For some reason, when the sequels hit four, they tend not to put the number in the title anymore — probably a way to try to avoid the usual view of sequels as getting worse and worse. But the Terminator franchise is doing okay, really, maybe because they don’t rush. Four movies in twenty-five years isn’t exactly churning them out, but they’re still managing to attract the fans in droves. And the continuity people don’t even have to worry about what’s come before, because they keep time traveling and changing everything around. So Sarah Connor’s tapes to her son don’t sound quite the way they did in T2, but that’s okay because the whole timeline’s been messed with at least once since then.
They didn’t mess with time travel this time around, though, so they’ll have to watch it if there’s ever a fifth movie. It doesn’t seem like there could be, really, but I don’t underestimate the writers’ ingenuity, or possibly their desperation if they’ve got higher-ups demanding more. It does take some ingenuity to keep going past the world ending, after all… and this time, they even start out by killing one of the main characters. And they don’t time travel, like I said, nor is he a zombie. He’s Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, another one of those Australian actors who keep coming to the U.S. to steal acting jobs. Oh, and he was in Hart’s War.) and he’s on Death Row when the action kicks off. But when Cyberdyne gets involved, even death isn’t quite final.
You probably know from the previews (skip ahead to the next paragraph if you somehow managed to avoid the previews) that Marcus turns out to be a sort of hybrid, and I don’t mean a hybrid SUV. Every Terminator can look human, but this one believes that he IS human, which makes him extremely convincing, as you might imagine. It’s really cool, though, how they drop all the little clues as to what’s going on — the way he sometimes moves and acts like Arnold from the original, and even a little reference to him being heavier than he looks.
|Because you need to have the dramatic image of John Connor and a scary, scary Terminator facing off.|
Anyway, he’s pretty confused, unsurprisingly, when he wakes up to discover that the world’s been bombed within an inch of its life. The Machines are even more confusing, but luckily for him, he finds help in the form of the Los Angeles Resistance group. There are only two members, though they don’t make it clear if there were always only two of them, or if they just had some horrible casualty rates. In charge is one Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, Chekhov from Star Trek), and following along to help keep everyone out of trouble is Star (Jadagrace, who hasn’t been in anything before, but then, she is only maybe ten years old, tops, so give her time).
They join forces with Marcus, and believe me, they need the help. The Machines are doing something new, namely taking human prisoners, and the Resistance is worried. Enter John Connor (Christian Bale, the new go-to guy when you need an obsessed, driven, brooding sort of guy), leader of the Resistance — sort of. He actually isn’t, apparently, though he is in charge of a decent-sized segment of it, and lots of people seem to think he really is the last, best hope for humanity, like they’ve said all along. His wife, Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard, finally getting more lines than she had in Spider Man 3, at least) is there, too, now graduated from veterinary tech to people doctor, apparently.
You can’t blame them for not wanting to trust anything that smacks of the Machines, and in the grand Terminator tradition, things go amazingly wrong before they finally start going right. Now that the technology has caught up with the vision, things explode and machines turn into other machines like Transformers and people get half their faces blown away to reveal very realistic looking cyber parts. And it’s great to watch. The plot is a touch iffier in places, but really you don’t care while you’re seeing it all happen.
A solid three and three-quarter idols. The Terminators aren’t quite ruthlessly efficient enough, but the bad guys need to be slow sometimes so the movies aren’t too ridiculously short. But the characters are well-done, and the plot holds up if you don’t squint at it too much, and it’s just so fun to have another Terminator installment. (Rumor has it there might be two more Terminator installments, but we’ll have to see about that.) There are tons of little references to the previous films, but my favorite has to be the little boom box from T2, the one that we last saw blasting out Guns ‘n’ Roses “You Could Be Mine,” while the young John Connor and his friend with the terrible hair were cruising the streets. It gets to do that one more time, and that was really nifty.