Terminator Salvation 

John Connor is still at it, trying to save the world from pesky robots and a bleak timeline that promises to render the planet a cratered-out wasteland unfit for human life.

In the not-so-distant future, we meet Connor (Christian Bale, "The Dark Knight") the unofficial leader of The Resistance. Although he takes his orders from Gen. Ashdown (Michael Ironside, "The Alphabet Killer"), Connor is also at the center of the rebellion of the other three "Terminator" movies as the target of machines hell-bent on ending his life before he grows to wage future war against the cyborgs.

While Connor and The Resistance crew "? his wife, Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard, "Spider-Man 3"); fellow soldier Barnes (rapper Common, "Wanted"); and pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood, "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li") "? do battle, we are introduced to brawny Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, "Rogue").

Awakening to find himself among the remains of a smoldering planet, Wright is confused. A convicted murderer who signed away the rights to his body minutes before his execution, he is out of his element and in the wrong time.

Whilst staggering around, trying to make sense of things, he bumps into a scrawny pair of would-be Resistance fighters hiding in the rubble that was once Los Angeles. The feeble, but well-meaning Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, "Star Trek") and his silent child-helper, Star (adorable newcomer Jadagrace), school Wright on a little apocalyptic history, filling in the details about Judgment Day, when the suddenly intelligent machines decided to eradicate their pesky human creators and Skynet, the sentient network-gone-awry that binds and controls the man-murdering mechanoids.

Wright returns the favor and muscles off, attacking machines as he leads the trio on a quest to join the rest of The Resistance fighters. Meanwhile, Connor is eagerly trying to find and protect Reese "? the soldier he later sends back in time to fight the Terminator, which the machines sent back in time.

Oh, and Reese is actually Connor's father thanks to an early franchise time-travel hookup with Sarah Connor in 1984's original "The Terminator." The machines know this, of course, and are quickly honing in on Reese and The Resistance, forcing Connor to wage war on several fronts: Find and protect Reese; find out what's up with Reese's indestructible escort, Wright; and win a power struggle with the fractured Resistance, which is eager to launch a counterattack Connor fears may jeopardize any future hope of winning the war.

The acting is fine, but "Terminator Salvation" is subpar. What could have been a bleak, atmospheric apocalyptic flick is instead trapped in an action and sci-fi movie limbo, performing neither with stellar results.

Bale is believable, if occasionally delivering forced lines and looks, and Yelchin is great "? affected, likable and effortless with both dialogue and physical scenes.

The special effects are used well and impressive. The machines are sinister and incessant, coming in all shapes, models and makes, including machine-gun wielding humanoids, hovering drones, two-wheeled road-bots and the nasty, squirmy aqua-bots. Some of the most effects-driven scenes are gratuitous, namely a predictable bridge sequence above a ravine.

Writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris did a better job with "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," and director McG ("We Are Marshall") doesn't coax anything truly compelling from the script.

The only "Terminator" film to receive less than an R rating "? it's possible that the darkest material never made its way onto the final script or survived the editing bay "? "Salvation" offers little. The franchise will live on, but let's hope audiences don't lose another battle to the hype machine. 

"?Joe Wertz

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