“Terminator Salvation” feels dangerously close to the assembly line.

click to enlarge art21_film_terminator_200.jpg

The new “Terminator” movie doesn't lack for the evil robots that bear the franchise name. There are T-600s, predecessor to the first terminator (in the series). There are flying terminators, motorcycling terminators, swimming terminators and tall-as-a-small-skyscraper terminators. Members of the entire terminator army and their brothers play death match with the humans in “Terminator Salvation,” yet this large-scale fourth installment doesn't come close to recreating the suspense of the Arnold Schwarzenegger original.

Part of the reason is obvious. The fear inflicted by one remorseless, unstoppable killing machine is diluted when bunches of them appear and die all over the place. But some blame rests with McG, the three-letter director of the “Charlie's Angels” movies whose talent for creating Olympic-quality camera pans is outmatched only by his utter lack of discernment and restraint. Despite the charred cities and nuclear-wind-swept plains, camp is the part of “Salvation” most at war with humanity.

The resistance, a far too young and attractive bunch led by John Conner (Christian Bale), battle against the Skynet artificial intelligence forces in 2018 while wearing, dark-hued, multilayered clothing that looks as if it all came off the same rack at Diesel. They also explode into hammy emoting at the same volume and frequency as the bursting machine guns, and do nonsensical things such as battling Terminators with guns even though they've invented a super-secret sonic weapon that turns the machines off.

“Terminator Salvation” has moments of fun, especially if you just want to have a good time reveling in over-the-top action and reliving the series. But as competition with other summer blockbuster hopefuls (see page 28), this new installment about the future is disappointingly old hat. (PG-13) 114 min. HHIII S



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