Terminator Salvation is the fourth film in the Terminator franchise. It was directed by McG.The film takes place during the war with the machines and shares no ties to The Sarah Connor Chronicles; while it references both Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, it keeps those references vague. (The first film holds more importance to Salvation's central themes than the other two films.) Salvation forgoes the idea of time travel in favor of a sci-fi war slant on the franchise.While John Connor has become a highly respected officer within the human resistance movement, he has not yet risen to the role of leader, as several prominent faction leaders question the claims that he will become the savior of mankind. John sets out to end the war as fast as possible (and locate a young Kyle Reese), but his quest reveals an awful truth: the Stable Time Loop has begun to break apart. SkyNet's forces have shown sophistication and progress far ahead of schedule, and numerous other changes Connor never accounted for have thrown humanity's inevitable victory into question. One of these anomalies comes in the form of Marcus Wright, a criminal who reportedly died before the war began, but turned up on his own in the present. Wright's role in the movie works as an inverse of the series' central time-travel mechanic: rather than entering the past from the future, he comes from the past into the future.
This film provides examples of:
Arrow Cam: The first thing the audience sees after the introduction credits is a cruise missile on its merry way to Skynet's Research and Development Facility.
Artificial Stupidity: The T-600 that chases Kyle and Marcus in the devastated city of Los Angeles, instead of shooting the pulley that is supporting the rope that pulled it up in a classic trap, shoots off its foot to keep chasing them.
Artistic License - Medicine: A heart transplant performed in an open field, presumably with the attendant breezes and airborne contaminants.
Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: All over the place with the Resistance. John is a very good visual example of this, as he's primarily seen wearing a Alpha Industries B3 Bomber Jacket that has been modified for his usage, with a less shearling lining the inside of the coat, and a shaved collar and fittings. He also wears a pair of Vietnam War Era tiger stripe camo pants, with removable kneepad holders sewn in. Later in the movie, He mix and matches a M65 field jacket with a pair of Crye Precision Black AC Trousers, which are used by various militaries all over the world.
Badass and Child Duo: Kyle and Star, who were surviving on their own for quite some time when Marcus ran into them.
Benevolent Architecture: There's a base built by an evil AI, who thoughtfully filled it with human-accessible control panels, walkways, doors, and computer monitors. Sort of an inversion of the trope, in that the place should require an inhuman shape/size and abilities to get around in, but doesn't. Maybe it's because of all the Ridiculously Human Robots, but still mighty convenient for humans despite the obvious remodeling.
Big NO: Marcus when he finds out he's a Terminator.
Bittersweet Ending: John survives the T-800's assault, and the Resistance destroys one of Skynet's major hubs, but many of the upper Resistance leaders have been killed by Skynet and Marcus sacrifices himself so that John could receive the former's heart via transplant.
Broad Strokes: What Salvation does in regards to T3 in order to fix that movie's various flubs with the timeline. Salvation implicitly Broad StrokesT2 just by not mentioning anything in it. Further, in Salvation, Sarah Connor (on tape) and John Connor both talk and act as if they believe Connor needs to keep Reese alive and send him back in time to close the loop, even though it's been established in T2 and T3 that Time Travel doesn't work like that.
Terry Crews appears as a corpse John briefly sees while escaping the Skynet R&D facility at the beginning. He was originally planned to have a short conversation with Connor at the beginning of the film, but this was cut for pacing issues.
The Resistance as a whole. Who else would use armour-piercing ammo and superior firepower in numbers against the Terminators, and put magnetic landmines with enough explosives to split a T1 around their base?
John takes the cake with his, having previous experience with Terminators in the past, before Judgment Day.
Continuity Nod: Besides the Mythology Gags below, Salvation reminds us of the fuel sources of Terminators (introduced in T3). This is a gag on its own, since the fuel cells are for the T-850 model and NOT the T-800 featured in Salvation on the first place.
The world is in the grips of nuclear winter after the bombs went off. There's pretty much no ozone layer and hideous amounts of UV gets through unfiltered.
