Director: McG Release Date: 03/06/09 Link: IMDB "Terminator Salvation” may just provide one of the biggest surprises of the summer. It might be unfair to do, but there are times when it is extremely difficult to prevent yourself from having high feelings of uncertainly about a movie even before you take a seat in the theater. And I definitely can’t blame anyone for having those negative, preconceived notions about “Terminator Salvation,” especially since it comes from the mind of McG, the flashy director of the lame, cartoonish “Charlie’s Angels” films, “We Are Marshall” and numerous music videos for such bands as Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray and The Offspring. I, for one, didn’t have too much faith in McG’s ability to portray the bleak and dark world of the “Terminator” franchise, and judging by all the grumbling on the Internet, it doesn’t sound like many others have a great deal of confidence in him either. But here is where that surprise I was talking about earlier comes into play: Believe it or not, McG actually didn’t screw up “Terminator Salvation” and if it wasn’t for the mediocre story, relatively weak acting and typical Hollywood ending, we could be talking about a film that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as James Cameron’s “Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” (I won’t even bring up “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” because, let’s face it, that movie wasn’t very good.) So then what, pray tell, makes “Terminator Salvation” so entertaining even with all these glaring flaws? That’s a question I can easily answer: Almost two straight hours of nonstop action that is enhanced by sumptuous special effects, stunts and explosions. McG has essentially made a large-scale war film where the enemy has been replaced with machines of all shapes and sizes, and although the 115 minutes of running time is crammed full of continuous action, there isn’t one moment that comes off as repetitious. And die-hard followers of the “Terminator” films should be pleased to know that McG pays homage to the previous movies with the inclusion of Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could Be Mine,” some memorable lines from the very first installment — “I’ll be back” and “What day is it? What year?” — and a short cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Well, sort of.) Even Anton Yelchin, who stars as a young Kyle Reese, looks and sounds similar to Edward Furlong’s adolescent John Connor in “Terminator 2.” But even with these subtle references, “Terminator Salvation” doesn’t really feel like any of the other “Terminator” movies. (It’s more like a hybrid of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” and the Wachowski siblings’ “The Matrix” trilogy) A change in tone should be expected, however, because this is the first time we get an extensive look at the aftermath of the apocalyptic Judgment Day that was orchestrated by the artificial intelligence network Skynet. The year is now 2018 and the humans who survived the nuclear disaster are left to fend for themselves in the war against the machines. Outnumbered and outgunned, the remaining humans’ only hope for a continued existence lies in the hands of John Connor (Christian Bale), who must save his future father, Kyle Reese, before he falls victim to Skynet’s metallic army. (Time travel does come into play and the events in this movie take place before Reese is sent to the past to protect John’s mother, Sarah Connor.) But Connor’s hope for humanity takes a serious hit when he meets the mysterious Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a former inmate on death row who constantly wonders if people should get second chances in life. It’s no secret that I think Bale is one of today’s most talented actors, but his performance in “Terminator Salvation” is kind of a disappointment because he ends up showing less personality than the machines he is at war with. In fact, he displayed more emotion in that infamous profanity-laced tirade where he chastised the movie’s director of photography for walking on the set while he was filming a scene. And the talents of Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays John’s pregnant wife, are absolutely squandered because she barely has any screen time. The only actors who really left a considerable impression on me were Worthington, Yelchin and Moon Bloodgood, who plays a sassy pilot who believes that Marcus Wright could help start the downfall of Skynet. But any way you look at it, the real stars of “Terminator Salvation” are the different array of powerful machines and cyborgs, and if you can get past the fact that the film is basically a never-ending string of adrenaline-fueled action sequences, you won’t leave the theater dissatisfied. Just make sure to check your brain at the door.