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Film / Terminator Salvation

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"This is John Connor. If you are hearing this, you are the Resistance."
John Connor

Terminator Salvation is the fourth film in the Terminator franchise. It was directed by Joseph McGinty.

The film takes place in a dystopian future during the war with the AI machines, and while it does continue the story from the first three films, it shares no ties to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Salvation is also the only Terminator film so far to forgo the idea of time travel in favor of a post-apocalyptic war slant on the story.

While John Connor, Sarah Connor's son, has become a 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.

There was also a prequel 6-part animated series called Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series that featured the voice of Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams set before the events of the film. The series was animated using the character models and settings from the video game tie-in, as well as some additional sequences made using 3D animation software.

The film was followed by Terminator Genisys, which attempted to reboot the franchise.

Terminator Salvation provides examples of:

  • Actionized Sequel: Much more so than the previous two films, as the film takes place in the middle of war between the resistance and the AI machine forces (robots and AI flying ships and other vehicles).
  • Ambiguous Situation: Marcus just stands watching while Kyle and Star gulp the food presented by the gas station squatters, leading to an interrogation from their matriarch. In the novelization, Marcus's reaction is the logic wonder of someone who hasn't seen altruism in a long time, but as the film doesn't show his inner thoughts, we are led to think that he cannot feel hunger, which foreshadows his nature as a Terminator.
  • Apocalyptic Logistics: The Resistance operates a small air force of A-10 ground attack planes and a nuclear submarine, but it is unclear how they find the supplies and fuel to keep any of those in service in a world controlled by Skynet a good decade after a nuclear apocalypse.
  • Arrow Cam: The first thing the audience sees after the introduction credits is a cruise missile's POV cam on its merry way to Skynet's heavily-defended Research and Development Facility.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The T-600 that chases Kyle and Marcus in the devastated city of Los Angeles, is led into a trap by the duo that snares his foot on a pulley and pulls him in the air. Instead of shooting the pulley that is supporting the cable that pulled it up, it shoots off its foot to escape and keep chasing them.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: A heart transplant performed in an open field, presumably with the attendant breezes and airborne contaminants. Though, it's not like they planned to have emergency field surgery.
  • The Atoner: Marcus has a lot of baggage to work out.
  • 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 an 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 an 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.
  • Behind the Black: At the gas station, the first sign of the huge Harvester's mecha-robot presence is it busting through the roof, despite the fact it's not only incredibly noisy but also big enough that it should've shaken the whole building when it dropped out of the hunter-killer flying ship.
  • 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 his heart via transplant.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Done so the movie would get a PG-13 instead of an R. Just compare these images.
  • Book Ends: Marcus's execution by lethal injection is extremely similar to his Heroic Sacrifice, donating his heart to John.
  • Broad Strokes: What Salvation does in regards to T3 in order to fix that movie's various flubs with the timeline. Salvation implicitly Broad Strokes T2 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.
  • Bullet Time: Used, but not by the heroes. Turns out one of the reasons the AI autinomous motorcycles (moto-terminators) are so deadly is that their AI can predict the movement of obstacles at high speeds.
  • The Cameo:
    • Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Serena Kogan. Later, SkyNet assumes her image as a hologram to explain its master stroke to Marcus.
    • 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.
    • Linda Hamilton makes an uncredited auditory cameo. Her voice is heard on the tapes John listens to several times throughout the film to understand the importance of Kyle Reese and the Terminators Skynet is building.
  • Central Theme: Getting a second chance, and whether people can overcome their Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • The Resistance as a whole. Who else would use armor-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.
    • John finds the tapes his mother made at the end of T1, as well as the photo taken at the gas station and carried by Kyle Reese in his flashback. Unfortunately, they are nothing like the tapes made by Sarah at the end of T1 (Sarah recorded reel-to-reel tapes, not cassettes and said noticeably different dialogue), while her photo appears to be much smaller than the one at the end and in Kyle Reese's flashback. It also contradicts John having the photo and knowing Kyle Reese is his father in T2.
    • The T-800 scratches John's left eye and cheek with red-hot claws, explaining how he got those scars shown in T2.
  • Cop Killer: The film starts with the execution of Marcus Wright. We find out quickly that he killed a cop. Supplemental materials enlighten that it was the final result of a drug-fueled Plethora of Mistakes that also took Marcus's brother (the police killed him, Marcus fired back). Even After the End and being reborn by Unwilling Roboticisation, Wright feels he's so past the Moral Event Horizon he deserves whatever he gets.
  • Crapsack World: This movie has it in spades.
    • 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 foliage, and dead vegetation everywhere.
    • The pulverized and rusting remains of the cities are perpetually smoldering and smoke-and-dust-filled messes.
