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IN SHORT: Finally, the Terminator saga "begins." Our audience applauded. [Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language. minutes]
Your only warning: If you are of the mind that you do not want the mystery of how the Terminators and Skynet came to be and rule the world, you do not want to see Terminator Salvation. In our sneak preview audience, that was about two persons out of several hundred. Everyone else in our audience applauded. While Terminator Salvation leaves an open ending, just in case someone comes up with something new for a fifth film, this one pretty much caps the series. It also has enough surprises in it that fans of the first trilogy will get thrills enough to make 'em giggle.
Honestly, after three big budget films and a small screen television series detailing much of the Terminator story, we weren't sure if there was enough material left untouched to deliver a worthwhile viewing experience. Of course, we've been reading X-Men for thirty plus years so we should know better about the viability of action stories. Pour enough ingredients into the mix and stir carefully and buy lots of popcorn. Terminator Salvation is worth it.
We begin with the execution of multiple killer Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington). As penance for his crimes, Wright signs his body over to techno-scientist Dr. Serena Kogen (Helena Bonham Carter) of the Cyberdyne Corporation, herself dying of cancer. Neither will know, at that point in time, that armageddon is about to hit and nuclear fire will essentially turn the earth to toast. Thus begins day one in the saga that is the Terminator franchise of movies. There's a lot of history that could get in the way of any novice walking in to see this film cold and it has always been our Prime Rule that you shouldn't have to know anything to enjoy the film. Terminator Salvation satisfactorily meets that criteria with a wee bit of text that essentially summarizes what's "happened" to begin the film. Post execution of poor mister Wright, we are post Judgement Day, as what is left of humanity battles the increasingly powerful Skynet and its force of various Terminator machines.
Wandering about in the middle of it all is the aforementioned Marcus Wright, once again alive. He doesn't remember his death. He's not really sure of what is going on in the world, save that there seem to machines everywhere trying to kill him and every other human walking the planet. Enter a teenager named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) who saves Marcus from a Terminator attack. Reese will be revealed to be t he son of Resistance fighter John Connor (Christian Bale) and his wife Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard). Reese has no idea of any of that -- Terminator is a time spanning saga, after all -- nor does he know the ultimate reason of why he must never fall into the hands of the machines. His death would, of course, effectively destroy time and space and all theinvestment you've made watching The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines <g>.
While the story of Connor's life runs parallel to that of Reese, the latter has the more interesting tale. It is Reese that saves Marcus from Terminator attack. It is Reese who serves as father figure to the 9 year old kidlet sidekick, a traumatized mute girl called Star (Jadagrace Berry). It is the capture of Reese and Star that drives the storylines of both adult characters together and as they clash, in what will be humanity's final battle with Skynet, the pair have to learn to trust each other to save the history that is to come.
Well, of course they don't.
Chronologically in the middle of that last paragraph comes the introduction of fighter pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), saved by Marcus after a Terminator "Harvester" machine grabs the previously mentioned kidlets. The rescue of the kids, and other humans being held by Skynet, brings the two stories together and reveals how Connor came to head the Resistance. If you don't know, or remember the details of, any of the original trilogy, the danger faced by Reese and Star and, ultimately, Marcus Wright feels real. Those that do know the details will be thrilled to see all kinds of new Terminator machines, as well as the metallic monsters of old. And lots of things blow up in a screenplay that as much honors the earlier Terminator films as it fills in the holes.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Terminator Salvation, he would have paid . . .
We'll repeat ourself. It's a great popcorn movie. For those who want the pix on their desktops, take your pick of three dozen or so Terminator Salvation wallpapers.
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