I became a member of the “Resistance” when I was a small child.
In the 1980s it was easy to join the movement. The look was radical. The story was momentous-save the world from deadly robots. Whoever did not join the Resistance and vow to fight the robots did not believe in the cause. Sarah Connor became a soldier and went on to carry a savior, John Connor, a man legends were made of. He has only become a reality to the present in Terminator Salvation, the fourth film in the action series.
Directed by Joseph “McG” McGinty Nichol (Charlie’s Angels) and staring Christian Bale as John Conner, the film takes place in 2018. The robots are willing to kill all humans in order to take over the earth.
1984’s The Terminator introduced us to Sarah Connor and the robot sent from the future to kill her and stop her son from being born. When that did not succeed – and once she mated with Kyle Reese, also sent from the future to protect her – we saw a teenage John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The young Connor frees Sarah from a mental institution, only to go on and fight a new, stronger, Terminator made of “liquid metal,” sent back to kill the both of them.
Terminator Salvation stands out in the Terminator series of movies. It does not have a number attached to it, for one. It does not have the singular plot of a robot or two chasing a handful of people. The movie instead focuses on the entire Resistance team and the plot to kill the leadership, which includes John Connor and the clueless Kyle Reese, Connor’s father, but who’s a teenager in this film. We’re also introduced to a team of leaders planning the strategy to fight the machines.
The point of the fourth installment is simply to survive. The plot is for John Connor to find his father and keep him alive, so he can be sent back to save the past. In the meantime, the machines are becoming savvy in their battle strategy, intent on wiping out the Resistance’s leadership. The movie becomes intriguing as we step into the future battle.
There is no single identifiable enemy in the future. The machines are everywhere. Skynet, the intelligence system created by the military and Cyberdyne Systems Corp., is actively trying to eliminate the Resistance. There are huge and powerful robots, including one that looks like a Transformer when it stands up and loads human victims into a cargo ship before climbing aboard itself.
Other robots include wormlike bots that crawl, and motorcycle bots that detach from a main “bot” to come after people on the road. The addition of other robots created a reality of a world overrun by machines bent on destroying humans. Many robots at the Skynet base look like human- and giant-sized versions of the human race. And they come with automated machine guns.
Some elements of the story, including Cyberdyne, were introduced in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). Here, a female Terminator’s order was to kill John Connor and his future wife, as well as possible future leaders of the Resistance. When the machines still did not succeed, they fell by the wayside. The average moviegoer was then left to assume that Connor survived and became the great leader foreseen movie by movie.
By the time we get to this latest film, John Connor has to make hard decisions and step up as a leader by gaining the loyalty of an embattled people living a harsh reality. He has to fight the enemy and the leaders who don’t believe he is indeed their savior. In this movie, he is the center and focus; a more human and well-rounded feature.
Terminator Salvation makes the war a reality, and the people fighting it with new characters to love. In this film, they’ve won the battle but the war still wages on.
Angelic Jones is a freelance writer and book reviewer for Austin Weekly News.