A scary looking T-600 from Terminator Salvation
So what was good?
The action scenes are impressive - I especially liked the fact that (as far as I could tell) a fair amount of physical models and props were used in the film. Of course there was certainly a good amount of CGI, but overall I found it well done - not like the apparently under-rendered effects in Wolverine. I also loved the look of the film... washed out tones and a true sense of a world in which the joy has been removed.
And what about the variety of Terminators? Personally I liked them. It made sense to me to have a variety of different robots for different tasks... and actually in view of that, the Terminator model that made the LEAST sense in the film was the T-600. It was too big to be mistaken for a person, had rubber skin, and most of the ones we saw didn't even have much of that. I suppose you could say that Skynet was "practicing" until it got it right with the T-800... In any case they WERE intimidating and it was great to see them functioning in their own element, out in the open.
I thought Sam Worthington was one of the best things in the film, but even with him there were problems (which I'll get to shortly). There was one other thing that was great but I don't want to give away anything else.
Sam Worthington and Moon Bloodgood in Terminator Salvation
What wasn't so good?
This movie just didn't have any soul. Beyond Worthington's character, I didn't connect with, or really give a damn about anyone in this movie - especially John Connor. I have no doubt that Christian Bale is a good actor, but he seems to be stuck in permanent Batman-mode. Even when he's supposed to be showing emotion he seems cold and distant, and that Batman rasp in his voice seems to be lingering. I might even venture as far as to say that he was miscast in the role.
Think back to Terminator 2 where they did the brief flash-forward showing Connor on the battlefield in the future (that was Michael Edwards, if you're wondering) - sure he looked tough and battle-scarred, but for the brief moment we saw him he seemed... thoughtful. Like kind of a brainy guy who had been thrust into the position and had lived with it for a while. Bale just comes across as a badass and he just didn't work for me.
Christian Bale as John Connor
Then there's Marcus Wright. He's the character you'll most likely actually end up caring about, but he's also the character that feels shoehorned into the mythos and that doesn't belong in the film at all. We never get a clear explanation of his background or the details surrounding how his mystery came to be in respect to the existing Cyberdyne/Skynet technology.
What about Anton Yelchin as Reese? He did a decent enough job and I was surprised at how I was able to buy him as a teenage Kyle. However here I think the problem lay in the script - there just wasn't enough there for us to get to know him or connect with him. As a matter of fact through the entire film it seems like all we get are brief sentences of dialog from most everyone. There was also Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor, John's wife... she served as no more than window dressing, and seemed to be in the film for no other reason than to demonstrate the continuity established in Terminator 3.
Oh, and she's pregnant. It's obvious visually but it's not even really addressed or acknowledged in the film. Try a "how do we raise a child in a world like this" or something. If you're not going to say something significant about it, why bother to have her pregnant at all?
If you know how I feel about Transformers, you'll know that I'm not a fan of mashing together juvenile humor and serious action, but in the previous films they managed to fit in a bit of appropriate humor here and there. It's missing from this film completely - just serious and depressing all the way through.
Rapper "Common" was barely in the film long enough to register any sort of note regarding his performance, but at least we got a little something out of Moon Bloodgood.
Finally, the film doesn't really resolve anything by the end. Sure, I understand keeping things open for sequels (which frankly, I hope at the very least will have different writers), but at the end of the movie I was left thinking "so what was the point?"
So if you go in just looking for your typical summer blockbuster action flick you'll probably enjoy it - but if you're looking for a film that lives up to the first two, I think you're going to be disappointed by Terminator Salvation.