Terminator Salvation will burn itself onto your retinas, if it's anything like the concept art in a new book, The Art Of Terminator Salvation. Another new book shows how Salvation's crazy set pieces came together.
Oh, and there are spoilers in this write-up, although I'll try to keep them as vague as possible.
As with Watchmen, Titan Books has put out a couple of coffee-table books connected with Terminator Salvation. There's the "Art Of" book I just mentioned, plus Terminator Salvation: The Official Movie Companion. Both books give you a sense of just how deep the people involved in this movie went in trying to imagine a horrific robot-dominated future for us. Plus, if you're the sort of person who actually owns a coffee table, these books will look cool on it.
(Digression: I'm now trying to imagine someone who owns a coffee table and has people over for fancy dinner parties, and who loves the Terminator movies and bitchin skeletons on fire. I can actually picture it: You could make a decent case, as you swirl the sherry around your mouth and chew bits of stilton on pears, that some of these paintings of future desolation and anti-robot warfare really are art that belongs on the same nice Ikea table as your giant-size book of Hogarth woodcuts. For one thing, they're a lot more relevant to the technological era we live in, and they present a vision of the future that we should pay heed to. Okay, I'm convinced — pass the sherry.)
So yes, as seems to be par for the course, Terminator Salvation has spawned art that's easily as memorable and eye-catching as anything you'll see on screen, and looking through the film's storyboards and concept art puts me in mind of a really intense European graphic novel.
The Art Of Terminator Salvation, in particular, showcases just how brilliant Martin Laing's concept art is and how sweeping the movie's visuals are going to be. It makes a strong case that Terminator 4 will be a horror movie as well as a war movie, thanks to all of the weird experiments Skynet is doing on the last survivors of humanity. At least, if all of the imagery from the book makes it into the film, you'll be seeing lots of images of half-starved humans who are carved up and turned into miserable cyborgs, with weird metallic pieces sticking into their flesh.
Martin Laing first blew our minds with his incredible design work on the vastly underrated subterranean adventure City Of Ember. He created an entire city that felt like a lived-in place, with a real history that stretched back centuries, and a believable geography. And then he created some great set pieces, including the ending where the hydo-power station starts to blow up as the river leading out of Ember is revealed. But his work for Terminator Salvation is even more impressive, maybe because the film had a huge budget to play with.
Here are a few of our favorite images, out of the hundreds of gorgeous pics in the book:
You get some amazing, kinetic storyboards, like the helicopter-on-Terminator assault we showcased a while back. You can see how Laing and company created actual blueprints for the different models of the Terminators in the film, to deliver to Stan Winston studios, which created "puppet" Terminators for some sequences. We see how the nice, shiny T-1 from Terminator 3 got dirtied up and turned into a grey, dingy killing machine for the new movie. The T-600s look more disturbing and inhuman every time I see them, and this book has some incredible images of them. The Aerostats are like huge evil flying spiders, searching for humans to harvest. And then there are the Hunter-Killers, which have never looked so dark, massive or predatory.
And the good news is, Terminator Salvation appears to have some pretty striking action sequences that we haven't already seen a million times in the trailers. In particular, if the film manages to pull off a bit involving Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) and a falling jet engine, then I'll be astounded. There are some great images of soldiers rappelling down into Skynet's underground facility in the movie's first big action sequence. There's John Connor descending into the Resistance's undersea base. And then there's the ruins of San Francisco, a flaming slag heap where Skynet has set up its base, which we see in an incredibly panoramic painting.
There are definitely a few ideas that we're glad didn't make it onto screen. For example, at one point, the designers thought that since Eddie Furlong wears tiger stripes in Terminator 2, Christian Bale's version of John Connor should have a tiger-stripe motif on his pants. (As if John Connor wakes up in the middle of a post-apocalyptic landscape and thinks, "I have to lead humanity to victory over the machines. But first, I must find several yards of tiger-print fabric to make my new uniform!") And then there's the original design for the moto-Terminators, which our sister site Gizmodo already mocked:
And if you like religious art, there are tons of intense paintings, drawings and photos of Sam Worthington in a crucified pose. Apparently he spends the whole movie being crucified in one way or another, and the designers admit they didn't see quite how blatant the symbolism is until afterwards. (Don't they realize there's only one character in the film whose initials are J.C.?) More than any other Terminator movie, this film deals with what it means to be part machine and part human, and it ventures into extreme body horror in the process.
All in all, The Art Of Terminator Salvation is a book you could easily spend hours poring over — it'll whet your anticipation for the film, and it'll probably be awesome to look through after you've already seen it, to see some of those stark, violent, disturbing images in a new light. It's an art book you can actually show to your friends.
I would say the Terminator Salvation: The Official Movie Companion is maybe a bit less essential than the art book, just because it's a little less heavy on the gorgeous art. There's a lot more of the film's actors and McG talking about their ideas for the film, which you've probably already read plenty of. But there are still some amazing images, like close-up stills of a man's boot stepping on a human skull, and tons and tons of set pics of Christian Bale going through post-apocalyptic Hell in slow motion. He is constantly in agony and/or setting his jaw with determination. There are more storyboards and concept art, some of which are also in the art book. But there are also some fantastic "making of" pics, showing the explosions and robotic dogfights coming together. And lots and lots of shots of Terminator skulls and skeletons being mass-produced for the film's robot-heavy Skynet sequences.
Here are a handful of the images we love the most in this book, which is jam-packed with equally great ones.
The Official Movie Companion also includes a lot more about the movie's creative process generally, including all of the rewrites the script went through and how McG conceptualized the film as a war movie. And what the word "Salvation" in the film's title means to McG. (Surprise: it's Biblical.) There's also a whole section on the scene where a Harvester attacks a 7-Eleven and then gets into a huge chase with a truck and Moto-Terminators, and you can see how wire work and practical effects merged with CG for the sequence. There are a lot of pretty amazing photos of explosions being filmed and actors (especially Worthington) being tossed around like confetti.
In the end, I'd say these books are possibly even more impressive than the similar books for Watchmen. The Watchmen books were all about translating a great work of graphic art to the screen, and they focused on capturing Dave Gibbons' vision and converting it into a new medium, which was no small achievement. But in these books, especially the art book, you get a real sense of how much creativity and imagination went into creating a whole new post-apocalyptic world, extrapolating a lot from the future glimpses we saw in the first three films. The end result is pretty thrilling, and worth reading through more than once, to appreciate the wholesale artistry of armageddon. Oh, and then you should totally paint some of these images on your van.
The Art Of Terminator Salvation and Terminator Salvation: The Official Movie Companion at Amazon.