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John Connor is the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future that Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.
For more about Terminator Salvation and the Terminator Salvation Blu-ray release, see Terminator Salvation Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 20, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Joseph McGinty Nichol (McG)
Writers: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Jadagrace Berry
» See full cast & crew
Terminator Salvation Blu-ray Review
Reference audio and a strong entry into the 'Terminator' franchise make this a must-own Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 20, 2009
Everybody deserves a second chance.
Unlike this summer's mega-blockbuster Star Trek, Terminator Salvation isn't a re-imaging of a fan-favorite series but rather an extension of the established universe and an expansion of the story line that further builds upon Terminator lore. The result is a fast-paced special-effects-extravaganza that also happens to shoulder a logically sound story within the confines of franchise canon and, at its very center, the film proves itself a surprising thematic heavyweight in its exploration of what it means to be human. Though on its third director in four films and the first to break from series norm insofar as the overreaching plot line of the movie is concerned, Terminator Salvation is nevertheless a strong sequel, bettering the admittedly solid Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and taking the series in not only a logical direction away from the norm of future hunter and past prey and instead to the wastelands of the post-apocalyptic world only seen in glimpses in previous films, and also proving that James Cameron's visionary Science Fiction franchise is far from termination.
It is the year 2018. Mankind is waging a losing war against SkyNet -- a computer system that years earlier became self-aware and annihilated human targets around the world in a massive nuclear strike known as "Judgment Day" -- and its army of mechanical warriors known as "Terminators." Resistance fighter John Connor's (Christian Bale, The Dark Knight) ability to both fight with courage and foresee future events has him hailed as a savior in some circles and a false prophet in others. On an infiltration mission into a SkyNet research facility, Connor uncovers evidence that proves another of his prophesies correct: plans for the construction of a radically advanced Terminator dubbed the model "T-800." In addition, the discovery of a signal -- in essence representing an "off" switch thought capable of disabling all of SkyNet's defenses -- is viewed by the resistance's General Ashdown (Michael Ironside, Starship Troopers) as the key to mankind's victory. With SkyNet's destruction seemingly imminent, Connor nevertheless finds himself at odds with Ashdown when he learns that mankind's past, present, and future may be destroyed in the coming attack. Meanwhile, a lone wanderer named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, Avatar), a convicted fellon and death row inmate who signed his body over to SkyNet's creator -- Cyberdyne Systems -- before his execution, finds himself suddenly alive in post-apocalyptic America. He soon meets a young civilian named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek), an individual whose name appears at the top of recently-unearthed SkyNet "hit list," above even that of John Connor.
Since the 1984 debut of James Cameron's The Terminator, fans have been eager to see an expansion of the future war between man and machine as offered only in glimpses through the first three films in the series. Terminator Salvation foregoes those films' tried-and-true time travel angle in favor of a full-on post-apocalyptic future war nightmare extravaganza that smartly weaves together special effects-laden combat with something of an origins story that captures the beginnings of several elements crucial to the Terminator timeline. Terminator Salvation is both sequel and prequel; the series' looping and ever-evolving timeline -- where both past and future are constantly altered through the influences of heroes and villains over the span of decades -- allows for the series to continue on ad infinitum and offer differing perspectives on dates and events both major and minor as they are in a constant state of temporally-influenced flux. Nevertheless, and as played crucial to 2009's Star Trek, there's an air of destiny surrounding events in the Terminator timeline, a theme that heavily influenced the resolution to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Though dates of historical (or future, as the case may be) events may change, the franchise postulates that there is still the matter of the inevitable, certain events and destines that seem written in stone, even if the world around the stone is malleable and consistently evolving.
As such, Terminator Salvation contains both new people, scenarios, and timelines, but at the same time the film implements plenty of historically-grounded happenings that not only recall characters, dialogue, and events in the previous films, but more firmly establish the theme of destiny that defines the series. John Connor is seen on more than one occasion turning to his mother Sarah's tape recordings for guidance, though his answers aren't always to be found as a result of a timeline that's more winding than linear but eventually seems destined to end at the same point. John is also seen coveting the same photograph of his mother taken by a young muchacho at the end The Terminator, and the thick scar that's visible on an elder Connor's face during a future war segment in Terminator 2: Judgment Day sees its origins in Terminator Salvation. Kyle Resse's first words in the film -- "come with me if you want to live" -- not only recall identical lines from the previous films but also embody the entirety of the Terminator mythology. Small touches all, but crucial to not only please longtime Terminator fans but also establish a continuity and, more importantly, reinforce the themes of destiny that guide the events of the series to the inevitable resolution that will ultimately loop back to the events as depicted in The Terminator.