    • Two thirds 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 roads are patrolled by Moto-Terminators, HK Tanks, and other AI metal bastards.
    • 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 or research facility.
    • 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.
    • Some wandering humans wouldn't immediately band together, as they would rather kill each other for food, clothing, or just for their own amusement.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Marcus gets suspended on cross-shaped devices. Twice.
  • Death Seeker: Marcus. To the point that not only does he welcome execution, but he's happy to donate his body for experimentation, asking Dr. Kogan to cut him up in so many pieces there's nothing left of him.
  • Decapitation Strike: Skynet's plan involves luring the human resistance into a Defensive Feint Trap by making its core bases in the former San Francisco area more vulnerable to attack. The humans believe that they're about to carry out a decapitation strike on Skynet when it's actually using the opportunity to pinpoint the nuclear submarine that carries the resistance leaders and take them out with a missile strike.
  • 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' body so that the Resistance won't lose hope. In another ending Marcus proceeds to kill off Kate, Kyle, and Star, having been under Skynet's control the whole time. 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 
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Skynet seems to be genuinely, totally unaware that Marcus is neither able nor willing to shuck off all the emotional connections he just spent the whole movie forming and cheerfully join the evil robot party.
  • 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.
  • Expanded Universe: The film had a number of novels and comic books that continued the story, and even managed to bring the plot of the Salvation universe and timeline to a definitive conclusion after it became clear that no more films in the setting were going to be made.
  • Fake Shemp: Through the magic of CGI combined with a mold from The '80s, Arnold appears in Salvation, and he hasn't aged a day in 25 years. One shot from the first film, when a cop tries to whip the T-800 with her shotgun is an obvious composite shot.
  • 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.
  • Feet-First Introduction: John in the opening scene.
  • Foreshadowing: Marcus is held and gets rammed by a mech at some point, and is even thrown across the water after an explosion, but he's seen later none worse for wear. It's a hint he's a Terminator.
    • Marcus also pays homage to "Uncle Bob's" No-Sell of a slap by a Pescadero security guard during a fight with some raiders, further foreshadowing his nature as well as serving as a Call-Back.
  • 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 is not a successful persuasive tool. Oh, and her eyes turns red like a Terminator's do.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Pausing the film when Marcus accesses Skynet's computer system reveals newspaper articles printed shortly before the War that details more of why he was executed; he apparently murdered his own brother in cold blood by stabbing him to death, but it doesn't state exactly why he did it. However, the article somewhat lies by stating Marcus was remorseless in his crime, when he is shown to genuinely feel guilty. Marcus also states that he killed two Police Officers, something the article also failed to mention.
  • Gambit Roulette: SkyNet's plan to trap and kill John Connor was pretty much a risk, 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 manages to fulfill his mission anyway.
  • Giant Robot Hands Save Lives: Marcus Wright drives a truck onto a bridge over a high canyon, but they're attacked by a flying Hunter Killer and the truck slams through the guardrail, knocking Kyle Reese and another child out the door. As they plunge into the canyon to their deaths, they're caught in mid-air by the giant robot they'd been fleeing earlier. So yes, their lives have been saved...for the short term.
  • 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 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.
  • Handwraps of Awesome: Marcus wears them.
  • Headbutt of Love: Marcus gives a brief one to Blair before carrying 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: 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:
    • Inexplicably, Blair puts down her gun and walks away from it while en route to the resistance base, which leaves her unarmed when bandits pop out of the scenery.
    • 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.)
    • When John is on the ground fighting a T-600, he pulls out his .45 caliber sidearm and shoots it in the head at point-blank range. This is more likely to kill John himself via ricochet than actually destroy the T-600, and John of all people should know this.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: John, by the T-800. He gets better.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: A Moto-Terminator, which has already shown a Bullet Time ability to track objects, fires at and misses Reese as he's hanging out the side of the truck, whereas as Reese is able to shoot it with a grenade launcher fired one-handed.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The little mute girl, Star, survives the film, even after she and Kyle Reese were kidnapped.
  • Interface with a Familiar Face: Skynet manifests itself to Marcus with the face and voice of Dr. Serena Kogan, the scientist who froze Marcus before he woke up in the future. When Marcus is confused by this, Skynet offers to switch its appearance to several other human faces.
