Just to make things clear, I have not seen T3, so you might want to catch that movie (or read about it) to remove some of the plot holes.
In any case, Salvation without a doubt formed lots of hype around the world, though some people have been quite skeptical about how well the movie would be given the series’ history and Arnold’s “absence” in the flick. Rest assured, the film isn’t bad, but its not something you would be discussing for a long time either.
Revealing any details in the story will spoil some of the narrative, which isn’t epic but pretty good for an action movie and pays homage to the previous titles as well as the overall story arch. You start off with a character called Marcus, played by the brooding Sam Worthington, who agrees to give up his body postmortem for scientific research. If you’ve seen the trailers you’d know what sort of research was done. Flash forward some years and you’re presented with Connor (Christian Bale) all bushy and dirty and at an all out war with the machines. I kept thinking Matrix the whole time, and reminding myself that Terminator came long before the Matrix saw light.
In any case, the situation is dire for the remaining humans and the machines are experimenting new prototypes that would destroy Connor and the resistence once and for all. Connor won’t take that as a resolution and will fight back. It’s the battle-of-the-titans sort of story you’d expect, basically the same plot as the other Terminator movies except on a different time line, with little time travel.
Bale’s acting is pretty good here, certainly better than his performance in the Batman flicks (though to his credit, being in a rubber suit does limit your abilities to perform). The film’s tones and lighting in some of the important scenes does put lots of emphasis on facial expressions, though you’d quickly notice that Worthington’s performance in those same scenes do in fact surpass Bale’s at times, mostly because his facial features are more empathetic and his back story is more dramatic than that of Bale’s (though, due to Connor’s role in the story of course, not more important).
The visual effects are superb and have the “retro” feel to them – ie they’re not overdone nor polished as you’d expect from a modern sci-fi. The humanoid-Terminator models look like they’ve been taken straight out of 1984, while the new entries look nifty but still dusty and retro for consistency. The special Terminator at the end of the film does sport upgraded graphics and a shiny alloy skeleton, but the same can’t be said about its clumsiness, which is a nod to the rest of the series. An Easter Egg is also there and would certainly make you smile if not laugh out loud.
All said and done, Salvation did get everything a Terminator film could do and then some, making it a solid addition to the series, though in my opinion the story needs to shift from the tried and true “dual terminator” formula to something more epic – but that’s just my tastes and I am aware of the cult following to the series, just like Star Wars and Star Trek. Purists may not like the new heroes, and certainly no one in the audience was amused at Bale’s rendering of “I’ll be back”, but other than that, the production values, settings, acting and fresh paint of coat will make it a movie to enjoy.