OK, I must begin by apologizing to director McG. I am not a fan of his previous work (the Charlie's Angels films and the disappointing We Are Marshall) and had very little faith in this fresh start to the Terminator franchise. I am a fan of Christian Bale, but he has been in a few less-than-stellar films so I wasn't 100% in his corner either. After seeing Terminator Salvation I can say that I was plesantly surprised.
Salvation takes place in 2018, just after "Judgement Day" where a large majority of the human race was destroyed by a nuclear blast caused by a self-aware computer network known as SkyNet. John Connor (Bale) is the human resistance leader and has foretold to said resistance of what is to come, seeing as his youth has been littered with machines and humans coming back from the future telling him what to expect. That prophecy is the T-800 line of Terminators, that would be the "Arnold" model. Also the machines have been taking human prisoners to use in their experiments to perfect the T-800's. On top of all this Connor realizes that his father, Kyle Reece (played by Star Trek's Anton Yelchin) is number one on the machine's hit list. Now Reece is just a teenager in 2018, but Connor knows that when he eventually sends Reece to 1984, he'll become his father and the machines know this too.
I know this sounds like a lot of jumbled mess, but McG and his writers, John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, paid very close attention to the sometimes difficult continuity of the three previous films and I think that as long as you are familiar with those films, you'll be OK with what is going on here. If not, the first two films will have you all caught up. The only reason to see the third one is to know who Bryce Dallas Howard's character is, being Kate Connor. Her role was originally played by Claire Daines. And I have to state thank God that the television show is completely ignored!
Now I have to mention that this feels like a very different film than your usual Terminator film. The cinematography is far more broad in scale and everything feels dirty. This is the world that we have only seen glimpses of in the former films, and now it is front and center. Bale does a fine job as Connor, but he does have a little competition in scene stealing with his co-stars Yelchin and new comer Sam Worthington.
Worthington plays the mysterious and brooding Marcus Wright. Marcus helps out Reece through most of the film while on a quest to seek out SkyNet for reasons yet to be revealed. Marcus is on a quest for redemption, but from what? Since this is a new character, filled with mystery, I can't say any more about him.
McG does a great job with the action in this picture, because there is much of it. I also have to hand it to him for the great amount of real effects as opposed to the CGI fest that usually litter summer fare. The story holds together well, even though this is just a third of the total story, and yes, Bale and McG are attached to the other two, but no plans have been announced as to when we'll see those. What we get in this film are answers to questions fans may have had throughout the series and the origins of facts we knew, but not necessarily the how it came to be.
So yes, I am sorry Mr. McG for calling you "a talentless hack who wouldn't know a good film if it hit him in the face." You have proven me wrong with what was a fun ride and are responsible for breathing life into a dying franchise. I know a lot of who have the same doubts, but rest assured you will not be disappointed.
3 1/2 shirts