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Rage against the machines

April 27th, 2009

In Terminator Salvation, John Connor finally takes his place as the leader of the Resistance. But as Skynet’s army of Terminators takes over the world, can Connor save humanity?

The year is 2018 and Judgment Day has come and gone, leveling modern civilization. An army of Terminators roams the post-apocalyptic landscape, killing or collecting humans where they hide in the desolate cities and deserts. But small groups of survivors have organized into a Resistance, hiding in underground bunkers and striking against the enemy force that outnumbers them.

Controlling the army of Terminators is the artificial intelligence network Skynet, which became self-aware 14 years earlier, turning on its creators, Cyberdyne Systems, so it could unleash nuclear annihilation on an unsuspecting world—with the exception of John Connor (Christian Bale) and his mother, Sarah Connor, and father, Kyle Reese, who fought hard for years to warn humanity about this war. No one believed them.
“We’re telling the story of the world after Judgment Day,” says McG, the film’s director. “This is the story of the becoming of John Connor, the becoming of Kyle Reese, the strengthening of Skynet, and where our humanity ultimately lies. This is the moment when mankind takes a stand against the machines.”

With the future he has been warned about all his life now into being, Connor remains unsure that he can do anything to stop it. “He’s definitely a guy with a lot of issues, somebody who has been told the future all his life and bears the burden of that knowledge,” says Bale. “But his mother also told him there is no fate but what you make, so knowing that, he can’t just go hide and think everything’s going to be fine. He’s got to be out there fighting. And he is a fighter. I saw him [as] very much like an Achilles-type character. He’s somebody who loves the fray. But he’s battling with what soldiers deal with every day—the loss of very good friends—and his fears that he is not the leader that people are probably expecting at that point.”

But while Connor’s belief that the war can be won is shaken, his faith is renewed with the appearance of a mysterious man, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger from the past whose last memory is of being on death row before awakening in this strange new world.

Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future or rescued from the past, and in this time-warped world, who can be trusted? But as Skynet adapts new strategies to end the Resistance forever, Connor and Marcus must find common ground to take a stand against the onslaught—and what better way to fight an army of machines than to face them head-on?


Terminator Salvation: Behind the scenes

April 27th, 2009

The Post-War World

In Terminator Salvation, Judgment Day has come and gone. What civilization is left with is a world that’s dim and grim, with cities left in skeletal-like ruins.

To get the feel of devastation, Terminator Salvation’s director of photography Shane Hurlbut shot the film using an experimental film process. “We took an old film stock from Kodak and we let it sit in the sun too long to degrade some of its qualities,” explained McG. “Then we processed it in a way where we added more silver than you would traditionally add to a color film stock. And we went even further to manipulate that in the digital intermediate to give the film an otherworldly quality that gives you the impression that something’s just off with the way this world looks, which is in keeping with the mood of the entire picture.”

Shot on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for its vast desert, the film’s creators also spoke to futurists about what would happen with the flora and fauna if this type of war really occurred. “We wanted to get all of that detailing into our movie,” says costume designer Michael Wilkinson. “We asked, ‘If the bombs went off about 14 years ago and destroyed most of North America, what would be left? What would people scrounge and cobble together to survive, to fight?’
Along with fighting comes extensive gun battles, chase sequences and explosions, which, according to director McG, were done as authentically as possible. “We wanted to do everything in-camera,” he says. “When it was necessary to extend with CG, we did that, but we wanted to build everything, blow things up, and really crash the car. It was extraordinary to have the concussion of the explosion to add to the realism of the sequence. You see exhilaration in everyone’s eyes. You can feel their adrenaline rising. We aimed to keep it as safe as possible, but we definitely wanted to push things every step of the way, to create a movie that, at its core, is a war movie and captures the reality of that intense pressure.”

Adds visual effects supervisor (and second unit director) Charlie Gibson: “McG wanted real pyro events, explosions and actions at a one-to-one scale, not as miniatures or computer-generated. One spectacular explosion involves a helicopter crash into a river.

To make things look realistic, a 200-foot length of river was constructed in the middle of the desert, consisting of an 18-foot-deep tank that housed a scissor lift that moved the helicopter up and down and was rigged so the helicopter could crash in the water and ratchet over. This “riverbank” was also rigged with gas lines to generate a controlled burn, and a protective fire ring.

But as dangerous as these blasts and explosions were, it didn’t deter cast members from getting down and dirty and doing their own stunts. “It just got your adrenaline going,” Moon Bloodgood says. “There were some crazy stunts—we’d start running and then it would be dust and things exploding and I had no idea what was going to hit me. We would be laughing because we were so scared. But I loved it.” Sam Worthington agrees. “My character goes through the wringer,” he says. “He gets strung up, cut up, and blown up, which meant I also spent many a day getting strung up, cut up, and blown up,” he laughed. “So yeah, we got our bumps and bruises, but it’s Terminator, it’s not Pride and Prejudice!”


