I just finished watching Terminator: Salvation again — the first time since I saw it in the theatre — and the same qualities and problems remain.
Supposedly the video version has an extra minute, but I did not notice any difference — perhaps there’s a menu option I missed; the BluRay just started playing the movie and did not ask me whether I wanted the theatrical or the extra-minute-longer version.
The strengths are the special effects — which are leagues ahead of any previous Terminator film and deserve the biggest screen you can find to appreciate them — the decision to make it a war movie about allegiances rather than revisiting the usual chase scenario presented in all previous Terminator films, and the acting of the Australian actor who plays Marcus Wright. The look of the film — the palette of color and grain — is very good looking as well.
The weakness remains the baffling way scenes seem to omit dialogue. I again felt as if someone came along at some point and cut out the majority of conversations — but left a few seconds of each scene in which I (and probably most people who use language to communicate) wanted dialogue. John Connor and his wife may have simply evolved a silent form of communication, but, I suspect many other scenes had dialogue that was later removed — perhaps because it was too silly, perhaps because it was too smart. (We’ll never know, since the company that produced Terminator: Salvation went bankrupt after the making of the film, precluding any likelihood of a Director’s Cut coming out anytime in the next ten years.)
The character of John Connor, who seemed very underdeveloped when I saw the film in the theatre, came across as more significant this time, as a sort of man-of-action, G.I. Joe. Still not as interesting a character as Marcus Wright (the character who the audience meets first, in a pre-Judgement Day jail cell, and who has the greatest character development) but fun to watch nonetheless — despite the screenwriter’s failure to communicate why John Connor’s life is so important, beyond the obvious draw of his pirate radio broadcasts — “If you’re listening to this, you’re the Resistance.”
Presumably there’s a reason why John Connor’s life is important, and we were to find out in the next film. But honestly, the tv series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” provided a better rationale for why John Connor would be important: He knows of the time machine project. Which means he could undue Judgment Day. And if that fails, in the tv series universe, John Connor is also a man who has begun to befriend the Terminators who aren’t programmed to kill humanity. There was the potential that he’d be a unifying force bringing together humans and liberated (unprogrammed) cybernetic beings. The film version of John Connor comes across as much more of a xenophobe, and there just was not enough opportunity to get to know him beyond those surface impressions.
Terminator: Salvation remains the third best Terminator film, with T2 in first place, and T1 in second place (enjoyed as a lighter film). People who do not enjoy the kitch look of the 1980s in the original Terminator might place Terminator: Salvation in second place, but likely only because of the technical superiority over the low-budget original.