• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #131: The Terminator (T-800 Model 101)


Go with him if you want to live.

I've only ever seen the original Terminator movie and the blockbusting sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. My understanding is that the subsequent installments are a spiral of bad writing and bad acting. I'd be happy to hear opinions to the contrary, but in their absence I'd rather continue to cherish the first two films in blissful, willful ignorance.

The Terminator is Arnold Schwarzenegger's most iconic role (aside, perhaps, from Conan), and is one that perfectly suits both his hulking presence and diction-murdering charisma. He is so perfect in the original film, coldly violent, full of looming malice, terrifying and unstoppable. And yet he is also so magnetic and, in the parlance of the time, awesome, that he is clearly the star of the show. Does anyone really care about Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor, or their unsettling little romance? (Go back in time, soldier. Seduce my mom. Be my dad. That's an order.) Not me. I just want to watch Arnold do his thing.

In the second film, one of the most anticipated and satisfying sequels in action movie history, James Cameron solves this conundrum neatly by making Ahhhnold's massive cyborg into a hero. He said he'd be back and he is, but now he's here to terminate bad guys, specifically to protect Sarah and Kyle's son and future de Gaulle for humanity, John. (Sidebar: watch it again, and I dare you not to want to slap that too-glib kid in the shaggy head. End sidebar.) T2 is full of fantastic fight sequences, shiny new computer-generated effects, and even some pathos as the Terminator becomes a father figure and a tragic martyr. I'm sorry, John.

I suppose I could write about SkyNet and the allegorical connections to our own increasingly digital lives, but hey, I was sixteen when T2 hit theaters, and for me these movies will always remain what they were then: an opportunity to watch a hypermuscled badass in shades and a leather jacket absorb and dish out a ridiculous amount of punishment. Sometimes it's about the socially relevant commentary. Sometimes it's just about the explosions and body counts.

Hasta la vista, baby.

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