by Rick Grant
Grade: A / Rated R / 115 min
In this 4th installment of the Terminator franchise, Skynet finally got the upper hand in 2018 by striking first with nuclear weapons, destroying most of the earth’s population. A small band of resistance fighters remain, led my the mythical John Conner (Christian Bale).
Conner’s ascension to the leader of the resistance was foretold back when terminators were sent back in time to kill him. His mother is long dead but she left a tape recording of her voice and the story of her struggle to save John from death.
Now, the machines have grown into a formidable force of robotic killing machines, both land based and heavily armed aerial vehicles. Skynet is tasked with tracking down all the human survivors on earth and imprisoning them to use as slave labor.
Flashback to 2003: A criminal sentenced to death, Marcus Wright is seen signing his body over to a mysterious Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter). Suddenly, Marcus wakes up in 2018, among a rag-tag band of resistance fighters. He has to be told about the apocalypse and its aftermath. He remembers he has a mission to find John Conner, but doesn’t understand why. His quantum leap from death to the future post-apocalyptic war is key to the story’s arc.
Skillfully directed by McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol) with a minimal script written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, the action is non-stop with a few breaks for the audience to catch its breath. A few sequences will remind viewers of Mad Max, with robotic motorcycles chasing a truck driven by Marcus, who meets a female resistance fighter Blair Williams. The picture is also reminiscent of the Transformers series.
This is a lame attempt by script writers to offer a romantic angle, but director McG wisely doesn’t take it far. In this hard core action scenario, with the fate of the humanity at stake, there is no time for making whoopie. And when Marcus’ real purpose is revealed, it’s even more ridiculous. That maudlin cuddle scene should have been cut.
The bleak wasteland that used to be America is now littered with useless junk-old cars and other remnants of a thriving civilization. In this dismal setting, the resistance fights on. Christian Bale plays the role with grizzled zeal as a dedicated soldier who believes the machines can be defeated.
McG’s fast paced action and sensational special effects reach a maximum wow factor as the story progresses. The resistance is headed by General Ashdown (Michael Ironside) who is running operations from an attack submarine. However, the resistance soldiers in the field only take orders from John Conner. When a conflict creates an impasse, Conner takes command.
The action is leading to a massive attack on a Skynet facility, where the human prisoners are taken and the machines are manufactured by other robots. Marcus has a major role in this battle plan, backed up by Conner’s forces.
Of course, this continuing story plays on the fear that intelligent machines would rebel against human control and go to war with carbon based units. Everything in our world is controlled by computers. If a Skynet-like supercomputer took over, it could wreak havoc on our infrastructure. It’s a tantalizing and fearsome prospect as artificial intelligence advances exponentially. We are on the fringe of creating thinking machines like autonomous aircraft that fly themselves to and from their missions with no human interference. In the future, machines will think with human like intelligence using logic, perception, accumulated knowledge, and cognition. “Help, my vacuum cleaner is holding me hostage.”
It’s not an outlandish idea to believe that some day machines may think they are superior to humanity and want to take over the planet. Thus, the Terminator series has long legs. McG has already signed on to a 5th Terminator film.
by Rick Grant