New ‘Terminator Salvation’ Preview: Heart-Pounding Battles, Big (And Bigger) Explosions

Director says Jesus was an inspiration for the John Connor character.

On Monday night in New York, [movie id="347265"]“Terminator Salvation”[/movie] director McG showed off the most in-depth look yet at his still-unfinished summer blockbuster. The franchise reboot follows resistance fighter John Connor ([movieperson id="3146"]Christian Bale[/movieperson]) in the post-Judgment Day wasteland of 2018 as he tries to stop Skynet from perfecting its human lookalike T-800 cyborg ([movieperson id="97862"]Arnold Schwarzenegger[/movieperson]‘s character from the original films) — at which point humanity will be totally screwed.

The clips that McG and Warner Brothers previewed covered the awesome-action-movie basics — heart-pounding battles, anxiety-inducing silences, big explosions and bigger explosions — as well as a gritty, desolate landscape reminiscent of late-’70s and early-’80s sci-fi classics like [movie id="21568"]“Mad Max.”[/movie] No doubt, as the director said, “This is a war film.”

The first clip gave us an extended look at the capabilities of the Harvester Terminator, a massive metal monster with a gun on its head and two legs that release mechanized motorcycles. The Harvester isn’t there just to wreak havoc, though it does plenty of that. Its mission is to kidnap humans for use in Skynet’s research and design of the T-800 (which, in a plot twist, is set to come online a decade earlier than what Sarah Connor told her son in the previous films; why the future has changed is one of the central questions driving John in “Salvation”).

But about that havoc-wreaking: check and check. New Terminator Marcus Wright (relative newcomer [movieperson id="243115"]Sam Worthington[/movieperson]) and a young Kyle Reese ([movieperson id="243106"]Anton Yelchin[/movieperson]) — Reese will father John Connor when he travels back in time — get caught up in the Harvester attack, and respond with equal parts hero-warrior ingenuity and reckless regard for their own safety. Though the CGI effects were still incomplete, the five-minute clip makes clear McG has a steady hand when it comes to action sequences.

Subsequent clips did not alter that estimation, nor did they disappoint, offering glimpses of new Terminator bots (underwater eels! hovering aircraft!); Skynet’s immaculate research-and-development lab; badass resistance leader Michael Ironside; the complexity of the relationship between suspicious Connor and enigmatic Wright, who strike an uneasy alliance in their battle against Skynet; explosive car chases; helicopter crashes and lots and lots of Bale’s stoic, you-do-not-want-to-cross-me gazes.

(Head here for a “Terminator” fan’s take on the new footage.)

McG has a lot to prove to skeptics wondering why the director of “Charlie’s Angels” was put in charge of such a classic sci-fi franchise. At the screening, he responded to his most high profile critic, “Transformers” director Michael Bay, who took a thinly veiled shot on his blog at McG’s robot creations. “It bothers me,” McG said in what was hardy a scathing retort, before going on to suggest that the criticism is ridiculous because giant robots have been around for ages.

McG also filled in details about the film’s development. When he pitched “Salvation” to Bale on the “Dark Knight” set, the actor said he’d sign on if they could get the script to the point where it could be read on stage in a theater. McG turned to “Dark Knight” scribe Jonathan Nolan to fulfill the appeal. The emphasis was on “story, story, story,” said McG. In constructing Connor, a character burdened by knowledge of the future who must live up to the prophecy of saving humanity, the director told MTV News he and Nolan were influenced by the stories of Luke Skywalker and Neo from “The Matrix,” as well as an unexpected figure.

“Jesus,” he told us. “Here’s a guy who’s saying, ‘Listen to me, I know what’s going on.’ Some people listen, some people don’t believe a word he’s saying.”

Yet as much as he revealed, McG hinted there was a lot he couldn’t dish (“The ending might piss some people off,” he said). At one point he turned to a producer and said, “I can’t talk about the Governor of California.” Was this a joke or a serious hint that the original Terminator will make a cameo?

McG also has two more “Terminator” movies in mind. He hastened to add that though it’d be presumptuous to discuss sequels before audiences have even reacted to “Salvation,” the next film would focus on an idea raised but not explored in-depth in “Salvation”: time travel.

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.