After Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines a few years back, I was completely let down by the Terminator franchise, but I had to take a look at this fourth installment desite the teen-aimed PG-13 rating and the lack of James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dubya's lapdog may be embarrassing the state of California, but in the 80s and 90s, he was actually useful, and made some pretty good movies. Who doesn't like the first two Terminator movies, or Predator, or even Kindergarten Cop?
The first Terminator was a pretty cool movie, but it wasn't exactly great. A plot hole near the end left the possibility of a sequel open, but after 6-7 years, it was kind of a surprise when one was made. Despite being a special-effects showoff, Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out as one of the best action films of the last century. It had the best action sequences out of all four films, and it had the most heart, which really pushed it past just being a good movie, and made it great.
Then Terminator 3 comes out, and they seem to pretend that the second movie didn't happen, or that the ending happened differently. It's less like "this is what happens next" as is common with sequels, and more like "this is what could have happened if what our heroes did in the last movie didn't work". Like the new Star Trek movie, it's best to just classify it as an alternate universe in which the story's not over and the producers can milk the franchise for still more millions of dollars.
All that being said, it's about damn time they made a post-apocalyptic Terminator film. I would have liked to see more of the day-to-day living, how people get by in this new world than just straight-up action, but that isn't bad either. Instead of worrying about the paradoxes of time travel, instead, we have a Terminator who doesn't know he's one who buddies up with Kyle Reese, the hero from the first Terminator, who John Connor sent back to help his mother (and sire him at some point). Also, because it's a PG-13 movie and we're trying to appeal to kids, there's a 9-year-old girl with a funny haircut thrown in pretty randomly. And she has not one line in the entire movie, though Reese says that's because Judgment Day traumatized her. Right. Oh wait, she wasn't entirely useless. She bandages Connor's arm when he cuts it at one point and at another, hands him a flare. (And at least she didn't make the viewers wish her dead, like what happened in the War of the Worlds remake with Dakota Fanning's character.)
Still, Terminator 4 seemed to mostly weave itself into the first two films rather than do anything on its own. Reese's back story is explained, sure, but nothing is accomplished. We have a couple cool chases. The hundred foot high Terminator was cool, as well as the ones built into the motorcycles. All of the cool lines get recycled: "I'll be back", "Come with me if you want to live", etc. They even play Guns n' Roses' song "You Could Be Mine" during one scene. We even have Linda Hamilton's voice as Sarah Connor on a tape John listens to, and everybody doubts his prophecies about the future (and the past now). So it's got all the elements of the Terminator movies, but mostly it's just another action sequel. Still, it's worth watching at least once.