In a desolate future overrun with killer robots, two men fight separate battles. One of them has a mysterious destiny, and the other has a mysterious past...
Dreadful dialogue, too many war movie cliches, a lack of story and a boring visual style drag this one down towards mediocrity. But there are things to enjoy. There are a couple of good performances, a couple of good action sequences and - if you forget the first two Terminator movies - you will enjoy this fast-moving summer blockbuster.
The movie opens with stirring lines like "it's too quiet" and "don't point a gun unless you intend to use it" and continues in that vein for two hours. You are better off not listening when the characters speak because it will make you laugh. So will many of the set-ups and situations. The hero has a hard ass commanding officer who ignores him and reprimands him, there's a mute child running around looking alternatively cute/scared, there's a woman who lays it all on the line for true love, there's a big sacrifice at the end and stuff like that.
Story-wise the split narrative does a great job of keeping the viewer interested. When the Christian Bale storyline gets boring (as it frequently does), the tale returns to Sam Worthington and we are interested again. Worthington has a better story, a better character and gives a much better performance. Bale is relentlessly boring and his character does nothing. He spends a lot of time sitting brooding (while listening to his mother's voice on cassette) and when he does make decisions they are frustratingly bad ones. This is John Connor, huh? Since 1984 we have been told of this great leader. The writers appear to have forgotten that fact or are incapable of delivering a script that will demonstrate his abilities. A hero who sits for hours squinting at a tape recorder and then runs full tilt into a trap does not inspire confidence. Idiot.
Then there is the greyness of everything. Everything is grey and dusty in this movie. Even flickering flames appear to be grey! It's all a bit much.
Sam Worthington and Moon Bloodgood are the highlights of the film. Both have interesting characters to play. Yes, their story arcs are predictable, but - thanks to the performances - I cared and enjoyed. In fact, had this been their story (with no reference to Terminator/John Connor) this would have been a much more enjoyable film.
In terms of actions there is lots to enjoy. Killer robots (small, medium and large) run rampant, there are chases on the land and in the air, and there are fights in the water, in the dusty grime and in sleek futuristic hallways. There isn't much downtime between action sequences and McG manages to put a neat visual twist on a couple of them (I really like the helicopter crash).
Even with all the stuff that was bad/awful/disappointing I can honestly say I enjoyed the film as a whole. It's not epic like former Terminator movies, and it's not clever/deep like the TV series, but it's not an entirely bad way to spend two hours if you like to see things blowing up.