Hollywood Product: Terminator Salvation

GENRE: Heavy-metal action flick

THE PITCH: In 2018, rising resistance soldier John Connor (Christian Bale) questions the motives of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), an ass-kicking, well-intentioned stranger who seems oddly ill-informed about all the killer robots trying to wipe out humanity.

MONEY SHOTS: An early battle, complete with helicopter crashes and mushroom clouds, against a backdrop of post-nuclear devastation. A primitive Terminator shoots off its own foot to escape a trap. The heroes use a tow truck to snag a high-speed homicidal motorcycle. John and Marcus fend off serpentine robots. John brawls in a factory with an implacable, unstoppable android that initially resembles a certain California governor (not Pete Wilson).

MONEY SOUNDS: The huge, Transformer-like robots (I call them the "Big-inators") emit deafening bass notes that are the scariest thing I've heard in a film since Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

BEST LINE: "The human condition no longer applies to you," which is pretty cheesy, but it's that kind of movie. An onscreen title identifies the outside of the evil machine HQ as "Skynet Perimeter (North Gate)." Because we wouldn't want to get it mixed up with any other gate.

WORST LINE: "Now I know what death tastes like," Marcus says on death row after kissing Helena Bonham Carter's cancer-stricken scientist in the film's pre-apocalyptic prologue. Also, be warned that the film none-too-subtly includes the catch-phrases from the other films.

FLESH FACTOR: Two big guys appear in the buff but strategically concealed, because it's the first PG-13 Terminator movie. Incidentally, the nudity doesn't involve time travel, which apparently hasn't been invented in 2018.

THE NAME IS FAMILIAR, BUT I CAN'T PLACE THE FACE: Between the various movies and spin-off TV series, Bale is at least the fourth actor to play John Connor, but the only one who looks like he really could save humanity. Bryce Dallas Howard replaces Claire Danes as John's main squeeze Kate. Anton Yelchin, who hams it up as Chekhov in the new Star Trek, superbly channels Michael Biehn as the teenage Kyle Reese.

MP3 TO BE: The film makes brief but prominent use of "You Could Be Mine" by Guns N' Roses, which appeared on the soundtrack to Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

BETTER THAN THE PREVIOUS ONES? No. It can't match the pop grandeur of James Cameron's first two iconic movies. Compared to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and what I've seen of the recently cancelled "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," however, Salvation does a respectable job of moving the franchise forward and living up to Cameron's vision of a war-torn, machine-ridden future.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Charlie's Angels director McG, aka Joseph McGinty Nichol, rises to the occasion by delivering one thrilling action sequence after another, as well as a persuasively filthy-looking future America. The characterizations are thin and the ending lacks a dramatic punch, but overall, Terminator Salvation is like spending two hours ducking metal stuff thrown at your head — in a good way.