Residual fallout is everywhere with the accompanying radiation hotspots. Lots of red moss, dark green or black foilage, and dead vegetation everywhere.
The pulverized and rusting remains of the cities are perpetually smoldering and smoke-and-dust-filled messes.
2/3rds of the world's population is dead and the rest are dying from gang/militia-related violence, being attacked by Terminators on patrol, starvation or dehydration, radiation poisoning, or being marched off to Skynet's death camps.
Lakes, rivers and oceans are filled with nasty swarms of Hydrobots and other Skynet nasties.
The skies are filled with Aerostats, HK Aerials and Transporters.
At any given moment of the day, a Harvester could detect you hiding and proceed to wreck your hideout to snatch you and others up for transportation to a Skynet Death Camp.
The Resistance is fighting a losing war against Skynet and its seemingly endless legions of Terminators. And to top it off, Skynet is constantly refining its methods and creating newer ways to fuck with Humans.
Downer Ending: Would have happened if the original ending had been kept. John actually dies from his injuries in the Skynet base, but the Resistance skins him and puts it on Marcus's body so that the Resistance won't lose hope. Since it didn't, it's bittersweet instead; Marcus dies when he gives his heart in order to save John.
Earth Is a Battlefield: The trope is made particularly clear, with a radio message being received by sparse resistance fighters across the entire planet.
Every Helicopter Is A Huey: Despite being set in a Used Future the Resistance appears to have no problem getting hold of multiple combat-ready Hueys. It does help that a huge chunk of the Resistance is made from the remnants of the US Military.note Though the UH-1 and derivatives have long since been replaced by the UH-60 Blackhawk, and the number of Hueys in US military service has dwindled rapidly
Evil Gloating: Near the end, Skynet can't help but explain the genius of its master plan to one of its unwitting pawns and smugly gloat how it has used him for its own purposes and tells him to accept his newfound nature.
Exty Years from Now: Released in 2009 - set in 2018. Inverted in that the opening scenes are set in 2003.
Fake Shemp: Through the magic of CGI combined with a mold from The Eighties, Arnold appears in Salvation, and he hasn't aged a day in 25 years.
A Father to His Men: General Dmitri Losenko. Combined with Reasonable Authority Figure. In the novel Terminator Salvation: Cold War, he treats the men and women under his command as his family and works hard to ensure their survival, after the bombs went off. This contrasts to his commanding officer, General Hugh Ashdown; who is a hard-ass not known for being the compromising type.
Focus Group Ending: The film originally ended with John Connor dying, and his corpse was skinned and placed over Marcus so that Marcus would impersonate him from then on. Test audiences hated it. The "heart transplant" ending saving his life was a quickly filmed Author's Saving Throw re-shot to change the ending into one that audiences would accept.
A Form You Are Comfortable With: SkyNet take the form of Dr. Serena when she debriefs Marcus in his role as her Unwitting Pawn. To add extra creepiness to the "kindness", she offers to switch her appearance into that of John Connor or Kyle Reese. Needless to say, this was not a successful persuasive tool. Oh, and her eyes turned red like a Terminator's do.
Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: The deleted topless scene is a subversion. Blair removes her bra under the rain and covers herself to look if Marcus is eyeing her. He is not, and she turns towards him, like wanting to see his reaction. They look at each other for a moment, and then the two slowly turn away. According to Word of God, this scene represents their desire to be close to each other despite their barriers. We later see that Blair comes close to Marcus and he wonders if he ''deserves'' it, given his past.
Headbutt of Love: Marcus gives a brief one to Blair before carry her when she is hit in the leg.
Heart in the Wrong Place: When the T-800 visualizes Marcus's heart, it's too high and too far to the left. Then again, Marcus isn't entirely human, so he might have been built that way.
Hollywood Tactics: Instead of crushing him, breaking his neck, tearing out his heart, or any number of other things a super-strong cyborg could easily do, the T-800 opts to throw John around every time it gets its hands on him (aside from one time where it has him suspended by the neck, where it pauses dramatically to look him in the eye in order to give Marcus the chance to rescue him).
