(director/writer: McG; screenwriters: John Brancato/Michael Ferris; cinematographer: Shane Hurlbut; editor: Conrad Buff; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Christian Bale (John Connor), Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright), Moon Bloodgood (Blair Williams), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Serena Kogan), Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese), Bryce Dallas Howard (Kate Connor), Common (Barnes), Jane Alexander (Virginia), Michael Ironside (General Ashdown), Jadagrace Berry (Star); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Moritz Borman/Jeffrey Silver/Victor Kubicek/Derek Anderson; Warner Brothers; 2009)

“Dark, noisy and unimaginative.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This fourth “Terminator” film is a dark, noisy and unimaginative ‘grown boys playing with their toys’ sci-fi-er, that indicates the franchise only shows a few signs of life but nevertheless all indications are that it will not end here. Director McG (“We Are Marshall”/”Charlie’s Angels”) and writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris keep the robotic screenplay executed in a grim doomsday monotone befitting its serious theme of “War Against the Machines.” The heartless thriller has trouble even spitting out the obvious differences between people and machines, which was supposedly the director’s aim to tell us what makes us human. But the trite answers are not worth repeating, as the human characters seem closer to machines than humans.

The film opens with cop killer Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) on Death Row in California, in 2003, where life terminal cancer patient Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter), a research scientist, on her cell visit during his 11th hour gets him to sign his body over to her research company for far-out experiments that will transform him into a programmed humanoid cyborg and in return for the favor gives him a kiss that he requests.

It then shoots forward to the post-apocalyptic 2018, after “Judgment Day” — the moment of conflict between the Resistance fighters of mankind and the Skynet computers and machines, who have almost eliminated the threat of mankind except for a few pockets of vagabond resistance. The human’s only hope is John Connor (Christian Bale). He’s the “prophesized leader of the Resistance” who is to be mankind’s savior, even though he’s not currently the leader of the Resistance. That rank goes to General Ashdown (Michael Ironside), a rigid belligerent fighter who acts more robotic than the robots.

In the rubble-strewn desolation of Los Angeles, the local Resistance group consists of only two kids: Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and the mute Star (Jadagrace). A reawakened Marcus meets the two and they separate when the kids are captured by a giant robot. The cyborg through the help of Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) meets Connor when she escorts him to his Resistance radio transmissions unit. Connor is married to the pregnant Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard), and he coldly greets Marcus and behaves as if he’s on ‘roids and having a meltdown when asked to show him the way to the machines’ nerve center.

When Marcus realizes that he’s been programmed to help make the Connor prophecy come true, he acts more human than the humans. In the climactic scene, despite General Ashdown’s orders to forget the rescue mission of the prisoners kept in Spacenet’s Silicon Valley and instead take out Spacenet (the machine’s nerve center) even if it destroys everyone in it, Marcus helps Connor disobey that order to rescue Kyle from captivity and send him back to the 20th century so Sarah can be Connor’s mother.

Of note, Schwarzenegger makes his presence felt as a CGI mask–a welcome diversion in such a dull macho offering of relentless pedestrian action scenes that has reduced the drama to almost nonexistence and the dialogue to mere cavemen grunts.

REVIEWED ON 5/23/2009 GRADE: C   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/