The child psychology of Terminator's creator.



I've always viewed apocalyptic robotic science fiction from afar -- with a telescope. This narrative that interests me because it involves the human characteristic of self-destruction, but that seems so foreign to my reality. In my head, I always imagine that if something like this goes down I'll be somewhere far away from it all by then. I figure, there's gotta be enough warning signs to give me a head start. I just can't imagine watching the T-1 Prototype (link) being created in real life, and me -- hearing the news -- choosing to remain in the society that creates it.

(Wired) Creator James Cameron on Terminator's Origins, Arnold as Robot, Machine Wars: I first remember being aware of geopolitics during the Cuban missile crisis. When I was 7 or 8, I found a pamphlet for fallout shelters on the coffee table in my family's house in Ontario, and I remember thinking, "What's this about?" I had the sudden sensation that my coddled existence was a facade. Something dark and terrifying lurked behind it.

I've been fascinated ever since by our human propensity for dancing on the edge of the apocalypse. So when I wrote the first Terminator outline around 1982, I was just working out my childhood stuff. It was also born out of the science fiction movies and literature I grew up with. For the most part, they were warnings—about technology, about science, about the military and the government. You couldn't escape those themes or the fear of nuclear holocaust.

The idea of a hit man from the future trying to change past events was certainly not new. What I thought was cutting-edge was deciding to not have the Terminator be a guy in a robot suit. That's how it was typically done. But a flesh-covered endoskeleton? That was new. So for me it was all about how we could develop stop-motion animation and puppetry to create a true robotic endoskeleton. The team at visual-effects house Stan Winston Studio jumped into it and made it work.

Casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as our Terminator, on the other hand, shouldn't have worked. The guy is supposed to be an infiltration unit, and there's no way you wouldn't spot a Terminator in a crowd instantly if they all looked like Arnold. It made no sense whatsoever. But the beauty of movies is that they don't have to be logical. They just have to have plausibility. If there's a visceral, cinematic thing happening that the audience likes, they don't care if it goes against what's likely.

I don't think anything resembling The Terminator is really going to happen. There certainly aren't going to be genocidal wars waged by machines a few generations from now. The stories function more on a symbolic level, and that's why people key into them. They're about us fighting our own tendency toward dehumanization. When a cop has no compassion, when a shrink has no empathy, they've become machines in human form. Technology is changing the whole fabric of social interaction. We're absorbing our machines in a symbiotic way, evolving to become one with our own devices, and that's going to continue indefinitely.

I kind of turned my back on the Terminator world when there was early talk about a third film. I'd evolved beyond it. I don't regret that, but I have to live with the consequence, which is that I keep seeing it resurrected. I'm not involved in Terminator Salvation. I've never read the script. I'm sure I'll be paying 10 bucks to see it like everybody else.

Meanwhile, the original film was recently selected for preservation by the National Film Registry. So there's a good possibility that when the machines actually do take over someday, The Terminator will still be in existence. And the machines can have a good electronic laugh about that. (source)