Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Terminator is a 1984 sci-fi action film which became the break-through role for former body-builder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Directed by James Cameron, the premise of the movie is that a "cybernetic construct" (living tissue over an android skeleton) the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 800 Series Terminator (played by Schwarzenegger), has been transported back in time from 2029 A.D. to May 12, 1984 to assassinate a woman named Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton). At the same time a man, Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn), is sent back to protect Connor from the cyborg. Issues raised by the film include time travel, causal loops, and artificial intelligence.
The sequels to the movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, further developed the story line and explored the ethical implications of machine intelligence as well as what it means to be truly human.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger The Terminator
- Michael Biehn Kyle Reese
- Linda Hamilton Sarah Connor
- Paul Winfield Lieutenant Ed Traxler
- Lance Henriksen Detective Vukovich
- Bess Motta Ginger Ventura
- Earl Boen Dr. Peter Silberman
- Rick Rossovich Matt Buchanan
- Dick Miller Pawnshop Clerk
- Shawn Schepps Nancy
- Bruce M. Kerner Desk Sergeant
- Franco Columbu Future Terminator
- Bill Paxton Punk Leader
- Brad Rearden Punk
- Brian Thompson Punk
A young woman, Sarah Connor, finds herself pursued by a relentless killer for reasons completely unknown to her. She is eventually approached by Reese, who explains that in the future, an artificial intelligence called "Skynet" will be created by military software developers to make strategic decisions. The program becomes self-aware, in the panic the humans attempt to destroy skynet. In the interest of self preservation skynet seizes control of most of the world's military hardware (including various highly-advanced robots), and launches an all-out attack on human beings. However, a man named John Connor eventually leads the human resistance to victory, only to discover that in a last-ditch effort Skynet had researched time travel and sent a robotic killer back in time in the 1980s to destroy John Connor's family before he can be born. John Connor, of course, is Sarah's future son, and he sends back a trusted assistant (Reese) to protect his mother at all costs.
The plot is summed up by these lines spoken by Reese, who tells Sarah Connor:
- "Listen! And understand! That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"
The key difficulty in Reese's mission is that the Terminator is a powerful machine of an extremely durable construction that can sustain a considerable amount of damage. Since the time travel mechanism precludes the traveler from carrying non living matter outside the being's body, Reese arrived unarmed; and the small arms of the 1980s that are available are simply not powerful enough to affect the Terminator; a full barrage of police gunfire doesn't even affect it. Furthermore, a Terminator's organic covering, when intact, makes it indistinguishable from an organic being to a casual observer which makes the task of convincing anyone of that time that this assailant is actually an extremely advanced machine, and not being written off as crazy, almost impossible.
Some aspects of the story were sufficiently similar to two episodes of the TV series The Outer Limits — both episodes written by Harlan Ellison — that Ellison pursued legal action against Cameron. Cameron settled out of court and acknowledged Ellison's work in the film's credits. The episodes in question were called "Soldier" (which involves a specially-trained man sent back in time to assassinate a rival) and "Demon With A Glass Hand" (concerning a time traveler who suffers memory loss and relies on a computer chip implanted in his body to give him information about his mission). There is also some similarity between the concept of Skynet and the evil intelligence featured in Ellison's short story, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream".
The subject matter of both films seem to be inspired by the writing of Philip K. Dick. His story Second Variety features a post apocalyptic world where enemy robots wear rubber skin to pose as humans. Like The Matrix, Many of his later novels refer directly to third eye vision, and use science fiction as a medium to discuss Gnosticism. Sophia Stewart's story that supposedly inspired the Matrix was called "The Third Eye."
A similar plot of a killer machine sent back in time to change history was seen in a fairly obscure film from 1966 entitled Cyborg 2087 .
The "first" feature film for director Cameron (he had been replaced on the unsuccessful Piranha II: The Spawning), this movie was a surprise box-office hit. It established Cameron as a talented action director. He would then go on to produce a string of successful action movies, continuing with Aliens in 1986. Schwarzenegger had already starred in the hit film Conan the Barbarian and its successor, Conan the Destroyer, but The Terminator made his name a household word. It is still considered to be one of his best roles.
A pair of documentaries about the film, which appear on the DVD version, have a number of explanations of various issues about the movie. Originally Schwarzenegger was going to be offered the part of Reese, the hero, but as a result of a lunch meeting, both he and Cameron independently realized that he would be better suited to play the part of the title character.
The film was originally scheduled to be shot in Spring, 1983 in Toronto, but Dino DeLaurentis chose to option Schwarzenegger to film Conan the Destroyer and as a result, this film had to be placed on hold for a year, and filming began in March of 1984 in Los Angeles.
A sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) was also directed by James Cameron, and again starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, with Edward Furlong as the young John Connor. Linda Hamilton's "softer" twin sister, Leslie Hamilton Gearran, appears in the film in the scene where Sarah is remembering playing in the park with John. She also appears in the scene where the T-1000 is impersonating Sarah.
A further sequel, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, was released on July 2, 2003, again with Schwarzenegger, but with Nick Stahl as John Connor and Kristanna Loken as the model T-X (Terminatrix). Terminator 3 was directed by Jonathan Mostow .
At the time of the movies release much of the technology in the movie was still considered science fiction. Aside from time travel, the flesh outer skin, and the self aware AI-Software of the Terminator/Skynet, however, everything in the movie can be produced using modern techniques, including the terminator itself (without the software of course). Modern distributed computing can perform as Skynet did. The concept of distributed computing was considered too technical at the time for audiences to find believable.
As for the general concept of armed robots replacing soldiers, on December 1, 2004, Wired News reported that the Army plans to deploy weaponized Talon robots (called Swords) to Iraq. Talon robots are made by robotics manufacturer Foster-Miller. The robots are already in wide use in the War on Terrorism for many dangerous situations, but this is the first time they have been armed with machine guns and dispatched to kill human beings. Of course, due to the state of artificial intelligence research at present, the robots will be under the control of humans at all times. The greatest hurdles to achieving effective combat robots include visual recognition programs that are usable on the battlefield and more advanced logic programs for dealing with tactical situations. There are also serious concerns about a machine's ability to designate between combatants and civilians.
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