Terminator Salvation goes well above and beyond the call of duty not only in its implementation of franchise lore and themes but in its deeper and more dramatic elements that both, again, reinforce series themes but also create this particular film's own identity. The story of series newcomer Marcus Wright represents the film's heart and soul, and in more ways than one. The film's overreaching theme of what it means to be human; what makes mankind better than the machines; and why, then, that mankind must win the war are all embodied in the Marcus character. It's man's soul, his understanding beyond nuts and bolts, bytes and binary, and right and wrong that make him not only the superior species but the one best suited to determine the course of history's unwritten future, his physical and emotional flaws and all. Beyond the deeper elements, however, is a gritty but beautiful Action picture that's exciting and well made. In previous Terminator films, the future war scenes were shown at night and with futuristic weaponry on both sides. In Terminator Salvation, plenty of the action takes place during the daylight hours and with more familiar and conventional weapons -- M4 rifles, Heckler & Koch pistols, and A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft -- that make the plight of the resistance fighters, particularly pitted against both rugged and rubber-skinned T-600 Terminators and their many air, land, and sea-based devices, seem all the more futile. Every action scene is loud, wonderfully executed, and the film makes for an excellent branch between the past and the future.
Technically, Terminator Salvation is a knockout of a production. Director McG (We Are Marshall) has crafted a gritty future but injected the film with slick production values, and the juxtaposition works very well. His action scenes are high-octane but grounded in a semblance of reality, and he handles the more delicate thematic elements with a sure-handedness -- particularly the film's crucial closing minutes -- with a heartfelt sincerity. The film's production values and set design are superb; blown-out buildings, ruined cityscapes, and barren plains might not lend to the film much visual pizzazz, but they look stunning in their own right, every one a believable and immersive environment that both captures the look and feel of the post-nuclear world and send chills down the spine as the extent of the despair and devastation becomes more and more obvious with every passing frame. The larger budget and advancements in special effects allow for more seamless environments and new machines that add to franchise lore; both the epic Harvesters and the cruder T-600 Terminators -- the predecessors to the famed model T-800 portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in each of the previous three films -- are appropriately ragged and crude but obvious precursors to the series' famed cyborg. The special effects are astounding, and the work done to create the film's trademark effect in the final act that truly makes the film complete is positively seamless, one of the best-looking special effects in the history of motion pictures. Last but not least, the cast is excellent. Christian Bale is a natural as John Connor; the elder Connor had never enjoyed more than a few moments of screen time prior to Terminator Salvation, yet Bale creates a full and deep character that's believable as prophet, warrior, leader, and even still a troubled soul coping with the enormous responsibility fate's given to him. Young Anton Yelchin makes for a good Kyle Reese even with a somewhat reduced presence compared to Connor. The character has room to grow in future installments; and Yelchin seems up to the task, and shades of Michael Biehn are already seen. Finally, veteran Michael Ironside delivers a solid performance and both his looks and acting ability make him a natural as a resistance leader.
Terminator Salvation Blu-ray, Video Quality
Terminator Salvation arrives on Blu-ray with a strong 1080p, 2.39:1-framed transfer. The image is by design devoid of bright primary colors; only a handful of scenes depart from the norm of dusty earth tones and shades of gray that set the stage for the post-apocalyptic and war-torn setting. Nevertheless, the lack of color isn't a hindrance to the transfer; in fact, fine detail appears as superb throughout. From the beginning moments that feature nicely detailed close-up shots of Marcus that reveal the finest of facial hairs and pores, it becomes clear that the transfer means business. The many bombed-out locations take on a startling level of clarity and rough texture that bring each one to frightening life. The bullet-ridden façades and jumbled messes of brick and concrete look marvelous in every scene. Many of the objects in the film either exhibit plenty of wear and tear -- particularly on weapons and clothing -- or are covered in a layer of dust and grime, whether human faces and clothing or an abandoned jeep that seems covered in years worth of post-apocalyptic dust. Only several interior shots of SkyNet command offer a reprieve from the grit of the outside world; smooth lines and bright whites and blues come as something of a shock to the system in the context of the remainder of the film but nevertheless sparkle in high definition. Only some blacks that look a bit too bright hinder an otherwise spot-on presentation. Flesh tones remain neutral throughout, and the film-like presentation is completed by a thin veneer of natural film grain. All said, Terminator Salvation looks marvelous on Blu-ray, outdone only by the stellar accompanying soundtrack.
