Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #16

Re: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

I was reading your review of Terminator 3 recently, and I basically agreed with it wholeheartedly. I was once a big fan of the series, at a time when I took my faith less seriously, and I haven’t watched any of them for some time. I was wondering if we could get a quick take from you on the other Terminator films (both moral and artistic merits) and whether they are worth re-watching, since I doubt you’ll ever have the time or inclination to do full reviews for them.

While I’m hoping this year to write more about more films that I wouldn’t have revisited in the past, you’re right in thinking that reviews of The Terminator and T2 are not on the horizon, nor do I expect that to change for the indefinite future.

The Terminator is a taut, effective (but very violent) sci-fi/action film that works well on a number of levels. As I thought about it in response to your query, it occurred to me that The Terminator is a sort of secular nativity story, with an annunciation, a promised child that will bring salvation, an act of faith (“Come with me if you want to live”), a massacre of innocents and a flight into the wilderness. Not a virgin birth, of course, and the sex scene is unfortunately graphic. Still, a film that values human life, that sides with humanity against the forces that it has unwittingly unleashed against itself.

As soon as those thoughts occurred to me, I immediately realized that my friend and fellow Christian film writer Peter Chattaway, a known Terminator geek, would certainly have had the same thoughts. I did a Google search, and sure enough, here’s his thoughtful essay, which also touches on a number of other moral and aesthetic themes in the series.

T2 I think is not nearly as interesting a film as The Terminator; the main draw is the technology spectacle, the well-choreographed action and Arnold’s screen presence and chemistry with young John Connor. That’s despite the kinder, gentler Terminator and Peter’s points about the T-800 learning the value of human life. Also, Cameron’s sometimes appreciated feminist leanings verge here into misandry, especially in Sarah Connor’s risible speech about men creating weapons in contrast to women creating life.

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