The Terminator

Ash Isaac

If you had said at the premiere of James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi action flick that the Austrian-born antagonist would go on to become the governor of the world’s fourth largest economy, the likelihood is that you would have been carted away in a straitjacket and subjected to an intensive course of shock therapy… The reality is that it’s no stranger than Sarah Palin or Ronald Reagan holding elected office and who can imagine either of those two as unblinking, blood-thirsty, megalomaniacal machines? Well, now that I’m thinking about it…

We open in an apocalyptic and dystopian future where humanity is being slowly exterminated by an army of sentient automatons who have clearly never heard of Asimov’s ‘Three Laws of Robotics’. The machines are controlled by a vast artificial intelligence network, Skynet, which sounds uncannily like a Yorkshire based ISP provider in the here and now – but wait till 2029 when the gloves are off and it will be concentrating more on the genocide of mankind as we know it and less on whether it can beat what you pay on your current tariff… Try as Skynet might, it just can’t seem to polish off those pesky humans and the pockets of resistance that continually pop up to thwart its dream of a brave new robotic world. Chief among those with the temerity to oppose Skynet is John Connor, de facto leader of the resistance and most wanted man alive. How to get to him though?

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Skynet, scoffing at Einstein’s theory of relativity, has come up with a way to send an agent back in time and plots to have Connor’s mother, Sarah Connor, killed before she can conceive him or end up marrying the director. If at first you don’t succeed … build a time machine. Schwarzenegger gives an all-too-convincing performance as the relentless, dead-eyed cyborg assassin, the Terminator, dispatched back to 1984 to slay Sarah Connor and then presumably found a large technology multinational using his knowledge of the future.

Back in 2029, despite the majority of the human population living underground and subsisting primarily on rats, the resistance manages to defeat Skynet, break into its headquarters, figure out how to use its ‘time displacement’ technology, and send their own champion, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor. Thus the scene is set for an adrenaline-pumped game of robot cat and human mouse as each future fugitive races to find Sarah Connor before the other. Reese arrives in the nick of time to rescue Connor just as Arnie is about to give her the ol’ double tap to the head. From then on it’s all about survival, anyhow, anyway. The Terminator, in what can only be described as the most incrementally indiscreet assassination contract ever taken out, contrives to kill a gun dealer, several partygoers, Connor’s flatmate and her boyfriend, an entire precinct of police officers and even two other women with the name Sarah Connor – without harming a hair on the actual Sarah Connor’s head.

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In a break from the gratuitous execution of aforementioned people, Reese and Connor share a tender moment. The accompanying violence of the earlier part of the film clearly has done nothing to dampen their ardour and they engage in intercourse, thereby conceiving John Connor, the very man who sent Reese back in time to protect his mother! This either creates or fulfils a paradox – I really don’t know which. Alas, there’s barely any time available for post-coital pillow talk as the Terminator, perhaps inevitably, once again pursues the increasingly frazzled couple. This time it’s to the death…

In the climactic scene, the Terminator survives being blown up by an exploding gasoline tank and having a pipe bomb thrust into its abdomen, the latter act at the cost of Reese’s life. You have to admire his persistent metal gonads. Connor, in rather a cruel fashion, then leads the handicapped Terminator on a merry dance around an industrial warehouse, before finally crushing it in a conveniently-placed hydraulic press.

Hugely popular on release, as evidenced by the spawning of three further sequels, a TV show, books, graphic novels, games and this review 28 years later, the Terminator has proved to be both an enduring mythos and a seminal thriller – long on brains, brawn and Austrian method acting. Come the apocalypse I for one will turn to the Governator and his metal gonads to lead mankind forward…

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.