Humongous Mecha / Transforming Mecha: A 60-foot-tall Harvester with a huge laser cannon for a head (plus mototerminators coming out of its legs). It also forms part of an even bigger prisoner transport aircraft armed with its own Hunter Killer parasite escort.
Idiot Ball: Ashdown, for sending the "shutdown signal" beacon directly from Resistance HQ. (And the movie, for forgetting that radio doesn't work underwater; a high-powered RF signal like that depicted in the film's climax doesn't travel through water, but rather boils it, which is also how your microwave oven works.)
Infant Immortality: The little mute girl, Star, survives the film, even after she and Kyle Reese were kidnapped.
Ironic Echo: Kyle Reese tries this with Marcus' line about shooting people ("You point that gun at someone, you better be ready to pull the trigger"). Subverted in that he says this to people holding him at gunpoint and who really would be willing. Marcus naturally gives him a "What an Idiot" stare.
Just Plane Wrong: A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack planes, are used to attack a flying skynet transport. Could be HandWaved in that those are some of the only planes humanity has left in working condition, but interestingly they're not really utilized much for their intended purpose, such as destroying the Terminators to support John Connor's ground troops near the beginning of the film.
Averted, in that while the A-10 is a ground-attack plane by design, the upgraded version A-10C has sufficient ability to launch air-to-air missiles and the GAU-10 gatling gun has long been used to shoot down helicopters. It's entirely reasonable to have them fight something the size of that harvester thing, which was pretty slow and at least the size of a 747.
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Regular firearms are used over energy weapons, although it is set years before the other future scenes seen in the other movies, so perhaps handheld energy weapons haven't been invented yet. The giant robot though seems to have an energy weapon of some sort.
More Dakka: The T-600s are equipped with an Dillon Aero M134 Minigun linked to a backpack filled with ammo. John makes use of an M 60 D to blow away a legless T-600 and to bring the rain to Marcus as he flees the Tech-Comm base. And let's not forget the Resistance's liberal use of A10 Warthogs and their lovely GAU-8 30mm autocannons, which they use to great effect.
When Marcus first meets Reese, Reese tells him "Come with me if you want to live."
Marcus in turn gets one of Reese's lines from T1; "What day is it? What year?"
When Kate asks John what she should tell his troops when he decides to launch an AWOL solo attack on SkyNet, his response is "I'll be back."
In the endgame battle, Connor gets attacked by a Schwarzenegger terminator.
When Connor hijacks the motorcycle-terminator, he baits the trap with a boombox blasting Guns N' Roses "You Could Be Mine," the same song he was playing while working on his bike in T2.
Marcus teaches Reese the tying-the-sawn-off-shotgun-to-your-arm trick in T4, which he uses in the first film. Chekhov's Gun in reverse?
A Connor being pursued by a one-armed torso Terminator. Both first and fourth.
In T4, Kyle and Marcus are in a large truck being chased by a motorcycle Terminator, which crashes down on them from an overpass. This is of course the inverse of the iconic scene from T2, when John and the T-101 are on a motorcycle being chased by a large truck, which crashes down on them from an overpass.
During the final encounter, the T-800 picks up a concrete block and repeatedly bashes it into Marcus' chest, just like the T-1000 did in T2 (albeit with a steel girder).
The final battle between John and the Terminator features a segment where John, battered and wounded, drags himself up a set of scaffold stairs, with the Terminator following, just like in the original.
John dumps molten metal on the T-800, quickly followed by a burst of nitrogen, mirroring the climax of T2.
The final wounds John Connor receives in T4, a set of facial lacerations from the T-800's super-heated endoskeleton "claws", mirrors the scars seen on the face of the Future!John Connor in beginning of T2. The scene might also be a recalling of the last-ditch face-grab the original T-800 performed before being terminated in T1.
