Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time
The Terminator Films

Terminator Salvation (2009)

Terminator Films
The Terminator (1984) | Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) | Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator Salvation (2009) | Terminator: Genisys (2015) | Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

The Terminator Films - Part 4

Terminator Salvation (2009)
d. McG (aka Joseph McGinty Nichol), 114 minutes

Film Plot Summary

After preliminary title credits, the film opened in the year 2003 at the Longview State Correctional Facility (in Texas), where convicted death-row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), an hour away from a lethal injection, was approached one last time by terminally-ill, cutting-edge researcher Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter) to sign a consent form, to donate his body for a "noble cause." He would receive a "second chance" at life - to help save the "human race." He 'sold' himself to Cyberdyne Systems Genetics Division (in San Francisco) for a single kiss (after the kiss, he mused: "So that's what death tastes like"). He was executed, without offering any final words - his last view before dying was the human face of Dr. Kogan standing over him.

The prologue scene was followed by a background foreword:

Early in the 21st century, Skynet, a military defense program, became self-aware. Viewing humanity as a threat to its existence, Skynet decided to strike first. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the event Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare...the war against the machines. To hunt down and eradicate humans, Skynet built terminators. As the war wages on, leaders of the human resistance grow desperate. Some believe one man holds the key to salvation. Others believe he is a false prophet. His name is John Connor. The year is 2018.

The film advanced to the year 2018 (after a period of global nuclear war), with a major military helicopter assault by Resistance fighters, including John Connor (Christian Bale), on a Skynet target protected by an army of robotic T-600 Terminator soldiers. Their mission was to be a "quick in and out" to rescue prisoners and obtain classified information on Skynet computers. Underground, they discovered humans as experimental guinea pigs (there was a brief shot of Marcus Wright lying on a gurney), imprisoned in cages. From secure data on a Skynet computer terminal, they learned the prisoners were being taken by a Skynet transport north to San Francisco - to "some sort of R&D project for a new Terminator" - a T-800 - and they viewed blueprints for this new enemy, a cybernetic organism with living tissue. As they evacuated the base, it exploded and the fighters were killed, with Connor the remaining survivor. However, one other also survived in the wreckage - Marcus Wright (15 years after his execution), one of the experimented-upon prisoners [a human-machine hybrid], who screamed to heaven after appearing nude - but covered in mud. [Did Skynet deliberately let him go, or was he accidentally activated by the explosion?] He stole a uniform (with a red band, a symbol of blood) from a dead Resistance fighter.

Connor ordered his helicopter rescue craft to be rerouted to take him to Resistance Command Headquarters (located in a submarine), but when denied, he determinedly dove from the chopper and entered the sub. He spoke to Resistance General Ashdown (Michael Ironside) who reprimanded Connor - "prophesized leader of the Resistance" for disobeying orders. Connor was told that Command had found "a solution" - that could end the war permanently. They had located "a hidden signal under the primary channel" on the short-wave transmitters that the machines used for communication - "it allows for direct control of the machines." If the Resistance could turn off the signal, it would turn off the machines themselves ("We do this right, the war is over"). Connor was allowed to field-test the signal, while a major offensive against Skynet was prepared for four days later. He was also told that a "kill-list" transmission was intercepted from Skynet warning that all Resistance leaders would be dead in 4 days - Connor was # 2 on the list, and an unknown civilian named Kyle Reese was # 1. At his base, Connor was greeted by his pregnant, second-in-command wife Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard). He often listened to tape recordings of his mother Sarah Connor (voice of Linda Hamilton). Tape 28 told him that when Connor would eventually meet his father, Kyle Reese, he would only be a teenager (before he was sent back in time to rescue Sarah): "If you don't send Kyle, you can never be, and Skynet will win the war." In effect, if Kyle Reese was killed, it would "reset the future" - and there would be no John Connor. Connor's field-test of a squirming hydrobot at the base confirmed that they could control the signal - and the machines.