Terminator: Looking Back

April 27th, 2009

Looking Back
Does the part of your brain where you’ve stored all of your Terminator info need a power surge? Here’s a recap of the last three Terminator installments to get you geared up for the upcoming Terminator Salvation.

The Terminator (1984)

Stars: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn

In the first film, we meet Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Unbeknownst to her, a man from the future, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), tells her that she will bear a child who in the future, is destined to lead a resistance army against Skynet—a lethal race of artificially intelligent computerized machines owned by Cyberdyne Systems, whose mission is to exterminate the human race.
Reese explains that he was sent to the past to warn Sarah and explain that in his future, the year 2029, a war is taking place between Skynet and humanity. Sarah’s now-grown son, John Connor, is leading the resistance army and seems to be winning. In an effort to win the battle, Skynet sends a cyborg assassin known as the “Terminator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to the past, to find Sarah Connor and kill her.
As Kyle and Sarah try to outrun this unstoppable machine, they fall in love and conceive a child: the future John Connor. But in a final showdown with the Terminator, Kyle meets his demise and Sarah defeats the assassin by crushing him in a hydraulic press.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

Having survived an attack by the first Terminator sent to kill her eleven years earlier, Sarah Connor once again faces the wrath of Skynet when the deadly race sends two cyborg assassins from the year 2029: the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is an exact replica of the first, and a new T-1000 prototype machine, made of a liquid metal that allows it to take the shape and appearance of anything it touches, that disguises itself as a police officer (Robert Patrick). Their mission: to kill Sarah and the adolescent John.
With her son John in foster care, Sarah, in an ongoing effort to continue her mission to warn humanity about the coming apocalypse, is arrested for bombings a computer company and is confined to a hospital for the criminally insane. Meanwhile, the Terminator captures her son John, who has been training to become a future leader. A young John learns that this new Terminator means him no harm and has actually been reprogrammed by his future self to protect his younger self.
John and the Terminator break Sarah out of the hospital and set out to find Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton), a Cyberdyne Systems engineer working on a revolutionary new microprocessor that will form the basis for Skynet, and who unwittingly will be responsible for a nuclear attack on “Judgment Day.” When they find Dyson, Sarah, set on changing the future by killing him, only wounds Dyson. After the Terminator explains to Dyson the consequences of his research, Dyson helps them break into Cyberdyne Systems to destroy both his research and the parts for the first Terminator.
But when a SWAT team arrives, Dyson is killed while pushing a detonator to destroy the materials. Sarah, John and the Terminator escape and after a liquid nitrogen truck crashes, it freezes the T-1000 that’s in pursuit and shatters its structure. While the T-000 melts, John destroys the parts of the first Terminator by throwing them into the hot steels, and both Sarah and John destroy the Terminator who says he must also be destroyed so that Skynet cannot recreate him.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken

Although Judgment Day appeared to have been averted in the last Terminator, John Connor (Stahl) does not believe humanity is safe.
Just as suspected, two cyborgs are sent back in time: another Terminator (Schwarzenegger) and the T-X/Terminatrix (Loken), who each have their own mission. The Terminator is sent back in time by Connor’s future wife, Katherine Brewster (Danes), to protect him after it is revealed that it kills Connor in the year 2032. The T-X, equipped with advanced weapons and the ability to control most machines, is sent to fulfill Skynet’s mission once and for all: to kill Connor and his future army lieutenants.
But when the U.S. Air Force, under the command of Katherine’s father, Lieutenant General Robert Brewster, takes over the research facility and activates Skynet in order to stop a computer virus, all hell breaks loose as the original T-1s are revived and become part of T-X’s mission.
As T-X and its army of T-1s hunt John and Katherine, General Brewster sends them to Crystal Peak where they believe Skynet’s system core is located. There, they undergo another attack from T-X, until the Terminator destroys it by detonating a hydrogen fuel cell in its mouth.
Connor soon realizes that he and Kate are not at the system’s core, but at an old government bomb shelter. Connor realizes that Skynet’s operations are worldwide, making it impossible to shut down. As Skynet begins to launch nuclear missiles, Connor starts receiving messages from military forces, ultimately assuming he is in command, foreshadowing his future as leader of the resistance army.


The New Machines

April 27th, 2009

The New Machines

From hydrobots to moto-terminators, Skynet has created sophisticated machinery to win the war against humanity in Terminator Salvation. “We are in an interim period,” says Christian Bale. “In the flash forward to 2029 that we’ve seen in previous movies, Skynet has absolute dominance of all the armies. In the present, we’ve got a lot of T-600s, and a phenomenal array of machines.” Seems as though John Connor and crew have a lot to contend with!


The T-600 is Skynet’s greatest foot soldier, which McG describes as “bigger and nastier” than the T-800. The T-600 is a massive seven-foot-three robot programmed to seek out humans. It carries a mini-gun capable of shooting from 3000 to 6000 rounds per minute, and a backpack full of ammunition.


