The Future Began in earnest today, as Terminator: Salvation, as director McG brought the cast (with the notable exception of Christian Bale, who was off on Dark Knight promotional duties) along to make the case for the fourth installment of the killer cyborg franchise. They did it so well that come the end of the panel, the whole of Hall H was whooping and hollering in anticipation for the movie's release next May.
For anyone who was sceptical about the wisdom of returning to the movie series that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star, today's presentation was a spectacular case for the defence. McG, the Charlie's Angels director who was anything but the obvious choice for the directing gig, made all the right moves, explaining how the movie would look at things "post-judgement day, that the previous movies had only teased", that he'd had conversations with both James Cameron and Arnie, the reasons behind the hiring of Christian Bale to play saviour-of-mankind John Connor in the 2018-set movie ("I wanted to protect the movie by having the finest actor of his generation"), that Dark Knight co-writer Jonah Nolan has taken a pass at the script, and that he intends to dedicate the movie to the memory of the late Stan Winston. He also countered the controversy that the movie will be a PG-13 by saying it's as-yet undecided, and that the studio has given him latitude to make the movie he wants to make - "if it's an R-rated picture, it's an R-rated picture."
But the pictures we were treated to spoke much more than a thousand words. While last week's teaser trailer provided just the tiniest glimpse of a world ravaged by that naughty Skynet, the Comic-Con footage revealed the makings of a must-see movie. It opened with Bale (looking every bit the supersoldier) answering a call on the radio. "How many survivors are there?" "None," he replies. "None!" Then we saw a future wasteland, shot through with a washed-out look appropriate for the end of the world, the young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) uttering the words "come with me if you want to live", some talk of alternative timelines and some Mad Max-style DIY fighting machines. Aside from the new robots - the seven-foot T-600s (the ones with rubber skin, apparently) and "harvesters", essentially giant grab-machines - the biggest talking point was mysterious new character Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, who's just worked with Cameron on Avatar). It looks unlikely that he's a goodie - from his arrival, and his demands to know when and where he is, it's apparent there's more to him than meets the eye. In particular, the fact that John Connor shouts at him, "You tried to kill my mother, you tried to kill my father," suggests something's amiss, particularly as these accusations are true of Arnie's original Terminator... What can it all mean?
Whatever the answer, there's plenty to debate before the proper trailer appears, probably attached to Quantum of Solace. You can now list us among the converted: Terminator Salvation is now right up there with Watchmen at the top of our list of things we want to see.