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:

Courting Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Danny Elfman for the soundtrack:

“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


*Spoiler Alert*
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

his origin story. If it's the latter, then nothing new. Either way, you

bet I'll be in line on opening night.

(All photos by Victor Broadley)

LA Weekly