want.
A whole lot of the film, though, sets aside the “Terminator” part for the “Salvation” part. Those bits play as ham-handed attempts at trying to be something important. The fact that we’re asked to invest ourselves as viewers in the redemption of a cavalcade of characters that we’ve never seen before and will never see again with little or no back story doesn’t help. Neither does the fact that I’m sure plenty of fans like myself tuned in for robots and explosions.
Terminator: Salvation is NOT a bad movie. In fact, it’s VERY good at being what most people expected and what most people wish it was. It reached a little too high in trying to add some awkward social relevance, though, and winds up performing like a sprinter in a marathon: exciting, fast-paced and running out of gas before the finish line.