Promising to "knock your fuckin' balls up your ass," director McG unveiled the world premiere of a new trailer for "Terminator: Salvation" this past Saturday at WonderCon in San Francisco.
Slated to run before "Watchmen" when it lands in theaters March 6, the new trailer is set to music from "The Day the World Went Away" by Nine Inch Nails and incited a filled-to-capacity room to thundering cheers.
The trailer introduces a character named Marcus Wright, who appears to be either fully or mostly a machine but who claims to believe himself a human. A running character issue in the film will be how the John Connor character relates to this person, who asks for his trust and offers help rescuing another character from Skynet, the computer intelligence that has declared war on mankind in the world of the story.
McG was joined on stage for the panel by actors Common, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood and Anton Yelchin. Christian Bale, who stars in the film as John Connor, was notably absent.
"I accepted early on that a fourth 'Terminator' didn't seem natural," McG said, describing the origins of the film. "But I went to Jim Cameron and he said to me, 'Why does this film have to be made?'
"I said, 'Everything you've done has been present day, and the machines come back to get John Connor. What I want to do is show what happens after Judgment Day, sort of look at the becoming of John Connor.'"
McG said Cameron was receptive but refused to give the project his blessing on the spot. So his next step was to go after Christian Bale.
"So I got a script, I didn't like it that much but I knew I needed to get Bale on board. I met with him in England and he told me to fuck right off, he didn't like the script."
McG said he took that as a sign to get someone else to work on the script, which he did, tweaking it until it finally attracted Bale's interest.
"We really wanted to respect the heritage of the earlier films, so we reached out to Stan Winston," who worked on earlier movies in the series and died in June, 2008.
"He was present for every step of the film until then, so I'd like to dedicate this film to the memory of Stan Winston," McG said.
"It might be too lofty to say we're gonna do what Nolan did with Batman, or what Daniel Craig did with James Bond, but that's the idea we're going after," McG said. "A great idea had lost its way."
The comment was one of several subtle digs at "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," which was largely reviled by critics and fans of the series.
"It's an honor to be part of this," said Anton Telchin, who plays Kyle Reese. "It honors the legacy of those first two movies."
Several actors and McG said the new film returns a focus on the characters, that the action is important but the driving force of the film will be its story and the people in it.
"One of our big themes is asking, where does humanity lie?" McG said. "If you have an artificial hip, or an artificial heart, you're still human, right? Well, where does that line end up being drawn? We're flirting with the point now to where it's not necessarily science fiction anymore. It's a real issue and part of what this film does is explore that question."
Actor-rapper Common, who plays a soldier providing spiritual backup to the John Connor character, answered a question about the social, economic and political context in which the film is being released. With President Barack Obama elected on a campaign of hope and the country in turmoil, Common said the film's cast represents "where we are in America.
"The film became more than just an action movie; it added layers of humanity to it," Common said. "We're in a place in America where we're starting to look past racial barriers, sexual preferences, religious backgrounds. And in the movie, it's a physical fight but also a spiritual fight. It's all of us against the machines."
McG concurred, but said the ethnic diversity of the cast was not an issue the film would hammer on too hard.
He also told the crowd he'd filmed a topless scene with Moon Bloodgood, who plays a Sarah Connor-like character, and that producers were telling him not to include it in the film. He took a poll from the audience.
"Who does not want to see Moon's boobs in the picture?" he said. A small group of people in the back of the room cheered.
"Who does?" he said, to which the crowd of course howled and hooted.
The movie will also feature hydroterminators, eel-like killers that look like they could have been in any of the "Matrix" movies, giant harvester robots that collect people "for ripping out their stem cells to perfect the look of the T-800 Terminator," and could feature a Swedish-looking body builder type as the machines perfect their infiltrator robots, McG said. He did not answer specifically whether that was a hint that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be in the film.
Before opening the panel for audience questions, the moderator asked McG about the recent furor over an audio tape of Bale shouting and swearing at the film's director of photography.
McG paused and looked at the moderator.
"What's so fuckin' hard to understand?" he said.
When the resulting laughter died down, McG promised to return to the issue after running a clip of the film, but nobody in the audience asked a single question about the tape or the tirade.