New "Terminator" no fun without Schwarzenegger

Sun May 17, 2009 10:16pm EDT
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By Michael Rechtshaffen

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - The latest chapter in the successful cyborg series following 2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" -- and the first sans Schwarzenegger -- "Terminator Salvation" doesn't skimp on all that crunching heavy metal.

But while incoming director McG (the "Charlie's Angels" movies) certainly gets a rise out of the machinery in the post-apocalyptic thriller, there's little sign of life where the flatly executed human component is concerned.

The terminally sullen results are unlikely to hurt the picture's opening holiday weekend, given the presence of last summer's box office king, Christian Bale. But its total domestic take will fall a lot closer in line with "Terminator 3's" $150.3 million than those gargantuan "Dark Knight" numbers reaped by Warner Bros. (Columbia is handling the film in most international territories.)

Taking place in 2018, or 14 years after the dreaded Judgment Day has occurred, "Salvation" finds armies of Skynet Terminators patrolling the bombed-out remains of the country, searching for the odd pockets of human survivors who managed to survive the blasts.

Among the living, of course, is John Connor (Bale), who despite his uncertainties seems well on his way to becoming the official leader of the Resistance.

He's far less certain about the intentions of Marcus Wright (Australian Sam Worthington), a former death-row inmate-turned-organ donor who appears willing to help him track down a teenager named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who of course is supposed to grow up to become John's father.

Nevertheless, the two form an uneasy alliance.

Although McG manages to keep the machinery humming 18 years after James Cameron's "Judgment Day" and its liquid metal raised the F/X stakes considerably, anchoring it in any sort of satisfying dramatic context is another story.   Continued...