Terminator Salvation ★★★½

Intense, loud, and well-paced, this film is a worthy fourth installment of the "Terminator" franchise and features excellent special effects and gritty cinematography that help create a palpable post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Setting the film in the Skynet-controlled future is the natural thing to do, but it comes at the cost—albeit perhaps small—of limiting the viewer’s imagination in terms of what that world looks like. While the story lacks thematic depth, the movie contains enough interesting elements to keep the viewer engaged from beginning to end. Late in the film, there is a somewhat inelegant but arguably necessary expository scene involving one of the main characters and Skynet. A good choice for the role of John Connor, Christian Bale gives a forceful performance; standout Sam Worthington plays Marcus Wright, the most complex and interesting character in the movie; Anton Yelchin acquits himself nicely as Kyle Reese; Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brief appearance (in a manner of speaking) is certainly a nice touch, but it comes off as slightly gimmicky and adds little to the story. Competently directed by McG.