Rating: Rated M (violence)
James Cameron’s 1984 The Terminator told of a cyborg killer sent back in time by Skynet, an artificial intelligence network in the year 2029 bent on exterminating the human race. The terminator’s job was to track down and kill the woman who, if allowed to live, would give birth to John Connor, the man who is (will be?) leader of the resistance to Skynet in the future.
This fourth film in the franchise, written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris and directed by McG (real name Joseph McGinty Nichol), is mostly set in 2018 after the Judgement Day nuclear holocaust has eliminated most of humanity, leaving just a few dedicated souls led by Connor (Christian Bale) to combat the Skynet forces intent on finishing the job. Added to the mix are a comely pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), who provides a modicum of female glamour amid all the blokey grime, and Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) who is part cyborg., part human. Before he was executed in 2003 for some unspecified crime, Wright bequeathed his body for experimentation by a doctor (Helena Bonham Carter) employed by the corporation that created Skynet.
I must confess that I found the storyline a bit muddied and a lot of the dialogue, despite deafening soundtrack volume, hard to pick up, for which I blame both actors articulating poorly and sound recordists being lax. If the writers and directors and even some of the actors knew what they were about, they seem not to have been awfully concerned about conveying it to the audience. But plot is not the film’s strongpoint.
In the grand tradition of video games with the motto “kill, kill, kill”, it is a succession of violent action sequences, staged and edited at breakneck pace, linked by thin strands of plot. Location filming in New Mexico presents a post-apocalyptic landscape in which Mad Max himself would have felt at home, and Shane Hurlbut’s photography has been bleached of colour to maximise the desolate look. Even the explosions, many and varied, are somewhat muted, not the bright orange we have come to love.
It is technically a slick and impressive film, with much of the credit due to the army of artisans who created the animatronics and computer graphics. The final credits contain a dedication to Stan Winston, famed creature effects supervisor, who died during production.
But credibility gets short shrift among all the shootin’ and crashin’ and explodin’. The huge metal Skynet troops discharge thousands of rounds of ammunition and blast away with their flame-throwing weapons and attack with their heavily armed jet fighter planes without inflicting any serious damage on the resistance fighters. And, although I am prepared to accept that part-cyborg Wright could survive being engulfed in a muted-orange detonation, can someone explain how the clothes he wears are not even singed, let alone vaporised?
Sony Out June 4
Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.