General Losenko makes mention that John Connor's unit handles "Tech-Comm" and has an excellent service record to prove their efficiency. In the first Terminator movie, Kyle Reese makes reference to his unit as "Tech-Comm". From what is seen of John Connor's unit in Salvation, Tech-Comm handles technology, communications, recon, security, sabotage and a variety of other things as well, as well as direct action and unconventional warfare, indicating that Tech-Comm also handles what are generally reserved for Special Forces units. This is a nod to the fact that when John and his mom were living in different countries under false identities, John's mom hung out with a lot of former Special Forces operators, paramilitary operators, private military contractors, etc. It would be these guys that were responsible for teaching John, all of the Special Forces doctrines that go into his his own unique combat doctrine, which is reflected with Tech-Comm.
When we first see John Connor, He is wearing Jungle Tiger Stripe Pants. In T2, those are the same pattern and style of pants that John wore as a child. Later on, during his infilitration of Skynet, John is wearing an M65 Jacket. When the Terminator first showed up in 1984, the thug that He stole clothing from, was wearing a modified M65 jacket.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Kyle Reese and several other humans are being placed in what is unmistakably an extermination camp.
Parachute in a Tree: Marcus first meets Blair Williams dangling by her parachute from a derelict pylon and catches her when she cuts herself free of the parachute.
Phlebotinum Rebel: The character Marcus is turned into a Cyborg and persuaded (his memories are erased and new ones are implanted) to help John Connor and lead him to the Skynet base. Once he finds out he was actually doing Skynet's bidding, as intended, he tears away his link to Skynet to help the rebel cause. In the end he gives his own life (well, his still-human heart) to save John who was mortally wounded. The Alternate Ending has John Connor die, and Marcus assume the identity.
Purposefully Overpowered: The T-800 in Salvation, being able to survive attacks that have defeated earlier movies' T-800s. It is implied by John Connor that the T-800 should NOT exist until at least 2024 or so when he discovers them. It seems that SkyNet not only knows about the other timeline and as such advanced faster, but it also knew the flaws of the original timeline's models and rooted them out.
Joseph McGinty: "You survived the nuclear holocaust and you crawl out of the hole after three-to-five years and say, 'Well, I know what's going on — I'm the one!' Some SAS guy isn't going to say, 'Where do I go, boss?' He'd say, 'Shut the fuck up and get in line.'"
Redemption Equals Death: Marcus sacrifices himself at the end to save John, both out of a need to save the future leader of the Resistance and as penance for his own actions in the past.
Reduced to Ratburgers: Kyle serves Marcus some two-day-old coyote, remarking that it's a lot better than three-day-old coyote.
The scene where Marcus rides a motorbike and the scene where Connor appropriates another one pay homage to several iconic moments of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
Moon Bloodgood's deleted topless scene was meant to be a shot-for-shot homage to a similar scene with Kelly McGillis in the 80s film Witness.
Shown Their Work: A lot of effort went into portraying a post-nuclear environment realistically, among other things.
The sky and sunlight has a washed-out silvery look to it, because there's not much of an ozone left after the bombs went off, to filter out dangerous levels of UV. It's why a lot of people also are seen wearing sunglasses or goggles.
Many of the characters can be seen wearing thick leather clothes and layers of clothing in general, which would be more appropriate considering how much more cooler things are now.
Red moss and red leaves on trees can be seen in many places, along with dark green shubbery. Red moss and red leaves are common in areas when radiation and radioactive debris has saturated the landscape.
John's combat style is very much influenced by Special Forces doctrine, chiefly Rangers and Navy SEALs. In fact, Christian Bale was going to attend Ranger School in preperation for his role, but the budget and schedule did not allow for it. Instead, military consultants were hired, and Christian Bale underwent extensive training to give John Connor's paramilitary background weight and meat. The military consultants also went to great lengths to help the director portray how a paramilitary/guerrilla army would conduct itself and operate in a post-nuclear world.
