WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Actually, director McG does a good job setting the table in Salvation, which takes place after the events of Rise Of The Machines, with Los Angeles and the rest of the west coast devastated and the human resistance forced, literally, underground. And here's where this new series could've set itself apart from Trek: As a war story with sci-fi trappings, showing John Connor and the human Resistance trying to hold on to their morality while battling for survival, we might have gotten a good, gritty couple of films out of this “tentpole,” the no-frills alternative to Trek's iPod shinyness.
Instead, trapped by a PG-13 rating – little blood, no cursing and no much-needed gallows humor – McG and writers John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris have to build a “blockbuster” out of cherry-picked bits from other franchises and increasingly forced shout-outs to Salvation's predecessors.
The set-up, such as it is, isn't horrible: Connor's mission is to ensure the beginning of the movie timeline (namely, his mom getting knocked up) comes to pass, so that he can grow up to be
Hope arrives on two fronts: the sudden discovery of a means to win the war, and the arrival of Marcus Wright, who we meet in the past as a Death Row inmate and, to be honest, is a bit of a d-ck. Yet somehow, Wright re-emerges being able to hotwire cars that've been out of commission for years, and instantly battle-ready, not even needing to stop for food. And none of these Hardened Resistance Fighters even raises a finger of suspicion against their new friend Marty Stu.
Of course, the trailer already spoiled it for us – Marcus is a
The problem with this character arc, though, is that it's undone from the get-go. We never find out exactly what he's in for, and we never see the moment where he decides, “Okay, I guess I won't be a douche.”
Like Bale, Sam Worthington is asked to be as plastic as an action figure, more robotic than Summer Glau ever was on The Sarah Connor Chronicles -- which, this film inadvertently(?) reminds us, doesn't "count" in movie canon. And that's all the sadder, because between that show's cancellation and this film's lack of ... well, humanity, Salvation is exactly the opposite: it's the death-knell for a series that used to offer us a lot more.