Study Guide

The Terminator Mortality

Mortality

PUNK 1: Hey, I think this guy is a couple cans short of a six-pack.

TERMINATOR: Your clothes. Give them to me. Now.

PUNK 1: F*ck you, *sshole.

[The punks draw switchblades. The Terminator disposes of them.]

Not that anybody's shedding a tear for skid-mark face guy—or whatever his name was—but the demise of the punks sets the deathly tone of the film. Death comes quickly, unexpectedly, and at the hands of a six-foot-tall Austrian bodybuilder.

REESE: Come with me if you want to live. Come on!

Reese is the Terminator's opposite. Whereas the Terminator doesn't care for the lives of people, Reese's mission is to preserve life. His main mission is to protect Sarah Connor, but you'll notice he doesn't kill anyone else, either. Even those cops at the beginning of the film get a pass.

REESE: 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.

Well, that's one way to get her attention. Might we suggest next time starting with a compliment or a rendition of "Getting to Know You"? Still, Reese's assessment of the Terminator situates that machine as the perfect symbol of death. No amount of bargaining or reasoning will stop it.

REESE: Hunter-Killers. Patrol machines built in automated factories. Most of us were rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal. [He shows her a barcode scarred into his arm.] This was burned in by laser scanner. Some of us were kept alive. To work. Loading bodies. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever.

Of course, the real threat isn't the death of a single woman: it's the death of our entire species. Sure, 99.9% of species in Earth's history have gone the way of the dodo, including the dodo. But this is one instance where "We are the 99%" won't make for an effective rally call.

Traxler is shot by the Terminator.

TRAXLER: Ed…

VUKOVICH: Hey!

Vukovich unloads into the Terminator, but the cyborg turns around and kills him.

Traxler and Vukovich represent authority and the safety of the status quo. How well does authority fare when faced with the hard facts of death? Um…not too well. Not too well at all.

Reese sticks a piece of dynamite into the Terminator's endoskeleton. The explosion rips the Terminator in half but kills Reese as well. When Sarah finally reaches his body, he stares blankly in death.

Okay, when three nameless punks die in a film, we don't bat an eye. That's how movies work. But when one of the main characters dies and isn't even given a stirring death speech? No chance to breathe his last in his lover's arms? Now that drives home the message that death comes for us all—and can do so in an instant.

SARAH [speaking into a tape recorder]: Should I tell you about your father? Boy, that's a tough one. Will it affect your decision to send him here, knowing that he is your father? If you don't send Kyle, you can never be. God, a person could go crazy thinking about this. I suppose I will tell you. I owe him that. Maybe it'll help if…you know that in the few hours that we had together…we loved a lifetime's worth.

Sure, there's the ever-looming threat of death hanging over everyone, but the film does offer a slice of hope. That hope comes from living one's life in the pursuit of something meaningful. Reese wanted to love and protect Sarah, and he did so. Sarah aims to honor his memory by preparing her son to battle the machines in the future. By their powers combined, humanity will ultimately be saved.

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