The year is 2018 and the “future” largely anticipated in the three movies, comics, novels, and a television series is here. John Connor is a leader in the Resistance movement against Skynet, an artificial intelligence intent on the annihilation of all human beings on earth. Those who are familiar with the Terminator storyline will know that Skynet achieved consciousness in 2004 and launched all nuclear missiles causing massive destruction in a day called “Judgment Day.”
I enjoyed this movie. The story telling is fast paced, with lots of boom and mayhem, plenty of new Terminator machines and a thought provoking plot.
[warning: movie spoilers]
Basically this is about redemption. What will redemption involve- for a person and for humanity on the whole? The movie begins in 2003 when death roll Marcus Wright, a convicted repentant prisoner signed over his body to Cyberdyne for research purposes. Marcus was executed by a lethal injection. Judgment Day happened the next year.
Marcus was awakened in 2018 by a Resistance attack on the lab which stored his body. As the story develops, he found that he was a cyborg with a human heart and mechanical body and a chip implanted in his brain. Unwittingly he was part of Skynet’s plan to trap John Connor, who has by now became an influential voice of the Resistance, though not one of its upper echelon leaders.
Marcus Wright is the hero of this movie. He was given a second chance for life by Skynet. He used his life well in saving Kyle Reese, a teenager he befriended (the future John Connor’s father) and John Connor. In doing so, he shows how human beings are different from machines. Human beings have free will, compassion and moral conscience. By saving John Connor, Marcus actually offers salvation for John Connor himself, and through Connor, the human race. Though the movie is appropriately named Terminator Salvation, it may also be titled Terminator Redemption.
Most if not all of us have regrets in this life. By our actions or inactions, we have hurt people and cause undesirable consequences. I wonder how will we redeem our regrets if we are given a chance. And if we are given a second chance at life, how will we live the new life?
As I have mention in finding biblical allusions in apocalyptic stories there is much we can learn from the Terminator series. John Connor is often taken as the archetype of Jesus Christ, the saviour of humankind. Personally the message I have is not that of John Connor at all. The message is our present civilisation that seeks to turn us into machines in the name of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. This is closely linked with our embrace of technology. In a way Judgment day have occurred because we have surrendered our individuality and humanity. Neil Postman mentioned 20 years ago that the media is entertainment. Well, the media have become entertainment with short sound bytes and talking heads.
More than that, we have become the media. We given up our individuality when we give up our privacy. Through social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and through out blogs we open our privacy for the world to view. Through technology we also gave up our humanity. Social policies are determined by statistical analysis programs that determine the cost-benefits. People has become a number, a statistic in the enormous database, the ones and the zeroes that define our humanity in the digital era.
As the human fought back in post-apocalyptic Judgment Day, we need to fight back against the dehumanisation of our society. I am not a Luddite. I love technology as much as the next guy. However we must be aware of what technology is doing to us as individuals and as human beings.