Few films have ever had such a good ambassador for their cause as Terminator: Salvation’s McG. Last night at Vue West End in London, he introduced an audience of journos to a world premiere of six minutes of clips from the movie (yes, there was more on show here than there was at the San Diego Comic Con), but to bonest, his enthusiasm and passion for the film was probably more likely to win over a sceptical audience than the on-screen visual wonders.
Because as awesome as the clips were (even if many of the shots showed blue screens, wires and animatics, it still looked incredible) this was basically an extended trailer. And trailers are designed to impress. Hell, even Alien Versus Predator: Requiem looked half decent in the trailer. Shots of mammoth terminators, apocalyptic landscapes, jaw dropping stunts and Christian Bale giving a performance of mmesmerising intensity are sure to be crowd pleasers, but these things cannot make a movie a success on their own. The story, the direction, the ideas and the direction will be the vital elements.
So instead it was what McG had to say that makes us more hopeful that Terminator 4 will indeed be the salvation of the franchise after Carry On Terminator: Rise of the Machines with Arnie in porn sunglasses making "Talk to the hand” gags.
McG is clearly self aware, making light of his gimmicky name and admitting that it made him seem a less than serious contender for a Terminator director (“What – they’ve got some rapper to do the movie?”). If anything, this seems to have made him more determined to champion the film and let people know he’s deadly serious in his intentions and aspirations. The list of influences he mentions are a tick list of fanboys’ faves: Mad Max, Children of Men, Alien and Aliens. He makes sure we know that he knows his Terminator history, mentioning obscure bits of trivia from previous films that will be homaged in his movie. Salvation will be a dirty, grimy future, he assures us, knowing that’s what we want to hear.
If anything, it sounds as if T4 will be an Aliens to the first two films’ Alien. Instead of giving us more of the same – Terminators from the future travelling back to the present – it changes the genre. Just as Aliens was more a war film than a horror film, so too will Terminator: Salvation be a war film, set in an alternate future where the resistance is fighting against the power of the robots.
Of course, the road to cinematic hell is paved with good intentions. Just because McG is making the right sounds doesn’t mean his vision will necessarily translate into big screen gold. But at least the will is there. And the clips certainly back up much of what he says – there are moments when it really does look like a new version of Mad Max 2, and the visual style suggests a much harder edge and visual flair than its predecessor.
If nothing else, the new hydrobots look very, very cool; the slight hints at what the plot may be about (and we're not going to spoil those here) suggest that this will be more than a mere string of setpieces; and, Hell, even the boot that crushed the skull (a shot that has to be in every Terminator movie) looks meaner than ever.
One thing we can say though (because it’s an anti-spoiler): McG categorically denied a story on Ain’t It Cool News that John Connor would turn out to be a robot. “We did think about it,” he admitted, saying that he'd gone off the idea and hinting that Christian Bale would never have taken the role if that had been his character arc.
Oh, and there was a full-sized (between seven and eight feet at a guess), animatronic T-600 in attendance too. He was nodding along sagely at what McG had to say, and we wouldn't want to argue with him.
So, bottom line: SFX is cautiously optimistic.