There is good news and bad news about Terminator: Salvation. The good news is that it is a far better film than Terminator 3, and the bad news is that it is nonetheless More of the Same, All About the Men.
This is especially sad in a franchise that, three entries out of five, has focused on a female hero. Sarah Connor has repeatedly violated Hollywood’s “wisdom” about female action heroes, as the audience backlash against her absence from T3 demonstrated.
While Sarah does not appear onscreen in Salvation, which is set years after her death, Linda Hamilton does return to narrate the recordings she left to her son John. And that pretty much describes how all the women who appear in this film function: they reflect on and motivate the male leads John (Christian Bale) and newcomer Marcus (Sam Worthington).
Bryce Dallas Howard plays John’s wife Kate. She spends the movie pregnant and worried… and that’s it. Seriously, that’s all she does.
(An aside: In T3 John and Kate were played by Nick Stahl and Claire Danes, both 24 at the time. Salvation is set 14 years later: John has been recast with an actor 11 years older, while Kate has been recast with an actress only 4 years older. Of course.)
Moon Bloodgood plays Blair Williams, a resistance fighter pilot, who is a perfect example of the Faux Action Girl. She starts off promising (fighter pilot!), but by her third scene has to be rescued from an attempted rape by Marcus. She later tries to rescue him… only her plan doesn’t work out and he has to get himself out of trouble. She then spends the rest of the film taxiing people around in a transport helicopter, and helping to motivate Marcus.
Jadagrace Berry plays Star, a child resistance fighter. She is brave and knowledgable, but mute. Personally, I think the filmmakers made her silent due to worries about “annoying kid sidekick” complaints, but obviosuly it could be read in terms of her race and gender. While Star gets some heroic moments, she mainly serves to motivate Marcus and Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin).
Helena Bonham Carter plays Doctor Serena Kogan, whose pre-Judgment Day work with Cyberdyne Industries proves significant to the plot, espcially to… you guessed it, motivate Marcus.
Despite two great films from James Cameron and a sadly short-lived TV series, once again we are reminded that it is All About the Men.