I saw the new Terminator movie last night in Manhattan. The theater was sold out, several showings were sold out that night. Memorial Day, Fleet Week, and you are surprised?
Much of the movie is shot in this overexposed, greyed out palette that is supposed to suggest the whitening bones of the human future. or whatever. I took it as evidence of just how much of the movie was done in front of a green screen. It had a very PS3/Final Fantasy quality to it.
Christian Bale plays John Connor, resistance leader. Somehow, between the end of the previous movie and the start of this one, the remaining professional soldiers have taken over organizing and leading the resistance to the machines, and Connor is just a small unit commander.
Sam Worthington is Marcus, a Death Row murderer who donates his body to science in exchange for a kiss from scientist Helena Bonham Carter. Marcus wakes up in the future, takes clothes off of a corpse, and wanders into LA. (By the magic of cinema, the VLA radio telescope is now walking distance from the LA basin.)
Wandering into LA, Marcus almost gets cut down by a Terminator, but is saved by Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and a mute girl, who are the LA branch of the resistance. As it happens, Skynet is looking for Kyle. Somehow, Skynet knows that Kyle is the one that will draw out John Connor.
Much shooting of things later, we finally learn that Marcus is a new kind of Terminator. Kyle has been taken by Skynet to its headquarters in San Francisco. Why does a self aware computer network build a 200 story headquarters skyscraper and major industrial complex on the San Andreas Fault? Dunno.
Connor goes in to rescue Kyle singlehandedly, 'cuz thats heroic, after letting Marcus go in and find him. In the process he gets beaten up by a voiceless CGI Arnold Schwarzenegger. Doing a convincing, moving Ahnuld was obviously too difficult/expensive, so the film burns his skin off, allowing them to go back to animatronic/shiny metal that is much easier to render.
The film ends with Kyle rescued, Connor mortally wounded, and Marcus feeling bad about being a murderer saved and turned into killing machine. Marcus donates his heart to save Connor, which transplant is done in a field hospital by Connor's pregnant wife (who you recall from the previous movie is a veterinarian).
Of the three male leads, Marcus is the most interesting, followed by Reese, followed by Connor. Marcus is Frankenstein's Monster, updated. He is wonderfully conflicted in his history and motivations, far more interesting than the G.I. Jesus that John Connor is supposed to be. It is really too bad his character is dead at film's end, he would have been a valuable franchise character.
I enjoyed the film, especially so because my son Daniel paid for my ticket! But seriously. when the film is exploring the Frankenstein angle, its very good. When the focus is on Connor, its flat. Lots of robots, lots of things exploding, lots of inexplicable puddles of fire. A summer movie for men.