Last Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Warner Bros. treated fans to some sneak peeks of the upcoming "Terminator: Salvation," the fourth film in the Terminator franchise. In attendance were the film's director, McG, and cast members Common, Moon Bloodgood, Sam Worthington, Bryce Dallas Howard, and the young Kyle Reese, Anton Yelchin.
McG began by bringing them up to date on the film's progress. "We're in the middle of photography right now. We're shooting out in New Mexico. We've brought some of the cast here. We're going to share some of the picture with you shortly. We're really looking forward to it. Just looking out at this audience makes me realize that this whole thing began with listening. We listened to the fans. Everybody wanted to look at the future. We weren't excited about making T4. We were excited about making a new beginning. And indeed this picture is post-Judgment Day to get a look at those worlds that the previous pictures only teased. And that was the reason for making this picture."
McG also addressed fan concerns about the picture's quality by running down the respected individuals involved in making the film and the care he has taken to stay true to creator James Cameron's vision. "Prior to making the picture," McG said, "I made sure to talk to Jim Cameron, and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger. We hired Stan Winston, may he rest in peace. As you will see his designs are all over the picture."
"The writer of the picture is, indeed, Jonah Nolan," he continued, "who you might now from a little picture called 'The Dark Knight.' And then we needed an actor. And we knew the challenge we were facing was a challenge of credibility. It was the privilege of the audience to say, 'Hey, I don't know. I don't know about that, I don't know about this McG guy. I don't know what their intentions are with this movie.' So I wanted to protect the movie and protect all of you by hiring the most credible actor of his generation, Christian Bale. I can report back to you fairly, after we've shot a lot footage and been through a lot together out there I the deserts of New Mexico, he's doing a great, great job."
"We're shooting the picture with the picture first at all times," the director said as he spoke of concerns that the film was being made to meet a studio agenda rather than a storytelling one. "I know there's been some talk about a PG-13 rating, and it's interesting because there are two people in the world who would care about the rating of this picture. One guy, his name is Jeff Robinoff and another guy named Jeff Blake and I've been given their blessing to make the picture and if it's a rated-R picture, it's a rated-R picture and that's that."
Prior to showing an exclusive, full-length trailer that has "never been seen before," McG took out his cell phone. "I'm going to call our collective friend in Japan, Christian Bale. He's working on [promoting] 'The Dark Knight.' I told him if you didn't yell loud enough, you were just gong to get the panel and not the footage."
Fans obliged by filling the capacity hall with pure noise. With that the lights went down and a five minute trailer rolled on Hall H's giant screens. Following the preview, McG said a few things about what the fans had just seen. "There's no visual effects yet," he said. "We wanted it to be tactile. We wanted it to be real. We're making the future look a little different by shooting the film with color stock but treating it with as much silver as you would traditionally treat black and white film. We want everything to feel different and rejuvenated and exciting and credible at all times."
From there, the panel went to a question-and-answer format. The first question put to the director was if "Terminator: Salvation" fit the category of a war picture. "It is indeed a war picture," McG said, "but there is also the issue of this picture taking place in 2018. The Schwarzenegger model, the T-800 is from 2029. Therefore SkyNet's not there yet. They're still doing the research and development. The machines haven't come to a place of proficiency that we're accustomed to. We see the becoming of SkyNet. We see the state of the war in that period."
Asked about working with Bale, actor Sam Worthington said, "Christian's a very passionate and dedicated actor. You go toe to toe with him, you better have your fucking game on. You're going toe-to toe with fucking Batman."
"You need an actor who can stand up in a two-shot to Christian," added McG, "and that's not easily done. And so many actors, as we know, in their late 20s, early 30s, they're real thin they're real fashionable and we needed someone tough, someone tough, someone we could believe in."
One attendee asked if fans could expect to see new and different machines in the new film. McG responded, "That's one of the joys of making the picture. We get to see machines that we call Harvesters, transports, aerostats, hydrobots, and they're done in a greasy, grimy, brutal, Soviet-tank design language that we saw Giger, Jim Cameron and Ridley Scott do so well in the Alien pictures. Ours is not a clean, comfortable future. It's a very difficult future filled with duress and you see these giant machines stomping through the landscape and harvesting people for their nefarious purposes. So yeah, there's a lot of hardware worship. We've got ILM's best on it and I can't wait to show you guys that. We purposely held that back."
Asked about the themes of fate and free will as they played out in the first two films, McG said, "We definitely play with the notion of fate. Bryce has an interesting physical expression of fate and free will." He then handed the panel over to Bryce Dallas Howard for a demonstration of the themes of the film. Howard picked up a small stack of paper cups and said, "One would assume if I drop these cups that they're going to hit the table, right? So what I demonstrated to McG one day is that you can drop the cups, but you can catch them with the other hand. So you can say that your destiny in to hit the table but your free will can divert any destiny that may be in place."
"You see why she got the job?" McG asked the audience.
Worthington added, "One thing we want to do is protect the mythology of the first two movies. I wasn't going to sign on if we were going to disregard what Jim Cameron had done. What we've been trying to do is look deeply into those movies, take what they have to say about fighting, about the future, about the destiny of man and hopefully kind of advance it."
Asked by an audience member about what kind of person John Connor is when we first meet him in "Terminator: Salvation" and whether or not "Arnold will be back," McG responded that "answering both of those questions would deprive all of us of the joy of the release of the picture."
He added, "Hopefully in that statement, you realize where we're headed in regard to both questions. We have a lot to say about John Connor and how he became leader of the resistance. As for the T-800 model, The T-800 model is indeed a part of the mythology of 'Terminator.'"
Asked how he's approaching the role of Kyle Reese, Yelchin spoke a bit about his predecessor in the role. "Michael Biehn in ['The Terminator'] is fucking awesome and we'll see how he became that awesome and how he got to the point where Linda Hamilton would sleep with him."
"Not there yet," joked Bloodgood. "I'm just kidding."
"I looked at T-1," Yelchin continued, "and I broke it down and saw who this guy was and the most interesting thing is to see where this guy came from. So I think what you see in this film is the development of this guy becoming a hero and seeing that he had the same aspects as a young man. He was still down to fight for what he thought was right. He'd still fight for the human race. You can see that the environment he's growing up in is just hellish, but what you see in this environment is a guy of such pure spirit."
One con-goer expressed concern over the varied version of the Terminator mythology seen between the three existing films and the current "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" series airing on Fox and how the filmmakers intended to handle that. "Our approach has always been that of what Chris Nolan did with the Batman movies," McG said. "I don't think that Chris or anyone involved in that picture would characterize 'Batman Begins' as 'Batman 5.' We're going to honor the mythology, we're going to begin again and it's certainly going to be the story that you're most familiar with, but in the spirit of time travel and in no-fate-but-what-you-make you can take a little bit of license here and there to tell the most compelling story possible."
McG said of "Terminator: Salvation," "The first two movies read as science fiction movies and science fiction is over. We're living in a world where we're cloning sheep, we're all texting on our Blackberrys and it will spell-check you as your type. If you've got a bad shoulder, we'll give you a mechanical one and if you're feeling depressed, nobody wants to talk to you about your mom and your dad, they just want to manipulate you with your serotonin and L-dopamine levels. That future is here now and it's all in the spirit of advancement. I always talk about the picture as a Prometheus tale that be careful when you create life because the life that you create might come back and bite you in the ass."
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