I saw it last night…
So, the good stuff first:
– Action! The couple of intense set pieces you see in the commercial (the bombing of the satellite grid and the people collector with “moto-terminators!” on its legs) are breathtaking. The people collector terminator scene in particular is just a freaking thrill ride. It’s clear that McG had been cooking up these two set pieces for many many years; the love and attention (and cinematic maturity…really…) of how they were presented is not to be missed.
– Sound Design. A couple of quibbles aside, the terminator/Skynet sounds are just scrumptious. What makes the scenes above work so well is how “uncomfortable” the evil terminator sounds feel. This movie (no surprise for McG’s work, I’m afraid) is a movie that needs to be LOUD for the full impact of the scenes involved. I can’t really say the music was stunning (Danny Elfman?), but the scenes where the music paused so that you could appreciate how impressive the mix was were quite amazing.
– Marcus Wright. Obviously not a spoiler, but Sam Worthington’s character as a Terminator is excellent. He seems to be one of the only people taking the movie seriously, and turns in a great performance. The movie would have been a complete failure without him.
– The Other Actors. Yikes, guys. The performances range from not too offensive (Common and Christian Bale) to just awful (Moon Bloodgood and Michael Ironside). The best part about Star Trek was that each actor actually showed up and turned in a decent acting performance. At this point, I’d rather watch Arnold ham it up in any of the other three Terminator movies than watch these actors (who actually have done somewhat decent work before) embarrass themselves. Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese was decent, but nothing to write home about. I’d say it was the writing, which is pretty terrible, but even poorly written movies can have snappy and heartfelt delivery (see The Rock, Armaggedon, etc). These guys did not care.
– The story: Blech. With the explosive action sequences happening mostly in the first half of the movie, I actually didn’t realize that how little I cared for the actual plot of the thing until we got to the second half. Once I got my bearings, I realize how dull the whole concept (and execution) of the plot elements were. This is easily the most forgettable story of the series, and clumsy in its execution to boot. The ending actually made me roll my eyes (partially because they told you how it would end earlier in the movie with their “hints”).
– The “Huh?” Moments. I won’t enumerate too many of these, only because it’s probably more fun to have each of you bring your extensive list of goofy moments to the table, but there are some really dumb things here. One of my favorites: Near the end of the movie, John Conner is snooping around in Skynet Central, and he has to interface with one of the computer systems. He does so by playing with a superslick, hot-off-the-assembly-line TOUCHSCREEN INTERFACE! That’s right, perfect for those meaty paws those infiltrating humans might be carrying when they come in to disable Skynet. That’s really the tip of the iceberg; there are tons of moments by the end of the movie that just start pulling you right out of the experience.
In short, the movie is mostly a mess, but if you catch those couple of scenes, you’ll be thankful you did. The rest is junk.