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Movie Review

Terminator Salvation a.k.a. “Terminator 4,” “Terminator: Salvation,” “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
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Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Sci-Fi War Action Adventure Thriller Drama Sequel
Length:
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
2009
USA Release:
May 21, 2009 (wide—3,530 theaters)
DVD: December 1, 2009
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
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“The Terminator” series paints a rather bleak picture of the future of mankind. What’s the truth? Is there HOPE for humanity? Answer

Death in the Bible

Final judgment

Salvation

Armies in the Bible

War

Anger

VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Blood in the Bible

Destruction

Goodness

Goodness of God

Desert

CHANGE THE WORLD—A single man or woman can help change the world. Read about some who did with faith and God’s help…
Jesus Christ, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David

Featuring: Christian Bale as John Connor, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Jadagrace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, more »
Director: McG (aka Joseph McGinty Nichol)—“Charlie's Angels
Producer: TheHalcyon Company, Wonderland Sound and Vision, more »
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

“The end begins.”

“Terminator Salvation” is unlike any previous Terminator movie. It plays more like a war movie than a Terminator movie. That fact may affect your enjoyment of the film, and it may, or may not, ultimately effect the films' fate at the box office.

The story begins in the future after machines have conquered the Earth. Humanity is in a fight for its very survival as the machines seek to destroy the entire human race. John Connor is a mythic figure to some, but a “false prophet” to others. He is not yet the sole leader of the resistance, but a commander in its ranks. Nor has John Connor met Kyle Reece, who is still a mere teenager. As the war rages on John soon learns that Kyle is being held prisoner at Skynet for horrible experiments through a man named Marcus Wright. A plot twist soon puts Marcus and John Connor at odds. Can they trust one another? If Kyle dies, he cannot save John Connor’s mother (as we learned from the previous films). Thus if Kyle dies, Connor dies.

The strength of the film lies in its script. The plot is well structured, especially for what is essentially an action/war movie. In fact, I felt like the biggest drawback was the nearly non-stop action which made the movie too busy. Some of the shaky camera technique was employed as well, which makes this film a very busy film indeed. Older audiences may tire of the action and desire that the plot be developed a little more, but younger audiences will probably love the action. Unfortunately, as with all action films, the action gets carried to such extremes that we start to wonder if John Connor is an indestructible Terminator! We could also ponder questions like whether or not a metal machine can really swim and why everything explodes except for crashing helicopters piloted by John Connor, but such things are to be ignored in fantasy films, and Terminator is more fantasy than science fiction.

“Terminator Salvation” (Terminator 4) is the first of the Terminator movies to carry a PG13 rating. This is largely due to the fact that there is nudity although there are several scenes where the apparently nude silhouettes are apparent. This includes a digital Arnold Schwartzeneggar cameo wherein the genitalia are digitally blocked or obscured. There is also an attempted rape scene which ends with the rapist being shot in the crotch or possibly thigh. Violence is the main problem. There is violence throughout the film from beginning to end. It would impossible to describe all the scenes of violence although the most graphic includes an iron rod piercing a man’s chest from behind. Multiples scenes of violence take place throughout. Language is surprisingly mild although John Connor clearly and distinctly cries out “S… O… B…” in one scene.

[MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW] From a Christian perspective Terminator Salvation, despite its title, is not a spiritual film though it carries a spiritual theme. What does it mean to be human? This is theme of the film and it carries well at times, but the Christian parent needs be aware that God is completely left out of the equation. The filmmakers forget that humans perpetrated the holocaust, butchered tens of millions under the Soviet Union, and continue to commit atrocities beyond imagination. To be “human” is more than having a heart. It can also be to be sinful and selfish. Only through God can a human truly understand the meaning of love, and only through His Son Jesus can we understand the TRUE meaning of sacrifice, and yet this film does end with a sacrifice. The appearance of sacrificial love in the film is welcome, but with God left out of the equation, and sin forgotten, the ending lacks punch. It is a noble ending, but could have been so much better. Without God there can be no true nobility or sacrifice.
[SPOILERS END]

