Although Terminator Salvation has done reasonably well at the box office, it may have suffered somewhat from its dark, pessimistic tone. The fourth film in the Terminator franchise is set in a future world ravaged by a nuclear holocaust. To create that setting, the filmmakers behind the new movie took glimpses of humanity’s unfortunate future from the previous films and expanded on them to create a world of devestation and human suffering.

The process of creating that world is superbly illustrated in two titles published by Titan Books to tie in with the film’s release: Terminator Salvation: The Official Movie Companion and The Art of Terminator Salvation. The former is a glossy 176-page softcover book, while the latter is a 240-page hardcover title that would sit nicely on a coffee table. Both are full cover throughout. Authorship is credited to Tara Bennett, whose previous books include 300: The Art of the Film and official companions to the show 24.

One of the best things about these books is that they give extensive exposure to the impressive work of concept artists and production designers. These are among the most underappreciated professionals in the movie-making process. Because their work is not seen directly on screen, their contribution to films is rarely seen. Thankfully, there are plenty of their creations in The Official Movie Companion and The Art of Terminator Salvation. These books have page after page of stunning and dramatic images that were created to illustrate settings, sequences, characters and the many machines in the new Terminator movie. Particularly impressive are scenes of the devastated Los Angeles skyline (below) and the Terminator factory. (For readers with a stronger stomach, there are also gruesome images of Skynet’s human experimentation lab.)

Skyline

Other items that are likely to be of interest to fans of the Terminator franchise are storyboards and designs that show how the crew on the new movie took concepts introduced in previous films and adapted them to fit the future in Terminator Salvation. For example, The Art of Terminator Salvation contrasts the clean T1 from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the ‘dirtied’ up version that features in the grungier Salvation. There is also a ‘parade of endoskeletons’ showing the de-evolution of Terminators backwards from the sophisticated T-800, through the T-700 to the brutal T-600 that has become the iconic image associated with Terminator Salvation.

The Art of Terminator Salvation also includes interesting sections on the development of other technology from the film from early concept sketches to final design. Of particular note here is the Aerostat, which evolved into its final mechanistic form from a more organic design. The story of the Harvester’s development is also interesting. According to The Art of Terminator Salvation, it was originally considered too similar to the Transformers. Although the design evolved to reduce the similarity, that didn’t stop a war of words between Terminator Salvation director McG and the director of Transformers, Michael Bay.

Given that both books contain a lot of artwork, it is inevitable that much of it is duplicated between them. Fans on a limited budget and wanting to get the book with the most information on the making of the film would be better off investing in The Official Movie Companion. This book contains chapters dedicated to aspects of the production process and characters from the movie. The behind-the-scenes chapters cover pre-production, production design, the design and construction of Terminators, costume design, the planning of the Harvester chase sequence, stunts, cinematography and visual effects. These sections include contributions from various people who worked off-screen, including production designer Martin Laing, animatronics effects supervisor John Rosengrant, costume designer Michael Wilkinson and stunt co-coordinator Tom Struthers. The text in these sections is relatively short (it takes second place to images even in The Official Companion  ) but it includes some interesting background information. If it is critical analysis that you want, though, this is not the place to look for it. The writing is congratulatory in tone. That should be expected from an an Official Companion, however.

The character chapters in The Official Companion cover Christian Bale’s John Connor, Sam Worthington’s Marcus Wright, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), Kate Conner (Bryce Dallas Howard), Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) and Barnes (Common). In most cases these sections include quotes from the actors. The exception is Christian Bale, who is not quoted in the section on John Connor. Instead, McG praises Bale for being “passionate” about the film and for his attitude towards acting in general.

If it is impressive artwork that you are most interested in, The Art of Terminator Salvation would be the better purchase. Aside from the fact that it is a very nicely produced book, it provides bigger reproductions of some of the artwork that is in The Official Companion. There are also occasional snippets of background information to put the images in context. Despite the lack of text, though, this is a comprehensive book, covering many of the components and sequences in the film. There is also a section on the Terminator Salvation video game.

Both Terminator Salvation: The Official Movie Companion and The Art of Terminator Salvation are high quality contributions to the studio-sanctioned Terminator Salvation library (which currently also includes the prequel novel From the Ashes by Timothy Zahn (reviewed here) and the Official Movie Novelization by Alan Dean Foster). In keeping with the abundance of artwork they contain, both books prioritise description over analysis.  The imagery is impressive, though, and definitely worthy of publication in these books. A word of warning, however: although these books are largely comprised of pictures, you should see the movie before you leaf through them if you are still trying to avoid any accounts of the plot. Both books are comprehensive enough to give most of the story away.

Michael Simpson is the Associate Editor of the film and TV website CinemaSpy.com and a freelance writer on a wide range of topics (CinemaSpy; Home).

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