I've always felt a certain connection to John Connor. Sure, in 1984 when The Terminator hit theaters I was a toddler and he was unborn, but after Terminator 2: Judgment Day was released in 1991, I too
was arrested for liberating incarcerated lobsters in a Kentucky grocery store felt ready to lead the resistance.
Flash forward -- I'm nowhere close to being a soldier of the apocalypse, and in Terminator Salvation, John Connor hasn't quite reached his potential either as he copes with a future dangerously different than the one his mother warned him about. The T-800s are arriving ahead of schedule, Skynet is taking human prisoners for R&D, and Kyle Reese -- Connor's once and future father -- is among the captive, on his way to the testing chamber.
Those details were just part of the preview L.A. journalists got last night at Warner Brothers' special presentation of the newest film in the Terminator franchise at the DGA theater. It was one of only three test screenings that took place in North America, the other two in New York on January 12 and Toronto on January 13. The major perk of the L.A. screening? Ours was a new reel with material that hadn't been seen.
Just after 7 p.m. we took our seats in the small theater, joined by producer Dan Lin, actor Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese) and director McG, who insisted he was there to listen to our feedback, take it into consideration and make us a part of the filmmaking process, as much as he was there to show and explain to us clips of Terminator Salvation. Slated for a Memorial Day release, the film is still unfinished but that was what made the experience special. There we were, watching unfinished reels of man battle machine in a post-Judgment Day wasteland, being asked whether or not we'd like Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor to be the voice-over that brings us into the film. Yes, please.
"Who likes that idea? Who wants a Sarah Connor voice-over?" McG asked. Almost every hand went up.
He continued, turning to producer Joel B. Michaels in the crowd, "Joel, what's the deal with Linda Hamilton?"
"It's happening," Michaels replied.
Here are some other highlights from the presentation. McG talked about:
"There had to be a sound. Originally I wanted Gustavo Santaolaya. He does the delicate guitar sounds from Babel and Brokeback Mountain
and I wanted those analog sounds to be the sound of the resistance...
instruments that sound like they could survive a nuclear holocaust.
Then I wanted those sounds to segue into a more mechanical sound for
the machines. I wanted Thom Yorke from Radiohead to do that. I thought
that would be really interesting. We talked to their camps but the
schedules were prohibitive. At that time, Danny Elfman surfaced and
talked to me about the intimate understanding of how delicate human
flesh is and how that should have a sound, and how tough and
unforgiving a machine is. With a little luck, he'll be providing a
sonic landscape that both services those quiet emotional moments... and
that idea of a big, march, triumph sound."
Achieving a different look for the picture:
went and got dead stock from Kodak, the film they don't make any
longer, and I deliberately subjected it to a bunch of heat so it would
damage the film. Then I went to Panavision and did a lot of
experimentation. Their state of the art lenses are called Prima lenses
and I wanted the lenses called ultra-speed lenses which have flares, flaws and a different quality. But most importantly, we processed it
with three times as much silver as you would traditionally process a
color stock, all in the interest of creating this otherworld patina. [We talked] to people at Cal Tech and studied Chernobyl and discussed what the world would look like, smell like
and taste like in a post-apocalyptic capacity. I wanted the world to
have a really tactile sense... a patina of difficulty and duress."
How the film starts with the introduction of a new character:
the film starts present day and we meet a guy [Marcus Wright, played by actor
Sam Worthington] who is being condemned to death. This world of
convenience that we all live in -- there's a 7-11 on every corner, all
these advantages -- that world had only ever shown him cruelty. He'd
given up on humanity and largely given up on himself. He's a car thief,
he got his brother killed and two cops in a joy ride gone wrong and
gets sentenced to death and he's like, "Fuck it, cut me up until there
is nothing left." He signs up for a scientific experiment and he wakes
up in the future after the bombs have gone off. Isn't it interesting that in a world of privilege he only saw what
was wrong with human kind, and in a world of duress he sees the
courage of a young boy [Reese] who is idealistic and wants to fight for
the right reasons? He learns the value of humanity and the value of
self. It's really a becoming story about a guy discovering the value of
human life, about a kid discovering what it means to be a hero, and
about Connor learning that he is indeed the one. He has to go all the
My only issue with the
footage came in a critical scene where John Connor [played by Christian
Bale] crashes his helicopter into a lake; a battle with underwater
kill-bots ensues, and Connor realizes that Marcus appears to be
a machine after the mysterious newbie sustains wounds that reveal his
metal skull. This leads me to believe that when Marcus
volunteered for the medical experiment, he was somehow cut up and inserted
with a Terminator's endoskeleton, waking up with no memory of what
happened. That, or he was never human to begin with and he only faked
it to get close to Reese and Connor in an attempt to, once again, end
the resistance. If it's the former, then Wolverine should be pissed someone stole
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his origin story. If it's the latter, then nothing new. Either way, you
bet I'll be in line on opening night.