Ultimately, “Terminator Salvation” is a futuristic war film. It involves soldiers willing to lay down their lives to help their friends. Technically the film is well made and critics who feared that the director of Charlie’s Angels would turn Terminator into a campy comedy need not fear. There is not a single joke or laughable moment to be found. In fact, the film probably could have used a few lighter moments. As is the film delivers a strong war movie mentality with the Terminator story built in quite well. The script is strong, if somewhat hampered by an overindulgence of action scenes. The acting is solid, and the directing is fine although a little more subtlety would have improved the overall film. If you liked the original films you may or may not enjoy this one, but it is a film you will want to watch.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Take our TERMINATOR MOVIE TRIVIA CHALLENGE!

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—First, lemme praise the visual fx. Some of the shots are a little weak, but the vast majority are excellent. The creators of T4 (thankfully) had the sense to hire the industry’s best: George Lucas' very own baby ILM. A film of this scope couldn’t have swung it any other way. Honestly. “Star Trek” had the right idea in outsourcing their computer magic to Industrial. Wolverine didn’t, least to the best of my knowledge, and it shows (re my complaint with the shoddy fx shots).

Second, the character Marcus Wright is the classic Frankenstein persona. A creation presumed to be evil but in fact the antithesis of that presumption. Sam Worthington (as Marcus) brings a fresh presence to the silver screen’s action genre. He’s relatively a new face, and albeit his accent breaks through several times, Sammy breathes much needed life into his role as an android. Whether the intent of the filmmakers or not, Sam shuns the conventional limitations of a terminator, chiefly the inarticulation of its limbs and speech. Since the trailers don’t explain why Marcus is such a cut above the rest, I won’t burst your bubble. Go see it to find out. On a related note, the director cited the surplus of “waify” (look that one up, urban dictionary if you have to) male leads in today’s cinema as influencing his choice in Sam for the part of Marcus. I agree. The casting of a guy’s who’s solidly built—but not abnormally huge—is on the money (cf Topher Grace as Venom—EGAD).

Lastly, the film continues in the tradition of the established steel-fused beats of the prior films. Yep. The ol' Terminator theme has a welcome reprisal. You’d think this is a given for any sequel/prequel to an established franchise. Not always so. “Quantum of Solace” is such a film; the familiar, well-loved Bond theme is nowhere to be found. Why oh why…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Keenum, age 22 (USA)
Positive—I am not one for a long winded review, therefore… Go see this movie. It was non-stop action and I highly endorse this movie. Best movie I have seen in quite a while.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Kurt, age 44 (USA)
Positive—Being a huge fan of the series, I even enjoyed the third one (not as much as 1 and 2), I found this to be a great new direction for the franchise. You have to remember you are not seeing a time travel film this go-round. You are seeing the future that has been talked about in the previous films. John Connor is becoming the John Connor he was destined to be. With this being hopefully the first in a new (planned) trilogy, I found this to be a fresh start.

The reviewer references that God is not in the equation in this film and on the surface that is true. However, the reviewer correctly states that the principles of truth are here. What makes us different than the machines we are fighting. In the end we get a lesson in sacrifice—where one gives himself so that the other can live. I believe for there to be a spiritual message, it shouldn’t always come out and say “here I am, I’m a spiritual message.” We should reflect on these things, go deeper into the material and realize this for ourselves—and reflect on these ideas with our Lord. Subtle messages as these can sometimes be more effective than a great Sunday morning service.

Is there objectionable content? Well, there are some things you need to know. The profanity is very mild in comparison to the previous films in the series. It is mild for a PG-13 film (which this is). It is PG-13 for a reason—that being the violence. It is nonstop action—though the film is never gory, or “too” realistic in its depiction of the violence.

From my perspective… an explosive time at the cinema and well worth every 1,000 pennies I paid to see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Chris Corey, age 33 (USA)
Positive—I thought that the movie was epic—I’ve seen all the Terminator movies, and this is only one that I would really want to own. Now, admittedly, the action was at times a bit unbelievable and unrealistic, but that is true for many many action (and other types of) films.

