Terminator Salvation: The Long Awaited Sequel Comes to Life

“Terminator Salvation,” directed by McG and starring Christian Bale, is being released May 21, 2009 by Warner Bros.

The human drama at the heart of “Terminator Salvation” unfolds against a bomb-blasted post-apocalyptic America in the aftermath of Judgment Day. 

“We’re telling the story of the world after Judgment Day,” says McG.  “This is the story of the becoming of John Connor, the becoming of Kyle Reese, the strengthening of Skynet, and where our humanity ultimately lies.  This is the moment when mankind takes a stand against the machines.”

In bringing the long-promised “Terminator” future to life, McG wanted to create a vision that was no less real.  “I didn’t want to shoot actors against green screens; I wanted them reacting to physical Terminators,” the director says.  “I wanted the desolate American West—an expanse that suggests a world of hardship, so you could taste it and feel it.  Because the bombs have gone off and damaged the ozone, the sky’s a bit of a different color.  Earth has a different quality, and you immediately realize something is wrong.”

Producer Derek Anderson, who along with his partner at Halcyon Company, Victor Kubicek, owns the “Terminator” rights, recalls “When we met with McG, his vision was so close to what we’d seen in our minds’ eyes.”

“It was undeniable that he was the right director for this picture, with so much ability, and enthusiasm and passion for the story,” echoes Kubicek.  “We really knew that he would bring it home.”
McG directed “Terminator Salvation” after having been a fan of the film series for most of his life.  “The Terminator,” written and directed by James Cameron, was released in 1984 and introduced the world to the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 T-800, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The T-800 is sent back in time by its artificial intelligence creator, Skynet, to stop the future leader of the Resistance from ever being born.  But this leader also sends back a human soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and, ultimately, father a child with her—a child who will grow up to become Skynet’s greatest foe. 

“One thing you learn about the Terminator in the first film is that it’s this unstoppable beast that just keeps coming,” says McG, “a machine that will just pursue its prey to the end; even when it’s been blown apart, it will not stop until you are dead.”

Cameron’s follow-up, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” released in 1991, became a global box office phenomenon.  The story picks up after Sarah Connor has been institutionalized and Sarah’s now-teenaged son, John Connor (Edward Furlong), must defend himself against a sophisticated T-1000 Terminator (Robert Patrick), which Skynet has sent back in time to assassinate him.  But the future-Connor sends back a reprogrammed T-800 (Schwarzenegger) to protect his younger self.  Together, Sarah, John and their new ally attempt to outrun the T-1000 and stop Judgment Day from happening. 

“I was 17, just arriving in the States, when ‘T2’ came out,” says Christian Bale, who takes on the role of John Connor in “Terminator Salvation.” “Just the excitement in the theater—I’ve never known anything like that.  You couldn’t hear a thing throughout the movie because everyone was just screaming.”
Director Jonathan Mostow closed the first trilogy in 2003 with “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” in which the terrible event Connor (Nick Stahl) and his mother spent their lives trying to prevent—Judgment Day—rains nuclear war across the world at Skynet’s command.
“Terminator 3” was co-written by John Brancato & Michael Ferris, who returned to the franchise to write the screenplay for “Terminator Salvation.”  Brancato offers, “Since we ended the original ‘Terminator’ trilogy by destroying the world, we knew we couldn’t go back to the well of time-traveling Terminators.  The new film had to be about what happens after the bombs fell.”

Ferris adds, “We wanted to write about the long-predicted battle between men and machines, which also gave us an opportunity to change the overall tone of the franchise.  The earlier movies unfolded in a familiar, contemporary world; this film is a war movie, set in a darker, post-apocalyptic future.”
“Terminator Salvation” takes place in 2018, 14 years after the nuclear attack that ended the previous “Terminator” trilogy.  Producer Moritz Borman, who also served as an executive producer on “Terminator 3,” remarks, “From the start, we made a conscious decision that just as the previous films had been set in the timeframe we know today, ‘Terminator Salvation’ would begin to reveal the future that had only been glimpsed in the earlier movies.  So we’re jumping to the time when Kyle Reese is still a teenager and they have not yet discovered what we know comes next, mainly the time travel that set the story in motion.  In this film, we are finally in the midst of the war that was forewarned, and we can watch Connor’s rise to become the head of the resistance.”

In “Terminator Salvation,” Bale says, “Skynet is dominant but still in a state of evolution.  Humans are definitely on the out.  Their backs are against the wall and their circumstances are desperate.  This is the last, final effort for the survival of mankind.”

“Everything is difficult for humans now,” McG attests.  “It’s difficult to get food, difficult to get energy.  Everything is depleted.  And you’re always being hunted.”

Nevertheless, Borman states, “There has to be hope for humanity.  There has to be something in the way that they live that shows they believe there will be a future after the machines, that the world might rise again out of the ashes.  And their hope is, of course, pinned to John Connor.”