Sparks fly from the ceiling, steam rises from the floor, and balls of fire launch into the air as an assembly line of T-800 endoskeletons move along a conveyor track above my head. I’m standing in a factory where Skynet manufactures Terminators. John Connor falls to the wet pavement, dirty, bruised and beaten. He lifts a big ass gun into the air and fires. A large explosion comes from the factory’s second floor. But whatever John hit, its still coming. John pulls himself along the ground, unable to get himself to his feet. Not that his feet would help at this point, as he appears fairly injured. He grabs for a smaller gun and shoots. A cloud of liquid nitrogen steam fills the air as Connor collapses.
I’m on the set of Terminator Salvation. Someone from behind a bunch of monitors behind me yells “I LOVE THIS SHOT!!!!!” That is Director McG, who runs past us to give Christian Bale direction. I’m too far away to hear the exact conversation, and there are a few dozen crew members around me, each doing their part to create the first of a planned new Terminator trilogy. We’re not actually in the post apocalyptic future, we’re actually in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not that there is much of a difference. The barren desert seems like the perfect setting for the end of the world.
I’ll be completely honest with you guys. I had originally intended to write up my set report in a detailed Entertainment Weekly-like on set report. Regular readers to the site have noticed that I’ve been doing a series of video blogs with my friend and colleague Frosty from Collider. We’ve gotten such a great response from them that we’ve started to record video blogs on some of the various sets we’ve been lucky enough to visit (none of which I’m allowed to mention right now). Our visit to New Mexico took place last July, before the video blogs became popular, so we’ve decided to record a video blog talking about our visit to the set of Terminator Salvation after the fact, and nearly a year later. You have to understand that perception of this film was a lot different back then. No one in the world had faith in McG, and no one wanted to see another Terminator film, especially after the third movie. Our experiences on set changed our opinions of what this movie is and could be, and I’m sure you’ve seen that in my enthusiastic coverage of the film over the last year.
You can watch part 1 and part 2 of the video below. Here’s some of the things we talked about:
· What set visits are really like
· Shooting in New Mexico
· Where we went in Albuquerque and an overview of what we saw
· The war room and production design central
· The different sets ranging from the 7/11 to a Terminator Factory
· Conner’s headquarters
· The T-100’s and the other models
· The Silo interrogation scene
· Stan Winston’s truck
· McG’s airstream trailer
· Seeing footage on set
· Interviews with the cast
· Watching Christian Bale fight a Terminator
· What we thought after being there
However, since a lot of you won’t have the time to watch the entire conversation, we’re also offering it as a streaming or downloadable audio file so you could listen on your computer or an iPod.
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[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/terminatorsetvisit2.flv 400 300]
Albuquerque Studios is the newest movie studio in the country. New Mexico’s tax benefits are attracting a lot of new Hollywood productions. Frank Miller’s The Spirit shot on two of the studio’s stages. Terminator Salvation has taken over all eight stages. I arrived to the studio with a group of web journalists. Before we got to see anything, or go anywhere, we first had to check in at the production office. It probably comes as no surprise that McG’s parking space is right in front of the office doors. We sign in and receive lenticular badges which feature a 3D endoskeleton and the code name “Project Angel”. This code name not only serves as the production’s undercover title, but it is also a major plot point in the actual film.
Upstairs concept paintings hang from the walls, showing us robot creations from the original Terminator, and a dozen new designs that appear in Terminator Salvation. It is explained that the Production Designer Martin Laing is the one who comes up with the conceptual designs, and from there he works with Stan Winston’s company to actually build practical props. Photo below thanks to TerminatorFiles.
Everyone is familiar with the T-800, which is the Terminator model that was played by Arnold in the original films. This film takes place only 11 years after the apocalypse. Remember in the first Terminator film where Kyle Reese explains to Sarah Connor that there were robots which were easily identifiable by the resistance?
“They had plastic skin, that’s our T-600 right there.”
He points to a concept drawing of a bigger clunkier version of the endoskeleton Terminator that we’re all use to. The T-600 has a plastic head, imagine a Halloween mask covering his metal skull. He looks almost like a robotic Frankenstein with red glowing eyes.
“He’s about 7’3’’, but to someone like me he looks like he’s eight feet tall,” he explains. “His plastic head deteriorates when he is left outside in the sun. He’s all robot, all killer, all Terminator, but he’s a clunker, more zombie like motion and movements. But definitely a killing machine, and very hard to stop.”
We’re also shown concept drawings of a T-700, which is kind of the in between model.
“The T-700 predates the T-800 just slightly. He’s a little bit more elongated.“
What Martin and the guys did was try to create a look and feel that differentiates from the shinny chrome look that we all know from Terminator.
“It’s a more gritty, dirty, darker kind of universe. So the metals that are used and the rust and the darkness helps convey, identify and separate these Terminators from what we’ve all seen before.”
Another new Terminator in the line-up is the Hydrobot, which looks very Matrix inspired. Imagine if the tentacles from the Sentinels were autonomous snake like robots that can fly through air or water.
The Aerostat is another new bot, a drone that searches the land for human life. When it finds survivors, it contacts that Harvester which then snaps them up. The human survivors are then brought to the Transporter, where they are flown from point A to point B to be harvested like cattle. We’re shown a wall filled with a couple dozen concept drawings of The Harvester, some which look very Transformerish, and others that look more like a massive T-100.
“In scale, it is a 60-70 foot tall robot that is quite mobile, but when there is a chase scene in the film which the Harvester can’t keep up with, he can send out the Modo-Terminator.”
The Modo-Terminator is a highly modified version of a Ducati motorcycle. Again the look and style appears to borrow from The Matrix films. The autonomous bikes are sent out to go after Human survivors when the Harvester can’t keep up. Interestingly enough, if you look closely at the Modo-Terminator, you can see parts and pieces which are also used in the T-600 and T-700 Endoskeletons, giving all the bots a bit of consistency.
The T-100 from the third film is also featured in the new movie, but its not a slick looking. It’s a bit more sinister looking.
“We’ve changed the facial feature of it, you can see the red eyes kind of slanted.”
Later while we are walking through the soundstages, we came face to face with a few T-100s. They look like fully functional heavy duty robots, complete with dirt wear to give the impression that they’ve seen a lot of action.
“The T-100’s at the factory were never used. These guys are active and they are currently out there battling the resistance.”
The shocking thing is that they don’t appear all that futuristic. I can imagine such a bot (without the guns) trolling around a construction site. Another returning design is the Hunter Killer.
We’ll be running our on set interviews with McG, Anton Yelchin, Sam Worthington and Moon Bloodgood over the next few days. Keep checking back.