The movie was an action flick, but the interest revolved not around the action, not even so much around the plot-line, but around the characters, character interactions, and character development. Several issues were brought up, including true authority and leadership involving Conner, who eventually claimed the loyalty of the troops over the technical ranking officer. The reason for the disagreement was that Conner was not willing to sacrifice human lives needlessly, and that itself was basis for some of the loyalty shown to him. Another beautiful characteristic of leadership that was shown was his humility and readiness to change his stance about an issue, rather than proudly stand by whatever bad policies he had going before.

Another notable issue was the development of the relationship between Conner and Marcus, starting with Conner’s attempts to destroy Marcus, and ending with them both each being pretty much willing to sacrifice their life for the other. Honestly, it was quite touching. I’m a girl, and while I am not really one for “chick flicks” I thought it was just a really beautiful picture of love, and the ending made me cry.

Finally, there was the obvious issue brought up of what makes a person human. (human, in this usage means “having a heart” as even some of the humans in the movie behaved in an evil way and were killed, but the question was whether Marcus should be killed/disassembled, or if he had a heart and loyalty and stuff) Marcus himself had to struggle with the question of who he really was—and I think that, when viewed through a christian perspective, it is very much like our own struggle as christians to understand who we really are, and which nature (flesh or spirit) we should identify with and act according to.

So, there was violence and language, but I would give this movie a big thumbs up. I loved it. So much. It’s so deep and amazing and touching. One of the best action flicks that I have even seen. Ever.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rebekah, age 20 (USA)
Positive—I read the reviews before I watched the movie and even at the theater seat during the ads portion I was online on my cell checking it out. They said good things, but lacks heart, I found out that it’s not entirely accurate. This is a good sequel to the Terminator series, one that has some flexibility when it comes to the script. The previous T series laid the foundation to this movie and if you watched all of them like I did, you can easily relate. A fresh new character and probably the center of the plot is Marcus Wright. He wasn’t talked about in the previous series, but a welcome idea that puts all the elements together.

The effects were top notch and will keep you glued to the screen. There are some lessons to be learned from this movie like laying down your life for your friends.

***[Minor Spoilers Ahead]***
The fact the Marcus was a new breed of terminator who was an ex-con converted to a cyborg and programmed to infiltrate the resistance, he had a human heart and most of his human features were intact. He even felt compasion to the point of laying down his life for his friends and doing things that are morally sound like saving a female pilot from being raped. He refused to follow Skynet’s direct order to destroy the resistance and decided to do the opposite. Although Marcus might have done those things not out of love, but at least he cared for people. Jesus is the perfect example of perfect love that he laid down His life for us and even to others who really didn’t care. At the end, it was Marcus Wright and not John Connor who was at the center of the story. Actually, literally giving your heart to someone is equivalent in giving your life to a friend. Another lesson is that there will always be a second chance to those who decide to change and do the right thing. This was evident that Marcus was a criminal 15 years before Skynet took over. I guess when he woke up, he sort of repented and wanted to correct his mistakes.

I don’t want to forget that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was nice enough to contribute a cameo scene near the end.

This movie is worth seeing in the theaters and probably BluRay worthy as well.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tades, age 41 (USA)
Positive—Jesus Christ is our saviour from death (going to hell), but John Conner is portrayed as our saviour to humanity.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Colt, age 37 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I just wanted to mention there is one tiny nod to God in this film. One of the characters says they should “pray” that something works. I realize this is not much acknowledgement of God, but I don’t expect much from Hollywood, if you know what I mean. I noticed it, and the main review says that God is totally left out.

When I watch movies like Terminator, I always feel myself detached from it, because I always think “God would probably not allow this kind of thing to happen.” That is, a post-apocalyptic dystopian world such as that portrayed in Terminator would probably not be allowed by God to happen. God would most likely put a stop to it, if it were in danger of happening.

