The struggle between humans and machines becomes all-out war in a sci-fi action-drama that connects with characters and events first introduced to film audiences 25 years ago. Here's a look at the new film Terminator Salvation.
A wreckage-strewn post-apocalyptic landscape of crumbled skyscrapers spreads out over the world. Machines originally designed by humans have rebuilt themselves into a force - Skynet - that dominates the planet; but here and there rebels continue to battle for survival.
In the first film of the series, 1984's "Terminator," a robot assassin traveled back in time with the mission to kill Sarah Connor before she could give birth to John Connor who, if he survived, would grow up to lead the resistance. In 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Connor escapes again with the original robot an unexpected ally. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003 finds Connor still fighting to stay alive as the resistance begins. In this latest film he is in the thick of battle and Terminator Salvation director McG feels it is important that all of the stories are connected.
"There have been three great movies that talked about present-day environments with Terminators coming back in time," he notes. "This picture takes place in the future after Judgment Day and that is the primary defining characteristic of why we felt it was worthwhile to move forward. So we wanted to honor the mythology of the earlier pictures, but we wanted to begin again with a different look and a different feel because the bombs had gone off. We did a lot of research regarding what a world would look like and we created a film stock to try to reflect. In a great many ways that was liberating to tell the story we wanted to tell."
Welsh-born Christian Bale brings his customary intensity to John Connor; but he also recognizes that audiences for a Terminator picture are not necessarily there for the characters.
"You're an idiot if you don't recognize what the bigger picture is," Bale says. "People want to see great action. They want to see the machines and, all right, if the people [in the movie] wind up being interesting enough, that's good; but it's not like we're making a little character analysis piece which people can sit watching at home by themselves. This is a movie made for watching with hundreds of other people."
Australian actor Sam Worthington co-stars as Marcus, an early hybrid combining man and machine: a character that could pose a deadly threat to the human resistance or could be their salvation.
"You have a movie that is primarily an action movie with a lot of explosions and big special effects and the hardest thing I found was trying to bring a sense of weight and emotional core and not be melodramatic," Worthington explains. "That's what I found challenging: to try to keep a sense of actual character within all the bells and whistles."
Anton Yelchin plays young Kyle Reece who fans of the Terminator series know will go back in time and become hero John Connor's father. The Russian-born American actor admits he is one of those fans.
"Yeah, it was incredible to find myself on a movie where we were blowing cars 100 feet in the air and there were Terminators that I had action figures of 15 years ago when I was obsessed with it," he says. "It was incredible and touching; but at the same time there is a particular challenge for the work that I love. So I came to this thinking 'this is great, a lot of fun, but there is also so much work to do.' That was and always will be the focus for me."
Director McG gives the audience eye-popping visual effects and ear-shattering sound; but he hopes Terminator Salvation works on several levels.
"The film works on a very visceral level of bringing a lot of visual effects and explosiveness and fun because that's what you want from a Terminator movie," McG explains. "You don't necessarily want a graduate class, but it will have that much more resonance if there is indeed theme …and we have theme of the burden of destiny for the Connor character and we have theme of what is it that makes us human in the Marcus character. Yes, we want to bring the explosiveness and the fun, but I think if you look closer there's some more meat on the bones."
Terminator Salvation also features Bryce Dallas Howard as John Connor's pregnant wife; Moon Bloodgood plays a loyal soldier who believes the Marcus character can help, not hurt the resistance; and a digitized version of actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appearance as the original Terminator.