Meanwhile, Marcus walked through the desert, following a dirt-covered road into the ruins of downtown Los Angeles. Young Resistance fighter wanna-be Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) rescued him from an assault by Terminator T-600 gunfire - Reese offered: "Come with me if you wanna live." They raced through a run-down toy company warehouse, where they were aided by Reese's young, mute companion Star (Jadagrace Berry), who crushed the Terminator. Kyle explained that by the post-apocalyptic year of 2018, "Judgment Day happened" and modern civilization had been destroyed. Detected by a small airborne, infra-red quipped Aerostat - a Hunter-Killer robotic machine, they decided to wait overnight and proceed the next day to Griffith Observatory to jump-start an abandoned car. As they were in hiding, Kyle described how they were the only two Resistance members in the L.A. branch, fighting the machines and the artificial intelligence network named Skynet, and he was working to "earn" full-fledged membership into the forces. When Marcus was able to fix a shortwave radio, they listened to Connor's daily broadcast of hope to his surviving, beleaguered fighters: "We are at the brink...They're inventing new Terminators, new ways of killing us. Skynet is planning something big. But the Resistance is planning something bigger. This is John Connor. If you're listening to this, you are the Resistance."

After jump-starting a vehicle at the observatory, Marcus' dangerous plan (as opposed to Kyle's idea to join up with Resistance forces to the East), was to travel north, even though the machines controlled the entire northern sector up to San Francisco. Kyle reminded Marcus: "You wanna know the difference between us and the machines? We bury our dead. But no one is coming to bury you." An Aerostat forced them to flee in the Jeep into the desert - the flying robotic machine identified and uploaded Kyle Reese's location to Skynet headquarters. Two A-10 jet fighters were dispatched from Connor's base to the LA basin area to check on the increasing activity there. At a dilapidated 7-Eleven store/gas station, Kyle, Marcus, and Star found surviving humans hiding there ("We keep our heads down, they ignore us"), hoarding fuel and food. One of them, pacifist leader Virginia (Jane Alexander) shared their food with Star, when the site suddenly came under attack by a giant Harvester robot - and Virginia and others were grabbed by giant, multiple clawed pincers and deposited in massive Transporter cages, to be brought northward to San Francisco. The Harvester was deterred when blown up by a gasoline fuel truck explosion, but still unleashed two-wheeled, computerized Moto-Terminators from its feet, in pursuit of Kyle, Star, and Marcus in a tow truck. When further attacked by a large airborne H-K Aerial with mounted lasers, missiles, and cannons, Kyle and Star were taken prisoner by its Harvester - and although Marcus attempted to rescue them, he was knocked away from the HK-Aerial and fell into the river below.

One of the jet fighters, piloted by feisty Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), was shot down by the H-K during the rescue mission, and she ejected into some dead power lines. Marcus extracted her - and they traveled together on the two-day hike on-foot back to her base. During their trip, he defended her from two potential rapists/thieves, and they bonded further when she asked for some "body heat" and mentioned that he had a "strong heart" within his chest. She called him a rare find - a "good guy," although he differed with her: "I'm not a good guy."

Connor, with his right-hand partner Barnes, tested out the signal in Skynet's Valley of Death on a bigger machine, an incoming H-K, and it proved to be effective. He reported the success to General Ashdown, who affirmed the worldwide offensive scheduled for 4am the next morning. Connor's unit would be responsible for supporting the bombing of Skynet Central, but Ashdown refused to plan for prisoner extraction: "We're gonna level the place."

