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Movie Review: 'Terminator Salvation' worst in series

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After being proven wrong when saying, "They simply can't re-invent the Star Trek franchise," I actually had some hope for the new installment of the "Terminator" series.

It turned out to be hope misplaced.

Director McG obviously spent much time crafting the action scenes that make up 90 percent of the film. He should have spent at least a little bit of time thinking about a compelling storyline. With so much rich history, compounded by the gimmick that the "Terminator" films have played off of since the beginning (time travel), there is a great story lurking underneath the premise of "Terminator Salvation."

Set in the near future, this episode deals with John Connor and his position as leader of the resistance against the machines that have taken over the world as we know it.

Connor's role as the leader of the human rebellion has always been the underlying theme in the "Terminator" films. In the original, Arnold Schwarzenegger - as the title character - came back from the future with the purpose of killing Sarah Connor, who would be the mother of John Connor, the aforementioned freedom fighter.

In the second episode, another cyborg - who looked exactly like the first (which is to say it was played by Schwarzenegger) - had a decidedly different intent. He (or rather, "it") was here to protect the already-born John Connor to ensure he lived to be able to head the resistance in 2018.

Time-travel as a plot device is always headache-inducing for me. If such a thing is possible, why worry about success or failure at any given point? One can just travel back in time again until the job gets done. No one ever addresses this obvious point. It would deflate the drama of the story, I presume.

By the third episode, creator/director James Cameron had dropped out. When he wrote the screenplay for the original, he was living in his car in Hollywood. By the time of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," he was a Hollywood A-list director and realized the "Terminator" story had already been executed to its apogee. While he is credited for writing the screenplay, "Rise of the Machines" was directed by Jonathan Mostow, a somewhat clumsier director than Cameron for this kind of movie.

The fourth chapter (and there's already a fifth in the planning stage) is completely sans Cameron and is the least successful film in the series.

Director McG goes for the big bang (relentlessly) but misses the salient human interest details.

It doesn't deal with time travel (except when referencing the previous films) and stays mostly in its own present, the year 2018. The machines have already all but trampled the human race into oblivion, but there are pockets of resistance across the planet, and John Connor is the new messiah, as foretold in the previous "Terminator" stories.

It's hard to describe what takes place because McG has opted to simply do one action scene after another. The opening is promising but the promise is never forthcoming. It's entirely action, action, action with no expository content.

I don't know what more to say about this dreary and unsatisfying film other than I wish McG could time travel, go back and redo "Terminator Salvation" as a good movie. There's a story to be told that would settle in nicely with a saga that is now some 25 years old. But this isn't it.

To be fair, though, if you enjoy relentless, mindless action and have no qualms about any engaging plot or character development, by all means spend your money and two hours of your time, neither of which you will ever recover.[[In-content Ad]]Jim Wunderle owns Wunderle Sound Services and is a Springfield freelance writer and musician. He can be reached at info@wunderlesound.com.

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