Warner Bros. // 2009 // 115 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 1st, 2009
"I knew it. I knew it was coming. But this is not the future my mother warned me about. And in this future, I don't know if we can win this war. This is John Connor."
If you're looking for the ultimate DVD edition of Terminator Salvation you are only going to find a widescreen or fullscreen edition with the theatrical cut and no bonus features at most stores and online vendors. The Blu-ray version comes with three extra minutes to push it to an R rated cut, and offers enough extras to satisfy fans. But on DVD? There is nothing but what you saw in the cinema. Well, unless you shop at Target. Welcome to the world of marketing robots! There is only one way for the DVD crowd to get fair treatment.
The year is 2018, and Judgment Day has happened. John Connor (Christian Bale, The Dark Knight) and his resistance are fighting the war on the machines, and frankly they aren't doing so well. He's got them searching for Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) who is destined to hop back in time and become his father. Along the way they come across an ex-convict (Sam Worthington, Avatar) who was supposed to have been executed years ago. His name is Marcus, but he is not what he appears to be. He lives as a hybrid of man and machine, and could represent a new future that John Connor never saw coming.
There were a lot of sensational stories coming off the set of this film even when it was in production. The project passed around Hollywood many times over with rewrites, cast changes, and overhauls all along the way. Christian Bale juggled parts going from the machine hero to the resistance leader which forced script alterations. A very impressive shocking ending had to be retooled to fit a planned trilogy with Bale. McG was named to direct when his only notable film was the cheeky remake of Charlie's Angels. Terminator Salvation quickly became the most expensive independent feature ever made with an estimated budget above two hundred million dollars. Infamously it became the set where Christian Bale lost his composure and cussed out a cinematographer within an inch of his life. Yet somehow through all of the drama and negative speculation, they cranked out a pretty good summer popcorn flick where man took on machine.
This is the first Terminator where we don't have time travel, and it also breaks the simple cat and mouse formula of a bad robot out to kill one or two people. It all takes place during the war against the automatic metal soldiers of Skynet in a post-apocalyptic landscape that calls up Mad Max or The Road. Here humans fight bad machines in many shapes and sizes, although it is still one distinctively human looking form that you have to cheer when you see it appear. What Terminator Salvation does right is have enough sly shout outs to the fans of this franchise to make it feel organic to a series that is well over twenty-five years in the making. McG makes a movie that knows how to take glee in geeking out a small moments which feel epic. Even without Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a huge role, it's fun to see the dark future struggle of the human resistance. Of course we have new icons with Sam Worthington and Christian Bale walking around, and they certainly bring the right intensity along with their character's fondness for Guns 'N Roses.
I can't gripe about the look and sound of all of this. The DVD has a great transfer, looking crisp and detailed despite a decidedly murky and dark color scheme. There are no problems technically, although a few scenes are purposefully not as clear as you'd like. The surround sound is just dandy as well with lots of atmospherics engaging all the speakers around the room. It seems ironic Bale blissed out the cinematographer when the DVD showcases how good this guy was.
The only problem with Terminator Salvation is it feels robotic, as if the machines John Connor is fighting tinkered with the script. It follows formula conventions, and never surprises us with anything more than the details of the future world. Turns out the story it tells feels more like a setup for further sequels since we don't see the climax of the war or any development when either side can time travel. All the stuff alluded to in the previous chapters doesn't happen here apart from John Connor meeting his much younger dad. The climax doesn't offer much new stuff either, featuring the all too predictable fight in a foundry. Why do machines insist on squaring off with humans where there is molten metal and things easily used as weapons against them? Wouldn't a forrest or an abandoned parking lot work better to their advantage? Another big problem is they ask you to have feelings for a machine, and that just seems too tall an order with this one. We're supposed to feel like Marcus the machine sacrifices so much for his friend John Connor, but it's a little like a blender offering someone a blade. There just aren't enough important things happening here to justify all the cost, scandal, and anticipation.
Turns out the real battle isn't between man and machine, but rather studios and consumers. This DVD version has no extras, and it doesn't have the alternate longer cut the Blu-ray is featuring. Unless you have the high definition next generation player all you get is what you got in the multiplex. I suppose there is a digital copy if you need that, but get it quick since it expires in a couple of months. This is a real slap in the face of DVD buyers, or at least the ones who love the format for what it offers beyond simply a movie experience. Yet apparently there is in fact a standard definition DVD version available through Target stores that gives you extra footage and supplements, so if you plan your purchase carefully then you can get everything the Blu-ray people got. Head for the red logo chain and you should not be as frustrated as the rest of the people.
Terminator Salvation offers great popcorn movie thrills, a very acceptable entry in the franchise that, like its villain, keeps on going even when you think it is down for the count. It may not be perfect or innovative, but the film offers us exactly what we want in a fourth installment, even if it all seems formulaic by now. Warner Bros. gives viewers only what they've seen before on DVD while rewarding BuRay enthusiasts with the alternate cut and extras. Seems like the studios want you to purchase the latest machine model for movies. Well, that or shop at Target exclusively for your Terminator Salvation needs.
Guilty of being bare bones on DVD, Terminator Salvation looks better
on the newer model.
Review content copyright © 2009 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Official Site