But stretching interminably on either side of this set piece is an ideas wasteland more barren than any of the blasted post-apocalyptic landscapes in the movie. ‘Terminator Salvation’ isn’t the gritty, futuristic blitzkrieg for which fans of the first two films have been salivating. It isn’t even the slick, entertaining Hollywood blockbuster most were realistically expecting. It is a shambolic, deafening, intelligence-insulting mess, a crushing failure on almost all counts.
It’s the year 2018. Christian Bale (whose on-set ballistics seem even more laughable in context) plays John Connor, self-prophesied leader of the human resistance against Skynet, the machine which rules the planet following a nuclear apocalypse. Sam Worthington plays Marcus Wright, a former Death Row inmate who harbours a dark secret.
The plot comes straight from the ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…’ school of screenwriting: scenes and incidents slam into one another with no logical context or motivation. The characters are neutral: Bale growls and frowns, Worthington frowns and pouts, while other grime-spattered actors wander on screen, look perplexed, and are quickly forgotten. For kids under 14, or extremely undemanding adults, ‘Terminator Salvation’ might just pass muster as a temporary, forgettable Friday night distraction. But for fans of the first two movies, this is a disappointment of ‘Phantom Menace’ proportions.