COMICON 2008: 'Terminator 4' Panel

(Regular DHD readers know I don’t do geek. But frequent LA Weekly film reviewer and comic book expert Luke Y Thompson does. He spends all year waiting for Comic-Con and this time he’s covering it for me. Here’s his latest report.) 

With Christian Bale away in Japan to promote THE DARK KNIGHT, the spotlight at Comic-Con’s TERMINATOR SALVATION panel was stolen by a fan with a dead-on Arnold impersonation, who cracked up director McG so much that he invited the guy instage. “That was awesome, and if you’re Asian, that was fuckin’ unbelievable!” he said to the fan, a fellow named Tim who has a job in tech support. Flanked onstage by a seven-foot robot endoskeleton from the upcoming movie, McG introduced cast members including rapper Common, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard (following in Claire Danes’ footsteps as Kate Connor), Anton Yelchin (playing a younger version of Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese; kid’s got the prequels cornered, also playing young Chekov in STAR TREK), and Sam Worthington.

Considering his press-shy reputation, McG seemed very comfortable with public speaking. He got the crowd up by calling Bale’s voicemail and getting the entire crowd to cheer as loudly as they could so the star would hear it.

McG consulted James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger prior to production, and hired the late Stan Winston to create new robots, some of which are apparently quite huge. He promises that the movie won’t be cut solely to get a PG-13: “We put the picture first at all times; if it’s rated R, it’s rated R.”

If you were fearing that McG could only make CHARLIE’S ANGELS movies, worry not — the clips looked nothing like it. But they also don’t quite look like Terminator, not yet anyway. But the giant robots have yet to be added. With its armored trucks and car chases, it most resembles a new MAD MAX. So far. It’s shot in that THREE KINGS style of processing color film with extra silver as if it were black and white, leading to a bleached-out look, far from the dark blues favored by James Cameron.

Howard demonstrated the concept of fate at the heart of the movie by picking up her cup, saying that if she drops it, its destiny is to hit the table, right? But then she drops the cup — and catches it with the other hand before it can hit the wood. That’s how you can use free will to beat fate. Asked to describe the theme of the movie, McG says “be careful when you create life, because the life you make might come back to bite you on the ass.”  (Bad experience with toddlers, McG?)

Yelchin on playing Reese: “Michael Biehn in Terminator 1 is fucking awesome, so the whole thing is to see how he became so awesome so that Linda Hamilton would sleep with him.” Good to have goals.

McG studied images of Chernobyl to imagine his future post-nukescape, and describes the rusty, early-model Terminators as being like Soviet tanks. The effects guys phrase it differently, saying of the T-600 model, “It’s that Toyota sitting out in the backyard for 6 years, but it still runs.” In an odd atempt at making some kind of social statement, McG took great pains to point out that his future is non-sexist, non-racist, and non-ageist. All types of people work together in the resistance. “And if the world would get its head out of its ass, we wouldn’t have to wait for a nuclear holocaust for that to happen!” he vehemently exclaimed.

Whatever, dude. Just don’t screw up the robots.

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