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TERMINATOR: SALVATION
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: McG
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: December 1, 2009

“What happened here?”

“Judgment Day happened.”

Film ***

The Terminator franchise has been rejuvenated in a most spectacular way with Terminator Salvation. For an entry in the series that wasn’t going to include participation from either James Cameron or, to a certain extent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s quite surprising that such a task was able to be pulled off. It’s not without flaws, but overall this is a satisfying entry in the Terminator legacy.

McG, who many felt wouldn’t be able to do justice to the series, really proves himself as an action movie director with what is essentially his biggest directorial effort to date. He brings to the movie a knockout aesthetic, giving it a most distinct look which greatly benefits is post-apocalyptic setting. And after seeing the action set pieces in this movie, I’m convinced McG can very much become an action movie director at the level of Michael Bay.

Gone in this story are anything having to do with time travel, as this is strictly the audience’s first foray into the futuristic war against the machines that was foreseen in the last three movies. The year is now 2018, and John Connor (Christian Bale) has now become the leader of the human resistance in the battle against Skynet. His knowledge of the machines has some people thinking he is the last hope of humanity, while others believe him to be nothing more than a false prophet.

The main story, though, isn’t really so much about Connor, but rather a mysterious human stranger named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington). Making his way to San Francisco, which just so happens to be heart of Skynet’s empire, Marcus eventually comes into contact with a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who has been targeted for termination by the machines. Reese is part of a small band of humans who eventually are captured by a harvest machine, which then delivers them to Skynet for, that’s right, creating more terminators.

I can’t go any further without mentioning the fantastic action sequence that occurs around this point in the film, which quite honestly surpassed any action scene in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Reese and Marcus are eluding the large harvester robot, which looks most intimidating to start with, whose legs eventually eject two motorcycles, called Moto-terminators, to hunt down the humans on the open road. The visual and sound effects work in this sequence, in addition to the action itself, will have you knocked to the floor.

The movie’s flaws come mainly from several moments of bad dialogue and hammy exchanges. As it turns out, the screenplay comes directly from the same writers of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. And it seemed as if Michael Ironside was simply doing a redux of the many hardnosed military characters he’s played over the years, which simply wasn’t needed in a movie that was trying to take a story we all knew into a different direction.

Bale is fine enough as John Connor, but because he’s not the main focus of the movie and the character’s tone seems like a direct echo of Batman, it won’t go down as one of the actor’s more memorable performances. But Sam Worthington does impress with a star making turn in the key character of Marcus. You will have to excuse his Aussie accent trailing in and out every so often.

And I don’t think I’m spoiling anything huge at this point by revealing that a certain Austrian bodybuilder turned actor turned politician does pop up near the end of the movie by way of some very neat digital enhancement. It’s the big capper in a movie that does pay homage several times to the Terminator series, for example incorporating the lines “Come with me if you want to live” and “I’ll be back”, none of which ever feels shoehorned in.

Fast-paced, intense and filled left and right with tremendous eye candy, Terminator Salvation is a step in the right direction for what is essentially a new trilogy of films. I heavily credit McG with bringing a much needed visual grandiose, as well as executing some truly remarkable action set pieces. He might be light years away from the level of James Cameron, but to me he’s a good enough successor to the Terminator throne.

Video ****

This Blu-ray release from Warner boasts quite a remarkable HD picture. The presentation completely captures the truly bleak and dark atmospheric aspects of its setting, in addition to making the already astonishing visual effects look even more so to the point where you will be in complete awe. The desert-based apocalyptic setting is given tremendous image detail, and both daytime and nighttime sequences fare brilliant equally. All in all, the very type of movie that you want to experience only on Blu-ray.

Audio ****

Once again, I have to redo my top choices for the best sounding discs of the year, because the DTS HD mix on this Blu-ray release is definitely neck and neck with one other movie (also about robots). That’s how flippin’ fantastic the sound quality is. The sound design is one of the best I’ve heard in any movie this year, and that element of the movie really shows in the remarkable lossless sound. The wrath of the machines alone can be felt through the magnificent audio quality, in addition to the countless gun battles, explosions and fight sequences. The huge chase sequence involving the harvest robot and Moto-Terminators is without question one of the single best moments I’ve experienced on ANY Blu-ray. This is a pure illustration of a top of the line, four star sounding quality Blu-ray release!

Features ***

We get 3 discs on this Warner Blu-ray release. Disc One includes an exclusive R-rated Director’s Cut, which runs three minutes longer than the Theatrical Version.

That version can be found on Disc Two, which comes equipped with the best form of visual commentary in existence, Maximum Movie Mode. Just like on the Watchmen Blu-ray, we get a guided video commentary with director McG as he breaks down numerous moments throughout the movie to show how they were conceived and if they were executed to the filmmaker’s satisfaction. And McG is very honest in this regard. In addition to his informative visual commentary, this viewing mode also includes Picture-in-Picture, Storyboard Comparisons and a Terminator Mythology Timeline. There are also two additional behind the scenes documentaries; “Re-Forging the Future” and “The Moto-Terminator”.

Disc Three is a bonus disc containing a Digital Copy version of the Theatrical Cut.

Summary:

Terminator Salvation is a most satisfying step in a different direction for this beloved sci-fi saga, and will definitely please anyone who was disappointed by Terminator 3. The action here might be the best to be seen in the series yet, and the effects work is absolutely astonishing. And on Blu-ray, it’s very much a must-see experience!

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