  • Ironic Echo: Kyle Reese tries this with Marcus's 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. However, 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 is pretty slow and at least the size of a 747. Worf Effect also seems at work here, as the A-10 is depicted as a Glass Cannon instead of going by its performance in real life. It doesn't take much for the Terminators to shoot them down... when in reality, the A-10 is pretty much The Dreaded for being the Implacable Man of aircraft, due to its ability to still fly after taking massive amounts of punishment; in fact, half of the A-10 could be shot up, and it could still dish out a lot of said punishment.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Regular firearms still dominate the battlefield, with the iconic purple-blue pew-pew plasma weapons still years before the future scenes seen in the other movies. Resistance fighters need to make do with conventional weapons in use by militaries such as the M4A1, while SkyNet gives a giant minigun to its T-600s.
    • Nevertheless, SkyNet vehicles such as the Harvesters, Hunter-Killers, and moto-terminators mount a primitive early plasma cannon, firing a lightning-bolt of yellow-white electricity reminiscent of the T-X's plasma cannon arm rather than the clean bolts of the later designs.
  • Kiss of Death: Played with. Marcus kisses Dr. Kogan, who is dying of cancer. The kiss is his sole request for donating his body to science. He muses, "So that's what death tastes like."
  • Lampshade Hanging: When one of the bandits punches Marcus, he does the classic Terminator reaction, lampshading that he is indeed a Terminator.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: All the talk about salvation and second chances in Salvation after some very famous Fanon Discontinuity in Terminator 3? Totally about the series itself.
  • Lighter and Softer: It's the first movie in the franchise to earn a PG-13 rating instead of an R thanks to the Bloodless Carnage. Also, in the literal sense in that it's also the first time the audience sees the war in broad daylight.
  • Literal Change of Heart: A heroic version. John Connor gets mortally wounded and Marcus makes a Heroic Sacrifice giving him his own heart.
  • Made of Iron: Played with as part of the Robotic Reveal. Marcusis seen doing a number of crazy things that wouldn't be out of place in other action movies (falling from a flying transport and skipping off the surface of the lake with no harm), but here felt too superhuman. Instead it was intentional as foreshadowing the fact he is a cyborg. Played straight with John Connor, however, who gets thrown into multiple heavy metal objects and walls by a T-800 with only mild injury.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Live cables are used to jumpstart a heart.
  • Mook Chivalry: Averted. When the bandits attack Blair, they all jump her at once, which is the reason she needs Marcus's helps.
  • 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.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: The main motive for Marcus. Twice.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • 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, which he used in the first film. Chekhov's Gun in reverse?note 
    • A Connor being pursued by a one-armed torso Terminator. Both first and fourth.
    • 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-800 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, a set of facial lacerations from the T-800's superheated 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.
    • The Title Sequence is a deliberate nod to that of 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 infiltration 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.
    • The Moto-Terminator chase scene involves a bridge, a motorcycle driven by a Terminator (or is a Terminator), a stolen truck driven by a Terminator with a windshield that the driver breaks, and the truck driving over one of the bikes is a reference to the Down L.A. Drain scene from T2.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Kyle Reese and several other humans are being placed in what is unmistakably an extermination camp.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The film attempts to invoke this trope by making it clear that this isn't the same future we saw in previous Terminator films, which also has the effect of subverting the Foregone Conclusion of the Human victory over Skynet. The John Connor of this timeline is finding that his knowledge of the future dwindles with every passing moment and eventually won't have anything but his own wits and determination to fall back on. In this timeline, Skynet can actually win.
  • Novelization: By Alan Dean Foster. It was preceded by a prequel novel written by Timothy Zahn, who also wrote one of the sequel books along with Greg Cox.
  • The Oner: John Connor's first scene has him attempting to take off in a helicopter, only to be caught in the EMP blast of a distant nuke. The take off, helicopter death spiral, and crash are all done in a single take with a fixed camera.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Kate Brewster was formally trained as a veterinarian. She was promoted to doctor after Judgment Day and it couldn't have been by attending medical school. The novels and various other materials state that Kate learned how to perform various medical procedures from various different doctors that took shelter with the Resistance, and joined up.
  • 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.
  • Purposely 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.
  • 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 Remnant: Ashdown and Losenko started out as this, as covered in more detail in the tie-in novels, before joining together and becoming a more effective force.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Is Star a shell-shocked girl, or a cyborg?
  • Samus Is a Girl: The pilot "Williams" turns out to be a woman.
  • See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Marcus, Kyle Reese, and Star are in the base of some non-Resistance humans. The base is being approached by a completely silent machine hunting squad consisting of a prisoner carrier, a Hunter-Killer, and a HUGE Terminator. Only seconds before they attack does Star sense their presence; the sound the Terminator makes can be heard milliseconds before he strikes.
  • Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Marcus. Sheep in wolf's clothing in sheep's clothing, even!
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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. Also, the guy who loses his cool and tries to jump the fence only to get shot is very similar to Ives' death from that film, including the way his body hangs from the fence as he dies.