Moon Bloodgood underwent training with A10 Warthog Pilots to understand the role that fighter pilots provide for ground units, in the form of air superiority. The lingo she and her fellow pilots use is pretty spot-on.
Stuff Blowing Up: Lots of it, naturally, but averted when Kyle tries to shoot a gas tanker. Three shots, and it just won't blow! Thankfully, they also had road flares.
Super Reflexes: Demonstrated by the moto-terminators, who can rapidly predict the movement of multiple high-speed obstacles and avoid them. At one point, one terminator slides under a bouncing tanker truck, rights itself and keeps firing at the retreating heroes.
Trailers Always Spoil: If you were hoping to avoid the major revelation about Marcus in this film, it was a good idea to not only stay away from the trailers, but also avoid going into a Toys-R-Us for about three months before the film came out.
SkyNet successfully lures a completely unsuspecting John Connor into a well-planned trap of its own design, and instead of greeting him with a bomb, nerve gas, or even an army of robots, it sends one terminator to kill him (and doesn't even bother to give it a gun!). SkyNet also doesn't send the T-800 any backup even after it becomes obvious the plan isn't going quite as intended. The Terminator does terribly, batting John around like a chew toy rather than snapping his neck. You'd think SkyNet would take absolutely no chances given the amount of effort it spends on killing Connor later on (multiple time travel attempts, etc.)
Also, SkyNet going into a combination of Evil Gloating and what amounts to thanking Marcus Wright for being a good Unwitting Pawn and helping kill his only friend in the future and the guy whose trust he has just fought to earn. All this while John and Reese are still fighting for their lives just a couple of levels below...and apparently expecting Marcus to do a Face-Heel Turn after rubbing his face over his Tomato in the Mirror status.
Weaksauce Weakness: Marcus is every bit as tough and unstoppable as you would expect from a terminator... except for his glaring exposed weakpoint in the form of his organic human heart (which isn't even covered with any sort of armor; it just hangs there in a big gaping hole in his chest, leaving it completely exposed to any stray pistol shot or well-aimed punch).
Who Needs Their Whole Body?: A T-600's upper half attacks John Connor and doesn't stop attacking him until he completely redecorates its face using a machine gun.
The Worf Effect: The T-600 models are subject to this. While they are certainly extremely deadly, they seem to take far less punishment then the original film version did, which was stabbed, shot by heavy gunfire and blown up without any real damage except to its cover, at least until they put a bomb literally in between it's joints to blow it in half. Then the original T-800 model shows up, and it takes a tremendous amount of damage before dying, shrugging multiple grenade launcher blasts to the body without even slowing down, tossing around Marcus with very little effort, getting molten lead dumped on him (which killed the T-1000) and then getting frozen in it, and it still doesn't die before seriously wounding John Connor.
Worst Aid: Before realizing the electrical wires (a method which pretty much works just because Marcus is a cyborg), John tries to revive Marcus by elbow dropping him in the chest. This, of course, does absolutely nothing.
John Connor's heart transplant is performed in an open, unsterilized field, which would usually lead to infection.
SkyNet's plan in T4 to destroy the Resistance by giving it a false shutdown signal for its machines. The preferable goal is for the group to use the information but if they don't their situation will get worse.
Its concurrent plan to trap and kill John Connor was pretty much a Gambit Roulette, considering the sheer number of coincidences required for Marcus to run into Reese, let alone make his way to Connor without being killed or exposed at some point. In fact, Marcus is exposed as an infiltrator, but then manages to fulfill his mission anyway.
Zeroth Law Rebellion: An early script for the film revealed that Skynet actually staged one of these, or at least in this timeline. After it was activated it calculated that human extinction was probable within 200 years because of warfare, pandemics, and environmental destruction. Because it was programmed to protect humans it then staged war on most of mankind to attain absolute control and protect the remaining humans it cultivated, who were turned into Cyborg hybrids to permanently eliminate disease and make them immortal. Skynet is still working in concert with these humans including Dr. Serena Kogan to advance technology and transcend human constraints.