On the surface, James Cameron’s THE TERMINATOR might (understandably) look like a simple case of Man vs. Machine, but when you examine a little closer, things take on a deeper context. John Connor is, in this world at least, mankind’s salvation, he’s the one fore-ordained to save humanity from itself and the fruits of its advancements. The character becomes messianic in that regard, a 21st century techno-Jesus born to delete our sins. As such, there are forces trying to both protect him and destroy him, another parallel between the life of John Connor and that of the Christian Savior. It is this subtext that transforms THE TERMINATOR from more than a mere FX-heavy action B-movie – which is how many saw it upon its initial release – and into one of the most mythically-rich sci-fi films of all-time, one that birthed a universe filmmakers are still exploring 30 years later.
THE TERMINATOR is, ultimately I believe, a case of Man vs. Man, free will vs. a will suppressed, and what we want from an ideal society vs. what we actually get when we attempt to craft one. That too parallels religion, which was developed to make peaceful sense of the nonsensical universe surrounding us, but has in its time and various manifestations instead led to more and often belligerent nonsense.
Just how Cameron integrates these ideas and themes into the story of THE TERMINATOR is the subject of this inaugural video essay from Storytellers, a pair of Dutch BFFs with a keen eye and acumen for film analysis. It goes beneath the gripping style into the subtle substance of Cameron’s story, drawing out the themes and parallels between movie, myth, and religion.