A quarter-century after “The Terminator” first blazed onto movie screens, the fourth installment of the popular series arrives with “Terminator Salvation,” an impressively crafted but somewhat disappointing film that’s as lifeless as its cyborg villains.

“Salvation” begins in the year 2018, with mankind scrambling for survival after being nearly destroyed by Skynet and its army of Terminators in a nuclear holocaust. The survivors, known as “the Resistance,” are led by John Connor (Christian Bale), the man fated to lead the fight against Skynet.

When the Resistance intercepts a radio wave signal that appears to paralyze all Terminators, it looks as if the war is about to take a turn for the better. But the promise of a bright future is muddied when a mysterious stranger named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) arrives, testing Connor’s beliefs on the line between man and machine.

“Salvation” is easily the weakest of the four “Terminator” films, although it does have its moments.

The final 30 minutes rival the new “Star Trek” film and are better than anything in “Wolverine,” including a nice moment (best left unspoiled) that hard core “Terminator” fans will greatly appreciate.

Unfortunately, the first 90 minutes of the film are rather dull, with only one sequence - a chase between a Godzilla-size Terminator that spawns mini-Terminators and Connor’s future father, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and Marcus - that has any life.

The biggest problem is the film’s bleak tone, which director McG bludgeons to death with a dark film. I realize this is supposed to be a post-Apocolyptic world, but there is no life or even a hint of the fun that made the first three “Terminator” films so entertaining.

The bleakness carries over to the cast. Worthington is probably the best of the bunch, but even his character is limited by his origins. Bale, usually quite reliable, is rather bland as well, showing more life in the leaked on-set tantrum than he does at any point in the actual film. The rest of the eclectic cast, ranging from Jane Alexander to rapper Common, doesn’t fare any better - so dull that they may as well have been played by machines.

The final scene suggests there is more for the franchise to explore, but “Salvation” proves the series needs a serious reboot if it has any chance of continuing success.

— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton has embedded a secret message within the body of this review. If you find it, please e-mail it to mcompton@bgdailynews.com, as he has since forgotten exactly what it is.

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