Making the Grades
While gubernatorial duties seemed to have kept Arnold Schwarzenegger from reprising his role as the muscle-bound Terminator in this latest film, a digital version of the former actor does make it on to the screen. Yet, it’s not him who gets to utter those famous words, “I’ll be back.” To find that out, you’ll have to see the movie.
And, thanks to the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), seeing this flick will be a whole lot easier—especially for kids and teens. Terminator Salvation is the first in this ammunition-riddled series to earn a PG-13 rating in the United States, opening the ticket lines for younger audiences to get in on the action long before it releases on video store shelves.
But, don’t expect the violence to be tamed down in this post-apocalyptic thriller out of respect for the milder rating. Instead, filmmakers have avoided all but a dozen or so moderate profanities and curtailed almost any sexual activity in order to maintain the non-stop assault of bomb blasts, gunfire and other incendiary explosions. (The sexiest scenes we get are a woman removing her jacket and exposing some lingerie while dressing a shoulder injury and a couple of carefully shadowed naked males running around a war zone.)
Set in a dreary 2018, this fourth installment focuses on the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust known as Judgment Day. Except for a few pockets of survivors, most of mankind has been destroyed. John Conner (Christian Bale), now an adult with a wife (Bryce Dallas Howard), and a baby on the way, leads a smattering of human resistance fighters in a last ditch effort to stop the army of Terminators.
However, an attack on the robots’ Skynet headquarters is postponed when John discovers that Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), his future father, is a prisoner at the facility. (This is just one of the script’s time travel complications.) With the help of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a newcomer to the resistance group, John attempts to infiltrate the command center, find the teenaged version of his dad and free the scores of other human captives being held against their will in the belly of the building.
Unfortunately, the plan is compromised by the release of a secret hybrid machine that threatens to reorder the rules of conflict between man and machine.
Although the production certainly won’t shortchange ticket holders when it comes to action, the futility of the fight against an endless onslaught of undying opponents becomes evident in the first half hour of the film. With only a miniscule message about the importance of personal agency and the sanctity of life, the point of the movie may be to introduce audiences to a yet unborn generation of humans who will take on the Terminators and thus prolong the franchise. In the meantime, this generation of family viewers will find that salvation is the last thing offered by this 2-hour display of unrelenting violence.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Terminator Salvation.
In 2008, the Library of Congress chose The Terminator, the original film in this series, as one of the movies to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry, citing cultural, historical, or aesthetical significance as the basis for their choice. How do you feel about The Terminator receiving this distinction? What do you think this theatrical series says about our society? What cultural impact has it had?
John Connor’s disobedience to his commander’s orders works out for the best in this film, thanks to the control of the screenwriters. However, what complications may arise in real life when officers disregard the commands from their superiors? Are there times when soldiers should be able to follow their own moral conscience rather than their leaders? What impact might that have on the other members of their group?
How does the portrayal of non-human, one-dimensional antagonists in this film help justify the amount of violence used to stop the machines? Would this film have been more disturbing if John Connor and his resistance group were fighting other human beings instead of robots?