While crossing a mine field filled with magnetic devices, one of the mines attached to Marcus' leg and it detonated. When he was treated in the base's infirmary by Kate Connor, his leg was revealed to be a prosthetic limb - he was a hybrid machine! Although a prototypical terminator, Marcus had "real flesh and blood" that healed quickly. His heart and brain (with a chip interface) were the only human organs, and he had a hybrid nervous system: "One human cortex, one machine." Marcus strongly asserted that he was human (born on August 22, 1975), but then screamed in anguish when he saw that he was a machine with a robotic skeleton. Connor feared that Marcus had been manufactured by Skynet to kill him and the Resistance leadership. Connor spoke to his imprisoned enemy: "You and me, we've been at war since before either of us even existed. You tried killing my mother, Sarah Connor. You killed my father, Kyle Reese. You will not kill me." Marcus informed him that Reese was imprisoned on a transported headed for Skynet. Blair refused to believe that Marcus was a Skynet machine-enemy: "It saved my life," and - against orders - released him from chains before he was to be disassembled. During their escape attempt, the Resistance's sniper team captured the wounded Blair, while Marcus fled on a motorcycle during a diversion. After freeing Blair for her part in helping Marcus to escape, Connor pursued the hybrid-machine in a Blackhawk helicopter. It malfunctioned and crashed in a river after an assault by a swarm of whirring, snake-like robotic Hydrobots. Marcus saved Connor's life from the Hydrobots, and they made a deal -- Marcus would help Connor gain access into Skynet and locate Reese to free him (Marcus' motivation: "I have to find who did this to me"). Connor feared that Command was about to bomb his father Kyle Reese and the other prisoners at Skynet Central, and wanted to save his father before that might happen.

Connor contacted General Ashdown to abort and delay the scheduled attack (so that he could infiltrate and rescue the prisoners, most importantly Reese), but was told it was too late. He begged: "I have to save him. He is the key. The key to the future, to the past. Without him, we lose everything." When relieved of his command, Connor radioed all of his Resistance forces, urging them to not act or behave like machines, and to disobey Command's orders to attack Skynet, in order to save humanity's future. When he kissed his wife goodbye, she asked: "What should I tell your men when they find out you're gone?" He turned and assured her: "I'll be back." He rode a re-programmed Moto-Terminator to San Francisco's Skynet (crossing the Golden Gate Bridge), while Marcus crossed Skynet's Perimeter (at the North Gate) and made his way to the central mainframe computer. During handprint identification and synchronization with the machine, he discovered that Kyle Reese was a prisoner in Cell 4A - and sent the coordinates to Connor. He then read historical reports of how his body had been donated to science after his execution, and how Dr. Serena Kogan had succumbed to cancer, while innovatively researching innovative regeneration of cells. He also saw that her research fell into the hands of Cyberdyne, that continued her work after her death. Cyberdyne had been purchased by the US Air Force, and Dr. Kogan's Research Facility was Folded into the Armed Forces Branch Known for Skynet. He then saw how Judgment Day had occurred - and blacked out.

Connor entered Skynet's facility, as the Resistance Command submarine - broadcasting the neutralizing signal at full strength, ordered commencement of the bombing of Skynet, but the Resistance members refused to comply (unless ordered by Connor). As Connor released prison locks and prisoners fled to transports (how were they deployed?), Marcus woke up, fully repaired, in Skynet's main chamber. Skynet communicated with him, taking on the image of Dr. Serena Kogan, on a giant monitor screen. He had been successfully pre-programmed to return to Skynet. After Judgment Day, Kogan's research was used by Skynet, advancing Cyberdyne's work, and Marcus had been turned into a cyborg as a T-RIP (Resistance Infiltrator Prototype) - "the only one of your kind...the human condition no longer applies to you." His main mission had been accomplished, to bring back Kyle Reese (with Connor trailing after) to Skynet, so they could be killed: "To infiltrate, find a target, and then bring that target back home to us." She also revealed that the broadcast signal that the Resistance believed would win the war for them would backfire - in reality, the signal was a location beacon. A large HK-Aerial "Bogey" tracked the Command submarine, located off the Bay Area coast - it put a weapon lock on it, and released a depth charge to destroy it. General Ashdown and many other Resistance leaders died.

