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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!”