    • 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.
    • The loud drones from the Harvester and that the Harvester snatches and stores humans references War of the Worlds (2005).
  • 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 layer 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 shrubbery. 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 preparation 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.
  • Silent Partner: Star never so much as makes a sound.
  • Stealth Sequel: This film Stopped Numbering Sequels as a direct attempt to market it as a Continuity Reboot, but at the same time didn't want to give up on the Cliffhanger left by the previous film. As a result, while the movie can be technically called a reboot in the sense that it doesn't directly reference any previous film except the first one, there are very subtle nods and hints that it takes place after Terminator 3, such as the fact that the first scene takes place in the early 2000s and Judgment Day hasn't happened yet, and John's wife is a redhead named Kate and is a former medical professional.
  • 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 have 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.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Marcus turns on a car stereo, and Alice in Chains' "Rooster" plays. It is also a song set during a war, and McG admitted he found the opening line ("Ain't found a way to kill me yet...") to relate very much to the human resistance.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Thanks to the time travel of the previous movies, things aren't happening as originally told to Sarah Connor, and SkyNet in particular seems to have knowledge of the future.
  • 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.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Released in 2009 — set in 2018. Inverted in that the opening scenes are set in 2003.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Marcus spends almost the entire film unknowingly dancing on Skynet's strings.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: Briefly, the clumsy T-600 is firing wildly and standing in the way of the recently activated T-800, who rips it in half.
  • Villain Ball:
    • 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.
    • Skynet for some reason can't figure out where the resistance is launching their aircraft from despite the fact said A-10C and Helicopters only have a limited operating range of about 250-300 miles and it shouldn't be that hard to pin down what airfields could service them and wipe them out easily.
  • Villain Protagonist: Marcus Wright. Before he was a Terminator, he was a murderer who was sentenced to death for butchering his own brother and killing two Police Officers. While the film largely leaves out the details of how this came to be, once you do find out how exactly he killed his brother, Marcus becomes a lot more difficult to root for as a Protagonist. His only saving grace is that he feels genuine guilt over his actions, and is seeking a chance at redemption, going so far as to donate his corpse to science.
  • 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).
  • Wham Line: This exchange between John and Marcus:
    John: The devil's hands have been busy. What is it?
    Kate: It's real flesh and blood, though it seems to heal itself quickly. The heart is human and very powerful. The brain, too, but with a chip interface.
    Marcus: What have you done to me?
    Kate: It has a hybrid nervous system. One human cortex, one machine.
    Marcus: Blair, what have they done?
    John: Who built you?
    Marcus: My name is Marcus Wright.
    John: You think you're human?
    Marcus: I am human.
  • Wham Shot: Several:
    • Marcus and Blair walk across a Minefield which is relatively harmless to Humans (the Mines are magnetic, which makes them more lethal to Terminators). All is going well, the base is in sight, and then suddenly a Mine magnetically attaches itself to Marcus' right leg.
    • Near immediately after, Marcus is dragged into the base and examined. He's then taken prisoner for some reason, before John reveals to Marcus and the audience that Marcus is in fact a Terminator.
    • When Marcus argue that he is human, the scene cuts away from John's shocked expression to Marcus seeing that the flesh from his mid-section has melted away and is machinery and he is a Terminator.
    • The classic T-800. John checks a cell block to try and find Kyle Reese, and suddenly one of the doors is forced open; the T-800 menacingly marches out to confront John, bearing a familiar face...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several members of the human group hiding at the gas station, such as the Scary Black Man who wants Marcus, Kyle and Star gone from there, are last seen running during the assault by the Machines, and may have avoided being killed or captured.
  • 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 than 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 its 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 getting frozen in it, and it still doesn't die before seriously wounding John Connor.
  • Worst Aid:
    • Before trying 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.
    • The surviving members of the resistance apparently figure that the middle of an open field is a perfectly acceptable substitute to a sterile surgical theatre, despite the risk of infection being off the charts. They also don't bother to check if Marcus is even compatible with John (and, thus, whether or not his body has a decent chance of accepting the transplant), and no mention is made of getting the anti-rejection drugs John would need for the rest of his life. Justified in that they're desperate, John is going to die regardless, and Marcus is a Death Seeker.
  • Xanatos Gambit: SkyNet's plan 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.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: An early script (and several deleted scenes) 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.

"There is no fate but what we make."

Alternative Title(s): Terminator 4