Connor couldn't locate Kyle Reese in Skynet Central, since he was locked up in a separate cell. He was confronted by an intimidating prototype T-800 Series Terminator with a Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 living-tissue covering (a combination of CGI and composite shots of Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator (1984)). The Terminator was programmed to pursue its primary target, John Connor. As he watched Connor being thrown about by the indestructible T-800, Marcus couldn't accept that he was not human, and only a machine, although Kogan cautioned him: "Remember what you are." Responding "I know what I am," he ripped the main cortex chip from the back of his brain in a conscious choice to be human (and fight against the machines): "I'm better this way." When told he couldn't save John Connor, he snarled: "Watch me!" - he then smashed the Skynet monitor and escaped the chamber to aid Connor. Meanwhile, Kyle was taken from his holding cell and escaped (with Star) from a menacing T-600, by jamming a metal rod into its motor cortex. Connor located Reese, and then both were pursued by the T-800, who broke in half the out-of-control, damaged T-600 blocking its path. Connor fired grenades at the T-800, successfully burning off its flesh-tissue covering, to reveal its metallic skeletal frame. The battle continued within the T-800 assembly factory (beneath the complex), where Connor discovered life-source nuclear fuel cells ("enough to level this place") for the T-800s.

Marcus entered the struggle to defend Connor and distract the T-800, while Kyle and Star fled to safety, and Connor wired the fuel cells for future detonation. During their one-on-one combat, the T-800 scanned Marcus and saw that there was "vulnerability" in his human heart - and delivered one fist-blow to his chest to "terminate" him. The pursuit continued after Connor, who managed to pour a vat of molten metal over the T-800, then froze the liquid with coolant to immobilize the T-800. As the Terminator slowly burst free, Connor's face was deeply scarred by the cyborg's metal fingers before he revived Marcus with electrical shocks to his heart. However, the T-800 jabbed and impaled John from behind, thrusting a metal bar through his chest. In retaliation, Marcus decapitated the T-800's head with part of the bar, and then carried Connor's mortally-wounded body (with "severe chest trauma") outside, to be rescued by Resistance helicopters that were conducting an airlift of prisoners and survivors. As they flew off, Star provided Connor with the controller to detonate the fuel cells - and Skynet's Center was leveled.

At a safe zone's medical facility in the desert, Connor's heart was failing, although he had strength to present Kyle Reese with his well-earned red-banded Resistance coat. Marcus offered his heart: "Take mine" to save Connor's life with a heart transplant: "Everybody deserves a second chance. This is mine." He bid goodbye to everyone (with a heartfelt farewell from Blair) and laid down on a table opposite John Connor. In voice-over, he spoke as the medical operation commenced and he lost consciousness: "What is it that makes us human? It's not something you can program. You can't put it into a chip. It's the strength of the human heart. The difference between us and machines."

After the successful operation, Connor was flown in a helicopter fleet toward the horizon, as he observed (in voice-over) words from his mother Sarah: "There is a storm on the horizon. A time of hardship and pain. This battle has been won, but the war against the machines rages on. Skynet's global network remains strong. But we will not quit, until all of it is destroyed. This is John Connor. There is no fate, but what we make."

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

With a production budget of $200 million (the most expensive independent film production in film history), and gross revenue of $125 million (domestic) and $372 million (worldwide).

The fourth installment in the long-running series-franchise since 1984 - it was a prequel to The Terminator (1984), set in the post-apocalyptic year 2018 in Los Angeles, 34 years after the original. It took place 14 years after the nuclear attack (Judgment Day) that ended the previous “Terminator” trilogy. It told the story of how adult Resistance leader John Connor (Christian Bale) combated the artificially-intelligent SkyNet computer network during the early days of the human Resistance, eleven years before Kyle Reese was sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from the first Terminator.

The film was dedicated to special effects wizard Stan Winston, who worked on the film up until his death.

The first Terminator movie to be rated PG-13.

Dr. Serena Kogan
(Helena Bonham Carter)

Marcus Wright
(Sam Worthington)

John Connor
(Christian Bale)

General Ashdown
(Michael Ironside)


Kate Connor
(Bryce Dallas Howard)

Young Kyle Reese
(Anton Yelchin)

(Jadagrace Berry)

(Jane Alexander)

Blair Williams
(Moon Bloodgood)

T-800 Model 101
(Roland Kickinger)

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