Unlike the others, this one’s set in the post-Judgment Day-future. The world as we know it is gone, replaced with a barren, destructed, monochromatic scape. Pockets of survivors are hidden among the rubble, led by John Connor (Christian Bale), whose wealth of knowledge and encouragement (through covert radio broadcasts) serve to strengthen and unify the survivors–the “Resistance.”
Connor learns he’s second on Skynet’s hitlist, bested by a name unknown to anyone but Connor and his very pregnant wife Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard). That name is Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). Kyle is still a teenager; he’s never met Connor, and he’s surviving in Los Angeles. In the meantime, Skynet is working on a new way to infiltrate and destroy its human enemies: terminators that look like humans (the Arnold model). They’re capturing humans for experimentation, and the breakthrough is on the horizon.
In the meantime, Connor and Reese are about to be connected by a stranger named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington). Marcus is strong and determined, and he seems like a good ally. But Marcus is also connected to Skynet in a way even he doesn’t realize.
This movie was absolutely stunning in every way. The special effects were gorgeous, but seamless and integral. They simply fit, and they helped to create a tragically believable post-nuclear 2019. The acting was top-notch for the most part (Common was … well, common), and it was impossible not to care for the characters. There was action from start to finish, but it didn’t outweigh the story. In fact, although we already had a general understanding of the back story thanks to previous movies, TS did an excellent job of filling in the details. Plus we were introduced to a number of cool new terminators! There were even a few bright spots of levity, when some of the catch-phrases we’ve come to know and love from earlier Terminator films were casually thrown in.
I especially enjoyed the way this movie respected and connected the historicity of the other movies. For example, Connor often listened to his mother’s cassette tapes for information about Skynet and the war; at one point he looked at the polaroid picture of Sarah captured in the first movie. And Connor still has an uncanny gift for manipulating technology, just like he did when he was a bratty kid in T-2. There’s even room for the story of T-2 to have been established through the story in TS.
Terminator Salvation is the best movie I’ve seen in 2009. I highly recommend it, and I can’t wait to see it again. But before I do, I need to watch the first three movies back-to-back!