I think I know what the storyline of Terminator: Salvation is. At it’s core, it’s Aeschylus’s myth of ‘Prometheus’, as the movie’s director McG unveiled here some time ago. But there’s a twist: instead of using the Greek Aeschylus’s original, the writers have turned to the version of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and likely also threw in parts from ‘Frankenstein’, written by Mary Shelley, Percy’s wife. Be aware, though: what follows, probably contains spoilers.
In the past months, director McG and others close to the movie’s production process, have dropped hints about the storyline. Until now, everybody has been guessing at who Marcus Wright is, a mysterious man who pops up out of nowhere. His only recollection is that he was on death row, and then the nuclear war started by Skynet set him free. John Connor, until now the hero of the Terminator series who will finally lead the surviving humans to their victory over Skynet’s robots, meets Wright.
It has gradually become clear, through snippets of information released by McG and others, that Marcus Wright (played by Sam Worthington) is actually a “decommissioned Terminator.” I have severe doubts about this – who would or could “decommission” a Terminator that was sent back through time by Skynet? And why oh why would a destructive Terminator robot allow itself to be incarcerated? Questions, questions.
However, following Shelley’s version of Prometheus Unbound, and McG’s earlier flap that “Terminator: Salvation will introduce a new hero” and various rumours circulating that the Terminator Marcus Wright will be that hero, the story thus becomes this:
Like in Prometheus Unbound, John Connor is Prometheus. And like in the myth, Prometheus gets into a quarrel with Zeus (which in this modern adaption is Skynet). However, Prometheus in the myth got into trouble with Zeus because Prometheus didn’t tell Zeus that one of the latter’s own spouse will cause his downfall. (Like Zeus caused his own father’s downfall, namely Cronos, in Greek mythology.) Prometheus also thwarts Zeus’s plan to destroy the human race.
As punishment for his actions, Prometheus is bound to a mountain in the Caucasus, where an eagle (or vulture) swoops down each day to eat Prometheus’s liver, which regenerates each day. The Caucasus is described as a barren, lifeless place – much like the world after a nuclear Armageddon.
Of course, Connor is not bound to a rock. But Connor in Terminator: Salvation also symbolises the human race itself. We know that the surviving humans are kept in camps, chained, or used to experiment on by Skynet.
In the myth, Heracles – a son of Zeus – appears, and releases Prometheus from his bounds. Heracles must be Marcus Wright. Working together, Prometheus, Heracles and others (among them Asia, one of the Oceanids and the love interest of Prometheus) finally beat Zeus. (In Shelley’s version, Demogorgon jumps into an endless abyss of fire, taking Zeus with him. It is unknown whether in Shelley’s version, Demogorgon is Heracles; only parts of Aeschylus’s plays were found.)
One fun detail: Terminator: Salvation is planned to be a trilogy. So is Aeschylus’s Prometheus Unbound. Helena Bonham Carter’s character, called ‘Serena’, is still somewhat of a mystery, but I would not be surprised if she’s the female version of Victor Frankenstein – the man who created a monster out of body parts. But the monster releases himself from Victor’s control. This, too, is something McG has harped on; how humans lose control over the technology they create. That, in a nutshell, is also at the core of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And that, in a nutshell, would mean that Serena is the one who created Skynet. After all, Bonham Carter has said that she’ll be playing “a baddie, definitely a very baddie”.
And McG I think once flapped that Connor and Marcus Wright will discover a “terrible secret” in Terminator: Salvation. I’m pretty sure that Serena is it.