Arriving on the heels of Star Trek, a film that successfully re-launched a franchise that had grown tired and stale, Terminator Salvation isn't going to seem as inventive as J. J. Abrams' flick. But like Star Trek, Terminator is a prequel that involves a bit of backward storytelling that will make your head spin. Unlike Star Trek, Terminator is one helluva adrenaline rush that involves more high-speed chase scenes than a Fast and Furious movie.
Directed by McG, a former music-video guy who's successfully made the jump to the big screen, Salvation begins in 2003 as a prisoner named Marcus (Sam Worthington) gives his body to science right before he's executed. Flash forward to 2018, and John Connor (Christian Bale this time around) heads up a group of resistance fighters who are taking on the "machines" that are dead-set on wiping out the human race. The explosive opening battle sets the tone for the movie. It's one loud, vicious fight that finds the red-eyed Terminator machines and an arsenal of spaceships giving the humans all they can handle.
But just as Connor retreats to safety, Marcus emerges, taking refuge at a resistance outpost manned by a teenage Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) who, if you know your Terminator history, is actually Connor's father. The machines don't like Marcus and Kyle much, and the two have a hard time outrunning the 'bots, some of which look like Transformers as they shapeshift into high-speed motorcycles that chase down their victims down.
Kyle is captured and whisked off to Skynet, the machines' headquarters. Marcus escapes, meeting up with resistance fighter Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood). A romance of sorts ensues, and the two retreat to the resistance base camp. Although initially suspicious of Marcus, Connor realizes he's an ally, and the two set out to infiltrate Skynet so they can rescue Kyle.
Needless to say, the film culminates in an all-out attack on Skynet. The final battle pulls out all the stops (there's even an Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo, though it appears his footage was simply lifted from one of the previous films' cutting-room floors). As far as sequel/prequels go, Terminator Salvation does the trick. Bale is terrific as the steely John Connor, and Worthington is solid as the half-human Marcus. It's just too bad it has to compete with the superior Star Trek.