It’s a sad day when you acknowledge for your own benefit that the world no longer needs Terminator movies. New ones that is. The first two will always be classics of a sort, but it’s just a sad realisation to see that it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be able to approach them in quality, let alone match them.
The curious element was that the story we were always watching was never really the main story. The main story was always the reason for watching these various people and cyborgs run away and try to fight progressively more advanced robots, but it was never the overarching plots of these films. The battle between the remnants of humanity and the ruthless artificial intelligence called Skynet was always some nebulous threat in the future: our immediate concern was supposed to be the survival of some people in the present.
Salvation, being the first of the Terminator flicks that doesn’t have time travel as its main plot device, is set during the time when this apocalyptic conflict has already destroyed most of the world, or at least North America. Sure, the protagonists are all still trying to survive assault from fiendish and relentless machines, but it’s not for some way of safeguarding humanity in the future: it’s survival in the here and now.
So when John Connor screams at people about doing or not doing something, it’s not to protect a timeline or the birth of some saviour of humanity, it’s to protect his own miserable life. Seems a bit selfish, doesn’t it?
Christian Bale received a lot of press and a lot of infamy for his ego-maniacal on-set rantings and ravings, so it’s hard to divorce speculations of what a nutbag he might be to work with, versus the nutbag nature of the character he plays here. As society’s self-designated saviour, he has been brought up to believe from the start that, considering the fact Skynet was so determined to kill him before he was even born it sent a terminator through time to kill his mother, he must be very, very important.