Terminator Salvation Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Terminator Salvation explodes onto Blu-ray with a remarkably loud, active, clear, and entertaining DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. From the opening title music, it becomes clear that this one means business. It's a punishing listen that seems to at every turn mangle the listening area with prodigious amounts of bass, mesmerizing and natural surround implementation, and borderline unmerciful volume at reference level, but it's a sonic joy to behold that never gets old and always seems to find a way to top itself with each major sequence. The opening scene inside a prison cell offers not only the expectedly clear dialogue reproduction but subtle sound effects and the slamming of the cell door -- that seems to move across the front half of the soundstage and slam shut with a hard-hitting authority -- set a tone for the far more aggressive action sequences to come. The opening future war battle scene features A-10 fighters zooming powerfully through the listening area; missiles track their targets as they maneuver through the room, and return gunfire from ground-based machine gun emplacements cuts through the soundstage with frightening precision. Small arms fire, too, cracks, pops, and reverberates with every shot, and helicopter rotors slice through the listening area with pinpoint accuracy. Surround activity and background ambience are superb, too. Creaks and cracks and various additional nuanced sounds throughout place the finishing touches on several crucial locations seen throughout the movie, distant popping gunfire helps to sell the war-torn environment, and several scenes featuring driving rain and accompanying thunder deliver a fully immersive atmosphere. Bass is both heard and felt in every major action scene. Whether a rumbling SkyNet Hunter-Killer aircraft that's strong enough to demolish an already decrepit building as it slowly passes above it; the deep, rumbling mechanical sounds of Harvesters as they lumber about collecting human prisoners; or numerous explosions throughout the film; the low end positively devastates the listening area and the eardrums, rattles the furniture, and completes what is nothing short of an awesome sonic experience.
Terminator Salvation Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Terminator Salvation debuts on Blu-ray as a three-disc set; disc one houses the theatrical edition of the film and special features, disc two contains the extended director's cut and BD-Live functionality, and disc three offers a digital copy of the film. The first supplement is "Maximum Movie Mode," a feature that contains the director standing in front of a pair of screens that show on the left the film and on the right behind-the-scenes elements. The segments cover a broad range of information over the production, looking at the creation of special effects via animatics, interviews with cast members, behind-the-scenes footage from the set, and more. Some of the material is presented in a standard picture-in-picture secondary window over the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Regardless of how it's presented, the interactive and visually-based commentary proves vastly superior to standard audio-only tracks; the director interacts with the film, pausing it to point out various interesting tidbits, further reinforce points, and expand on the film's dramatic and thematic elements. It's a fantastic feature and is implemented to perfection. Also included is a pop-up timeline that places events in and around the film from a range between 1975 and 2032, interactive still galleries, storyboard comparisons, and more.
Focus Points is an additional collection of 1080p behind-the-scenes segments that are available to view either within "Maximum Movie Mode" or individually via the main menu. Pieces include Digital Destruction (2:30), Enlisting the Air Force (2:48), Molten Metal and the Science of Simulation (2:09), Building the Gas Station (2:52), Creating the VLA Attack (2:46), Exploding Serena's Lab in Miniature (2:38), Hydrobots (2:19), An Icon Returns (3:01), Terminator Factory (2:17), Stan Winston Workshop (3:03), and Napalm Blast (2:46). Next up is a piece entitled Reforging the Future (1080p, 19:01) that looks at how the filmmakers both built on Terminator lore and created a film with its own identity. The piece features cast and crew speaking on the film's look or "retro-future," the film's themes and tone, shooting locations, prop and set design, wardrobe, the design and implementation of the various Terminators and machines seen in the film, and the use of both practical and digital special effects. Finally, The Moto-Terminator (1080p, 8:33) takes an in-depth look at the creation of one of the film's unique special effects and action sequences. The included digital copy, as sampled on a second-generation iPod Touch, features picture quality that stays true to the source, retaining a gritty, lifeless tone with decent detail and only moderate banding and blocking. The soundtrack also retains its thunderous volume and while clarity and detail are lacking there's still a good sense of space and directionality across the two-channel headphone presentation with a fair sense of power and heft to the action scenes.
Terminator Salvation Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Terminator Salvation is not only a loud, action-packed, and special effects-heavy summer extravaganza, but also a pitch-perfect extension to the series while also offering a somewhat meaningful look at what it means to be human and man's superiority to machine. Terminator Salvation also introduces new characters and technologies but never leaves the confines of established franchise lore, and the result is an exciting visual spectacle that also carries on the series' legacy while simultaneously creating its own identity within the Terminator universe. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray release of Terminator Salvation delivers a stunning 1080p transfer and a deafening reference-quality soundtrack that's among the very best Blu-ray has to offer. All that's missing is a more thorough supplemental package beyond the excellent "Maximum Movie Mode" feature, but Terminator Salvation nevertheless comes highly recommended.
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