SAN DIEGO — There are two types of movie stars who make the pilgrimage to Comic-Con: Those who arrive with hopes of acquiring geek credibility, and those who bring it themselves.
"I walked the floor today! Oh, it was so much fun," enthused Bryce Dallas HowardBryce Dallas Howard, who toured several booths at her second Con before duty pulled her away for "Terminator Salvation""Terminator Salvation" interviews. "I was actually really disappointed when I was here for 'Spider-Man ''Spider-Man ' that we didn't have time in the schedule to walk the floor. I think Topher [Grace]Topher [Grace] came several hours earlier with his friends so he could do it. What's so great about Comic-Con is it's the fans — it's people who have spent a significant amount of time invested in admiring the stories, admiring the heroism, the sci-fi aspects of these stories."
What fans have known for years — and Hollywood has only recently begun to realize as it has minted stars like Kristen BellKristen Bell, Seth RogenSeth Rogen and Guillermo del ToroGuillermo del Toro — is that fans can sniff a phony a mile away. Which is why Howard and the other talents daring to try and resuscitate the "Terminator" film franchise feel confident that they are among friends this week.
"I've been an enormous fan of 'Terminator' [movies] since I was a little kid, because they were huge," insisted 19-year-old Anton YelchinAnton Yelchin, who got a big cheer at the preview this week. "When I was at my most impressionable, they were at their biggest."
"I love the franchise," Howard echoed. "I'm a total dork about it."
(Er, speaking of which, DC Unlimited has confirmed that it will be producing a line of products for the film.)
But as much as Day Three of Comic-Con had the "Salvation" stars professing their love for the series, it also had them stressing the many things that will be different when the film hits theaters next May.
"What we want to do is show the fans that we're staying true to the mythology of the first two, and then give them the war they wanted," explained Australian newcomer Sam Worthington. "The first two ['Terminator' films] in particular, because they are darker and grimier. If the first one's a horror movie and the second one's a great action movie, the third is a romp. And then the fourth one, hopefully, is a visceral 'Black Hawk Down'-meets-'Mad Max' movie."
Whether it soars or sucks, the re-boot of one of fandom's most beloved franchises ultimately rests with three letters: McG.
"McG is dead," cautioned the director, who gained fame with his slick music videos and "Charlie's Angels" films. "This is a new beginning. I think every filmmaker reserves the right to grow and leave the past behind. ... This movie is largely influenced by the language of Stanley Kubrick, the language of Alfonso Cuaron and such contemporaries as David Fincher and Chris Nolan
"There aren't many cuts," he swore. "And it's 180 degrees removed from any music-video energy.
"Christian BaleChristian Bale is the best actor of his generation, and he's our John Connor," McG continued, comparing his challenge to that of Nolan when he and Bale (who was not at Comic-Con this week) set out to reboot the Bat. "I would never be so bold as to say we'll have that kind of success, but we aim to. I don't think anybody would regard what Chris did with 'Batman Begins''Batman Begins' as 'Batman 5,' and certainly 'The Dark Knight''The Dark Knight' is not 'Batman 6.' They respected the heritage of the franchise, but they began again. And that's what we want to do."
So, for those of you scoring at home: Bale is the new Eddie Furlong, Howard is the new Claire Danes, and Yelchin is the new Michael Biehn; if you want to start factoring in the "Sarah Connor Chronicles" actors, well, we're gonna need a bigger scorecard.
"I play Kyle Reese as a young man," Yelchin explained. "Kyle is John Connor's father, he went to protect Sarah Connor, and this is the becoming of the hero."
"My character is the bridge between Kyle and John," said the burly Worthington, cast as a possible Terminator named Marcus Wright. "I help them change and grow, and I'm the catalyst for where they go to."
"This happens in the future, post-judgment day," explained McG. "It happens in 2018, and we see the development of [Skynet] on its way to building the T-800, which was indeed the Arnold Schwarzenegger model. So we get to have a great deal of fun seeing giant robots roaming around the landscape, trying to kill all humanity. And John Connor's doing his best to hold on, and there's an interesting character named Marcus Wright — who we don't know exactly what he's made out of."
"I was doing a scene with Christian Bale, and we're inside some underground bunker where it's dirty and freaky," Howard remembered, when asked about the "Salvation" scene that first made her feel like she really was in a "Terminator" film. "I'm supposed to look up, see him, and then run towards and hold him. I hadn't seen him in his costume yet, and they were about to do rehearsal. They were like 'Christian's here!' and he rounds the corner. I look up, and he's in his John Connor outfit, with a machine gun, a satchel . ... There was this voice in my head saying, 'I cannot believe what is happening right now. I cannot believe that I am in a Terminator film, about to hold John Connor!'"
Ultimately, however, the one question the stars received the most this weekend centered around the geeks' desire to bridge the old franchise with the new: Will Arnold have a cameo in the movie, or not?
"Well, I'm not at liberty to answer that," McG slyly remarked at the notion of a Governator cameo, knowing that any filmmaker who doesn't have a returning star typically moves quickly to deny and get past such rumors. "And perhaps in not answering it, I've answered it."
If the big guy is planning to stay true to his catchphrase and "Be back," it would make the Comic-Con crowd and the "Salvation" talents quite happy — especially since they're one and the same.
"These are the people I'm doing it for," Howard summed up, looking over at the costumed crowd. "Because I'm one of them."
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