Terminator Salvation is a 2009 American science fiction action film directed by McG and starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington. It is the fourth installment in the Terminator series. In a departure from the previous installments, which were set between 1984 and 2004 and used time travel as a key plot element, Salvation is set in 2018 and focuses on the war between Skynet and humanity, with the human Resistance fighting against Skynet’s killing machines. Bale portrays John Connor, a Resistance fighter and the franchise’s central character, while Worthington portrays cyborg Marcus Wright. Terminator Salvation also features Anton Yelchin as a young Kyle Reese, a character first introduced in The Terminator, and depicts the origin of the T-800 Model 101 Terminator.
After a troubled pre-production, with The Halcyon Company acquiring the rights for the franchise from Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar and several writers working on the screenplay, filming began in May 2008 in New Mexico and ran for 77 days. Terminator Salvation was released on May 21, 2009 in the United States and Canada, followed by early June releases in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Warner Bros. handled the North America release and Columbia Pictures the international one. The film grossed over $371 million worldwide, but received negative reviews which criticized the story and the absence of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was replaced by a digital computer graphics version.
In 2003, Doctor Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) of Cyberdyne Systems convinces death row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) to sign his body over for medical research following his execution. One year later the Skynet system is activated, perceives humans as a threat and eradicates much of humanity in the “Judgment Day” event (depicted in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines).
In 2018, John Connor (Christian Bale) leads a Resistance attack on a Skynet base. John discovers human prisoners and schematics for a new type of Terminator, incorporating living tissue. He is the only survivor of the assault after the base is destroyed in a nuclear explosion. Much later, though, Marcus emerges from the base’s wreckage and starts walking towards Los Angeles.
John returns to Resistance headquarters, located aboard a nuclear submarine, and tells General Ashdown (Michael Ironside) of his findings. Meanwhile, the Resistance has discovered a radio signal believed to send an order to shut down Skynet machines. They plan to launch an offensive against the Skynet base in San Francisco in four days, in response to an intercepted “kill list” created by Skynet with a plan to kill the Resistance’s command staff. John learns he is second on the list, following Kyle Reese. The Resistance leaders are unaware of Kyle’s importance, but John knows Kyle will eventually go back in time and become his father (The Terminator). John meets with his wife Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard) and second in command Barnes (Common). He transmits a radio broadcast to Resistance members and surviving civilians around the world.
Arriving in the ruins of Los Angeles, Marcus is saved from a T-600 Terminator by Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and the mute child Star (Jadagrace Berry). Kyle updates Marcus about the war between humans and Skynet. Hearing John’s radio broadcast, the three leave in search of the Resistance. They survive an attack at a gas station, but Kyle, Star, and several other humans are taken prisoner.
Two Resistance A-10 airplanes are shot down when they try to intercept the machine transport and its escorts. Marcus locates downed pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) and they make their way to John’s base, where Marcus is wounded by a magnetic land mine. Attempting to save his life, the Resistance fighters discover that he is a cyborg, with a mechanical endoskeleton and a partially artificial cerebral cortex. Marcus believes himself to be human, but John thinks that Marcus has been sent to kill him, and orders his destruction. However, Blair helps Marcus escape. During the pursuit, Marcus saves John’s life from Skynet hydrobots, and the two make a bargain: Marcus will enter Skynet’s headquarters and attempt to help John rescue Kyle and the other prisoners.
John pleads with Ashdown to delay the attack, but Ashdown refuses and relieves John of his command. However, the Resistance forces disobey Ashdown’s orders and await John’s signal. Marcus enters the base, interfaces with the computer, and disables the perimeter defenses so that John can infiltrate the cell block and release the human prisoners. Marcus discovers that he was created by Skynet in order to lure John to the base; when the Resistance launches its attack, John will be killed, achieving the goal that Skynet had failed to accomplish so many times. The radio signal that the Resistance’s plan depends on is a ruse, and Skynet uses the signal to track down and destroy the command submarine with the Resistance leaders aboard.
Marcus tears out the hardware linking him to Skynet and assists John in battling a new T-800 model 101 Terminator. John is mortally wounded during the fight, but succeeds in destroying the Skynet base by rigging several Terminator fuel cells to explode, detonating them as he, Marcus, Kyle, and Star are airlifted out. Kate attempts to save John’s life, but his heart is too badly damaged. Marcus offers his own heart for transplant, sacrificing himself to save John. Recovering, John radios to the other Resistance fighters that though this battle has been won, the war is far from over.
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