The Best view | Terminator Salvation – The Robot killing machines return, McG is at the helm: Be afraid, be very afraid!

Christian Bale’s John Connor & Anton Yelchin’s Kyle Reese stand firm against their robot adversaries

Bloodcurdling. Chilling. Terrifying.

They strike fear wherever they appear.

No, not the unstoppable robot killing machines. I mean the three words ‘Directed by McG’. Admit it, even the hardiest of souls quake at the mere mention of the phrase.

McG: the helmer of Charlie’s Angels and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, the director of the award-winning pop video for Smash Mouth’s Walkin’ on the Sun; a filmmaker so addicted to flashy pyrotechnic spectacle that he makes Michael Bay look like Terence Davies; a man so cocky he appears to have a trademark instead of a name.


Yet this summer, for a change, the arrival of a movie stamped with the McG moniker has been eagerly awaited. For months, audiences have been slavering in anticipation of the film’s appearance.

Not, though, because we’re terribly interested in seeing how the owners of the Terminator brand have managed to spin out the franchise into a fourth instalment, although I do concede there may be some of you out there itching to find out how, in a post-apocalyptic 2018, the plucky heroes of the human resistance survive the latest onslaught by self-aware computer network Skynet and its army of Terminators.

Come on: be honest. The pent-up fervency to see Terminator Salvation isn’t a desire to find out if the series can survive the absence of Arnie, nor is it a yearning to see if the filmmakers can top the original’s implacable T-800, Robert Patrick‘s flesh/metal-morphing T-1000 or Kristanna Loken‘s killer blonde Terminatrix (though I must confess to a curiosity to see if the lissome Moon Bloodgood could measure up to Linda Hamilton’s pumped-up, bicep-flexing, shotgun-wielding Sarah Connor).

Salvation - Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams

No, the real reason for the avidity for the advent of Terminator Salvation is to find out what caused Christian Bale to throw that spectacular wobbly on set – the now-famous four-minute-long, expletive-laden tirade against the film’s cinematographer, Shane Hurlbut, who had been careless enough to disrupt the actor’s performance in mid-take.

Surely Bale had been crafting a portrayal to go down in acting history? Surely the reason he gave the hapless Hurlbut that furious tongue-lashing was because of the prodigious effort required to get inside the character of John Connor, the messianic figure around whom the Terminator series’ whole mythology revolves? Surely the intensity of his outburst would be matched by the intensity of his performance?

Salvation - Christian Bale as John Connor

Well, perhaps Hurlbut did ruin things after all. Perhaps it was the caca-handed McG’s fault. Or perhaps the strain of grappling with the Terminator series’ convoluted backwards-and-forwards narrative proved too much. (This time, Connor must save the teenage Kyle Reese (Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin), who will grow up to become the soldier (played by Michael Biehn in the first Terminator movie) that the adult Connor will send back in time to protect his mother (Hamilton), with whom, during the course of that mission, he, Kyle Reese, will conceive John Connor. Congratulations if you can get your head round the time-travel conundrums wrapped up in that family tree. Just don’t get me started on trying to explain the ambiguous role in present proceedings played by Sam Worthington’s former Death Row prisoner.)

The plot may be incomprehensible and the action incoherent, but up on screen some things are clear. Bale is dull and humourless and lacking in charisma, and the lumbering McG, at the wheel of the unstoppable juggernaut that is a Hollywood summer blockbuster, proves as much of a numbskull as you’d expect.

The movie is an ordeal, but I did survive, which must be some kind of testament to the unquenchable resilience of the human spirit in the face of a remorseless, unfeeling, inexorable force.

On general release from 3rd June.


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