But I still like watching these types of films, and part of my joy in watching the film comes from me thanking God that under his care, this could never really happen. (At least that is my tentative opinion, although I realize the book of Revelation might seem to indicate otherwise. Who knows, maybe Revelation tells us that a dystopian future is in store for mankind).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—B. Clark, age 35 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I am not one who brags about special effects often simply put it does not whoo and ahh me. This movie really had good special effects. However, the movie making quality scaled down during the last 45 min of the movie. Honestly could have been decent if they wouldn’t have shoved scantily clothed women all the way through… I felt like I was watching a hollywood movie. It was so unnecessary … My goodness, can I watch an action movie and kinda believe it (even though the movie is Terminator) without unrealistic outfits just so guys can get a sexual kick out of it. Pathetic. Meh. And bleh. Oh wait it… it IS A Hollywood movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Luke, age 19 (USA)
Negative—NOT appropriate for children under 14, in my opinion. My son (12) saw this in the theaters with his grandmother—The first Transformers, I didn’t feel, was this offensive (based on sexual content and language) so I didn’t think twice about him seeing it. I can’t undo what has been done now. Fine for adults. Not as good as the first movie where you were “transformed” into being a kid again. PG-13 is NOT what PG-13 was 15 years ago! Ahhhh, the good ‘ole days!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Angela, age 33 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—After seeing this in the theaters my opinion is that it’s a great movie. The suspense is riveting and the action is non-stop and highly explosive. If your a fan of the sci-fi genre chances are you’ll love this movie. When seeing if and how this movie offends us as christians you’ll notice that there are a couple words involved in the film that are used with a false meaning: “judgment day.” In the film they mention a battle that took place between the terminators and the humans in which many of the humans died. They referred to this as “judgment day” do to the fact that many humans died in the battle and when a human dies he or she either goes to heaven or hell according to God’s judgment. Although it is true that God does judge whether we go to heaven or hell it is false to refer to a fictional battle as “judgment day.” The reason it is false is because “judgment day” is a title in the Bible which refers to the last day of the Earth, after the rapture, when every living soul will be judged by God as to whether they go to Heaven or Hell.

So in all technicality this film DOES take a title from the Bible and uses it for their own fictional happening. If it’s true that one battle can be called “judgment day” then the world we live in must have had many judgment days already.

My point is that you CANNOT use “Judgment day” as the name of a battle and try to make sense of it or believe it is justified because even though it is not copyrighted “Judgment day” is still A NAME that was used by the writers of the Bible for purposes of discoursing end times. And in my belief it doesn’t matter if this movie was made just for mindless entertainment. It is false to use the name “Judgment day.” Although I believe that it is false to use the title “judgment day” in the story I don’t think this should hold you back from seeing it. I am just hoping that you understand how it is wrong to use the title in the story while you are seeing it.

When looking at probable age limits my recommendation is that you are at least a pre-teen to see it. This is do to the fact that it may be a little scary and because there is cussing including the use of the d-word, the s-word, and SOB. But that’s as bad as it gets. There is no sexual or sensual material at all. I definitely recommend this to the action fans. If you’re hoping for this to be like the original terminators chances are you’ll be disappointed. But if your just expecting a great sci-fi action movie you will not be disappointed at all.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Zac P., age 14 (USA)
Positive—Terminator Salvation is a great movie. The story is well plotted, and the special effects are amazing. Even without Arnold Schwarzenegger, this is a great movie, and a great addition to the Terminator series. There were a few swear words and no sexuality. However, this film is still very clean, especially with today’s Hollywoood standards. The film also was surprisingly good morally. At the end of the movie, Marcus gives up his heart to John Connor so that he (John Connor) will survive. It reminded me of the verse John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

There are many more examples of this in the movie, thought that was the only scene I recall where someone actually had to give up their life for someone, thought others were willing to if needed. A great importance was put on human life in this film. It was refreshing to see that, especially since we live in a culture where human life has so little respect. If you like Action/Adventure movies and a good story, you will love Terminator Salvation.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Chelsie W., age 15 (USA)
Positive—I really do not agree with this movie being offensive. I found it to be a great movie. It was action. …definitely recommended.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Karsten, age 12 (USA)