Terminator Salvation (2009)

Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood, Jadagrace, Helena Bonham Carter

Directed by: McG

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

The terminators are taking over the world...

When Terminator was released in 1984, the idea of machines taking over the world and destroying mankind seemed alarmingly possible – but not a whole lot more so than the concepts of Martians invading. Twenty-five years on, Judgment Day seems only a matter of time.

Today, however, it's Judgment Day for the long-awaited fourth chapter in the Terminator chronicles. With infamous method actor Christian Bale at the helm, I had high hopes of Terminator Salvation – high hopes that it would be better than the disastrously embarrassing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines at any rate. T3 committed two unforgivable sins: killing off my role model and (along with Alien's Ripley) the only truly credible heroine in Hollywood, Sarah Connor, and casting a dweeby non-entity as her legendary resistance hero son. Oh, and just generally being a poorly thought-out, lame-assed, straight-to-channel-five action snooze-fest.

This time, we finally get to see the future we've been promised for so long. There are no great surprises to be found in the arid, Mad Max orange, post-apocalyptic wasteland, stalked by huge, scary, clanking, shooting, shrieking machines that sweep up human beings like rubbish and deposit them in silos. Chillingly, the human holocaust is here, and mankind's only hope is the resistance, sneaking around in their cool biker boots, Army and Navy store seconds and buckled leather apocalypse chic in the wake of their renegade figurehead, John Connor (Bale).

The sleek T1000 is still a gleam in Skynet's electronic eye, so we're back to the time of the clunky old Arnie models (although watch out for a splendid moment when a CGI Schwarzenegger stumbles out of a pod like a spray-tanned, steroid-enhanced butterfly from a metal chrysalis).

Christian Bale as John Connor in Terminator Salvation

At last, with Christian Bale, we have a John Connor we can believe in, but he's so tough and self-sufficient it's hard to care about him in the way we did for Edward Furlong's incarnation in T2. In fact, the most sympathetic character here is his father, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), closely followed by mysterious stranger Marcus (Sam Worthington), who looks like a human, but is curiously magnetic and hard as nails – oh, and underwent cybernetic surgery at the start of the film…

But while Bale et al do their best to move us, the film simply doesn't pack the emotional punch of T1 or 2, focusing instead on the explosive action. And no amount of shoe-horning in of memorable quotes (they get 'I'll be back' over in the trailer, but believe me there are many more) will recreate the captivating mix of mind-blowing sci-fi, believable characters and tongue-in-cheek humour that made the initial films so brilliant.

I've loved the early Terminator films for over half my life now, and in my more paranoid moments, I've come to see them as almost prophetic. But before the machines shut us down for good, I prophesy that the Terminator franchise will limp on a little longer before the red lights dim to black for good. And as for John Connor? Hell, he'll be back…

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