When It Is OK to Reject Salvation...
The thing to remember about Terminator: Salvation is that it is not about John Connor (Christian Bale) or even The Terminator itself. The film really is about Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), some kind of hybrid that like the film itself seems mashed together of other things while being quite dysfunctional.
Marcus agrees to sign his body over to science after his execution. Jump a few years later and we're deep within the war between humans and Skynet. Marcus wanders in, meets a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin). Marcus helps Kyle and they meet up with members of the Resistance and while saving another member we discover that Marcus himself is a machine. He still thinks he's human, and he and a very reluctant John join forces to rescue Kyle along with other humans from a Skynet prison in post-apocalyptic San Francisco. The Resistance is planning to destroy the machines but that will cause the deaths of those humans trapped in the prison.
Terminator: Salvation is loud but remarkably uninteresting. Bale brings his Batman intensity and occasionally his Batman voice to the film but he's almost an afterthought, as if he had to be included because the mythology demands it. Worthington does a slightly better job, but on at least one occasion his Australian accent slipped out. The fact that Worthington can do better than someone who unlike himself can actually act is a sad and sorry sight.
Anton Yelchin (who did a good job as Chekov in Star Trek) is the best of the lot as Kyle, making it sad that he was not the focus and the stilted Marcus was. However, I'm confused. If memory serves correct, Kyle and John were about the same age when he was first sent to protect Sarah. How then can John know Kyle is his father?
Worse is the abuse of Jane Alexander. You have one of the most respected actress of her generation, and she was thoroughly wasted in the film. I expected her to play a wise elder or guide, but all she did was look frightened and I don't think had more than twenty words of dialogue. Is that a way to treat the former head of the National Endowment for the Arts?
The effects drown out whatever story you have. You end up not caring what happens to anyone here.
The film is wildly inconsistent: at one point Reese reacts to music coming from a car radio as if the phonograph had just been invented, but a little later Connor is blaring You Could Be Mine from T2 to attract a machine. Which is it?
Try not to put a little inside joke. It just makes things worse.
The worse is when Bale in a voice-over talks about how this battle is won but the war goes on.
This is when the film violates one of the Golden Rules of Filmmaking: Never End Your Movie Suggesting There Will Be A Sequel. This shows either great confidence or great contempt on the part of the filmmakers. Confidence that your story is so great people will demand to know more. Contempt that your movie is so bad people won't care and will pay more to watch something equally bad or even worse. If the public rejects the work, the makers only end up looking foolish. They end up with not a movie but, to quote a review for Cleopatra, a series of coming attractions for something that will never come.
Ultimately, at first I thought it might be worth a rental. However, on reflection I thought, 'Since I've gone through life without watching Terminator 3, I could have gone without seeing Terminator: Salvation. I sure hope Christian Bale goes on to make a silly romantic comedy. Too much of this intensity will leave all of us asking him, "What don't you %#$@*^ understand?"