It’s odd that I haven’t mentioned The Terminator on this site before. It was one of the first end of the world movies to capture my imagination. In many ways, the movie and the concept really sparked the genesis of my odd apocalyptic preoccupation. The Terminator is one of my all time favorite movies. An awesome combination of a killer cyborg, time travel, the dawn of true artificial intelligence and nuclear war gets me every time.
First off, lets get the criticism out of the way. I’m not claiming that the acting or the story line logic is perfect. Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting is fair at best (well, he is a cyborg). And yes, there is some unnecessary nudity – no I’m not referring to Sarah Connor. For some strange reason, only human tissue can travel through time, oh and a metal skeleton, but not clothes…Ok, lets move on shall we…
The premise itself is perfectly logical: artificial intelligence is born, sees humans as a threat, concludes that to eliminate the threat efficiently it must initiate a full scale nuclear strike against The Soviet Union (which was still intact at the time that the film was made). A newly born artificial intelligence aka Skynet knew that such a strike would be reciprocated and “bye-bye” humans, well most humans anyway. Of course, there would be survivors, but Skynet must have deduced that such a threat would be minimal with 90% of the world’s population dead and most of humankind’s infrastructure decimated.
We are led to believe that Skynet was somewhat surprised by the human will to survive. Indeed, humans can be quite resourceful and tenacious when necessary. The human resistance became something more than a nuisance to Skynet, so it comes up with quite an innovative plan to use cyborgs to infiltrate human populations to kill, kill, KILL!
Furthermore, Skynet decided to use its newly discovered time travel technology to send a terminator back in time to prevent the human resistance leader from being born by killing his mother Sarah Connor. Ha! Take that stupid humans!
However, apparently Skynet didn’t fully consider the consequences of time travel as Kyle Reese followed the Terminator back through time to defend Sarah Connor. We find out that Kyle is actually John Connor’s father!
Not only that, but we later find out (in Terminator 2) that Cyberdyne systems actually based most of its work off of the robotic arm and circuits that they found and studied from Terminator 1. Oh Boy! So did Skynet actually create itself accidentally by sending the first terminator back in time? Wow, time travel is fun isn’t it, if you can get past the headache! 🙂
Some of my favorite parts of the first Terminator movie are when we see the future through Kyle Reese’s dreams and memories. We see tricked out resistance 80’s cars with stolen mounted Skynet laser cannons (below). We watch as the early terminator units infiltrate a human enclave and kill everyone. We watch as a giant robotic tank drove over skulls in post apocalyptic Los Angeles.
Considering the special effect technology that was available in 1984, these scenes are epic! It’s like Mad Max mixed with Star Wars. Add in the 80’s synthesizer music and we are talking over the top awesome for a 10 year old kid and a 41 year old man alike!
The Terminator franchise now covers 5 movies, a TV series, novels and a comic series. The Walking Dead fan’s might be interested to know that Gale Anne Hurd was a writer and producer in almost all of the Terminator movies. It’s hard to really understate the influence The Terminator has had on our modern culture. To this day, it still stands as one of my favorite movies of all time.