A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this installment of the Terminator series is the first to earn a PG-13 rating instead of an R, it's still extremely violent. There's not much actual blood, but there's plenty of broken flesh, bruises, and batterings. The film's tone is also quite intense, with constant attacks, life-or-death struggles, and scenes in which giant robots attack and abduct humans. While much of the violence is directed against robots, some of those robots are remarkably human-looking, which makes the gore and grim action a bit tougher to take than you might think. Characters also touch on heavy topics like morality, ethics, and redemption. There's a little bit of kissing, but hardly anything to worry about in the way of strong language, drinking, or smoking.
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What's the story?
Taking place after the events of Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, TERMINATOR SALVATION begins with a 2003-set prologue in which condemned prisoner Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) volunteers his body to science; it then jumps ahead to a devastated 2018, where the now-grown John Connor (Christian Bale) is leading the fight against the machine intelligence that's devastated the planet. But after a raid on a machine base, a single figure staggers from the wreckage -- it's Wright, confused about the battered new world he's woken up to. Marcus and John rally around Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the freedom fighter who, years later, will be sent back in time to protect John's mother from a robot assassin -- and who, in the past, becomes John's father.
Is it any good?
Terminator Salvation is full of pretzel-logic time-travel philosophy and an over-the-top production jammed with effects and action. It feels less like an addition to the Terminator franchise than an ambling, throat-clearing side-track. Promised the ultimate war between humanity and machines, we instead get more of the same plot threads the franchise has already served up three times: the dangers of a fractured time-space continuum and the possibility that a robot designed to kill humans might come to know and feel for them.
Director McG has a firm hand on the big, blow-'em-up action set pieces, but the film founders in the spaces in between. Bale's Connor is a loud bore, even while Worthington infuses his thin role with a stiff shot of star power and rugged charisma. Terminator Salvation promises the last word in the franchise, but it's just a tale full of sound and fury and special effects, signifying nothing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's makes this movie different from the other Terminator films -- why do you think this one is rated PG-13 when the others were R?
What's the impact of seeing violent images like the ones here?
Can human nature be replicated by a machine -- and, if so, would that machine be human?
- In theaters: May 21, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2009
- Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Christian Bale, Sam Worthington
- Director: McG
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language