These are four-foot-long aerial sentries that buzz around hunting for any sign of human life. They are equipped with digital cameras and laser-imaging technology and send wireless reports back to Skynet, which then sends in the big gun: the Harvester.

The Harvester

At about 50 feet tall, the Harvester is the largest Terminator in existence in 2018. It resembles a spider, with multiple steel arms and legs extending from a thorax-like body with jointed claw-like appendages for capturing its victims and putting them in the Transporters to be taken to Skynet.


The Harvester houses a fleet of Moto-Terminators, which are bike-like machines (based on the Ducati motorbike) that race off after the humans to catch them. Although they carry guns, their main objective is to retrieve escapees and return them to the Harvester.

The Hydrobot

Resembling four-foot-long segmented serpents, eyeless but with razor-sharp heads that drill into their victims, Hydrobots respond to sound and vibrations in the waters they prowl.


Terminator Salvation: The Characters

April 27th, 2009

Stars of Terminator Salvation

It’s been six long years since we’ve last heard from John Connor and his plight to save humanity from Skynet—an artificial intelligence who launched a nuclear war against humanity. Now, as Connor takes his rightful place as leader of the Resistance, he’ll need all the help he can get. Here’s an inside look into the film’s characters.

Christian Bale as John Connor
John is the son of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. He is the fated leader of the Resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. “He’s so much older and he has gone through Judgment Day,” Bale says of his character. “Living through an event like that alters everybody, so in many ways he’s a completely different person. Skynet is dominant but still in a state of evolution,” Connor fights on the front lines of the Resistance, but is not yet its leader. New developments by Skynet have rocked his vision of the future, as told to him throughout his life by his mother. She believed the future was not set, and his own doubts are growing that he may not live to initiate the events that
will result in his own conception—namely, sending Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother. “Humans are definitely on the out,” says Bale. “Their backs are against the wall and their circumstances are desperate. This is the last, final effort for the survival of mankind.”

Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright
Marcus Wright’s appearance is a mystery. His last memory was of being put to death for committing a crime; he has no knowledge of how he came into this world or what his purpose is here. “Marcus had been on death row,” Worthington explains. “He was put to death. But then he wakes up in this post-apocalyptic world and has to go on a surreal adventure to figure out why he isn’t dead. The irony, of course, is that it’s only here, where living itself is a challenge, that he experiences true human kindness and compassion.” When he is discovered as being half machine, his purpose is questioned.

Common as Barnes
Barnes is a soldier in the Resistance and is John Connor’s right hand man. He is assigned to watch over Wright, of whom everyone has become suspicious. “Barnes is this spiritual warrior in many ways, fighting to the end by Connor’s side for the future of humanity, and he sees Marcus as a threat,” says Common. “But, by the same token, he’s been through a lot of things that force him to come to a spiritual understanding—about their struggle, about John Connor’s destiny—and much of it is tied into Marcus.”

Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese
Kyle Reese, who will eventually travel backwards through time to save Sarah Connor (as seen in The Terminator (1984)), is at this point still a teenager, struggling to survive. “He’s a gritty survivor,” says McG. Adds Yelchin: “Kyle has survived day to day, eating whatever he can find. He’s out there surrounded by T-600s and other human scavengers who aren’t all friendly.” Kyle also wants to join the Resistance. But he is not alone in his journey—he’s accompanied by Star (Jadagrace Berry), a nine-year-old girl rendered mute by the trauma of war and displacement. Star has the uncanny ability to sense the presence of a Terminator before it appears, but, more importantly, her presence gives Kyle a greater sense of purpose.

Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams
Blair Williams is a fighter in the Resistance. “She is a wonderful fighter pilot and a survivalist,” says McG. “She really knows how to maneuver, destroy machines and, most importantly, stay alive.”

Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor
Kate Connor is John’s wife and partner in the Resistance. In the intervening years since Judgment Day, Kate has become a physician, training the best she can in these circumstances. “She finds books and she’s talked to as many survivors as possible, learning different techniques to enable her to save lives,” says Howard. Kate is the first to discover that Wright has been transformed into an unknown model of Terminator: a hybrid with a human heart, brain, and exterior, but the interior workings of a robot.

Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Serena Kogen
Carter’s character is connected to Marcus Wright. She is a mysterious scientist with the then-fledgling Skynet unit of Cyberdyne Systems. “Helena plays a very proficient scientist who is working on the cutting edge of technology,” says McG. “She’s further motivated by the fact that she has terminal cancer. She truly believes her research could give people like her a second chance, but her research falls into the hands of Skynet, and the consequences of that are quite revolutionary for the machines. But she is indeed the one who enlists Marcus to donate his body for what she will only tell him is ‘research,’ and hers is the last human face he sees before dying.”

Terminator Salvation also stars:
Jane Alexander as Virginia
Jadagrace Berry as Star
Roland Kickinger as the T-800
Brian Steele as the T-600
Michael Ironside as General Ashdown
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor (voice)