The Terminator (1984): A Postmodern Myth?

Marc Barham
7 min readNov 4, 2019

‘‘Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures’’

Dolores Abernathy, Westworld, The Bicameral Mind

In 1984 a science fiction film hit the big screens in the United States and stayed at the top of the box office for two weeks and helped launch Jim Cameron’s film career and propel Schwarzenegger to stardom. Prior to this Jim Cameron was a relatively unknown director and had only shot one movie to date.

Cameron’s fortune changed literally overnight when he had an opportunity to pitch the film with Lance Henriksen dressed in a leather biker jacket acting out the role of The Terminator in front of anxious executives from the production company, Hemdale.

Cameron had his Terminator and Orion wanted Schwarzenegger to play Reese. Cameron was not agreeable but met Schwarzenegger and was so impressed by the way he discussed how the villain should be played, he offered him the role. The rest as they say is cinema history.

The film begins as two naked men emerge (or are born) from a torrent of high voltage at night in Los Angeles in 1984. The first arrival (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a huge beast of a man who single-handedly dispatches a group of punks to obtain their clothing. In fact he is ‘The Terminator’ a cyborg assassin sent back in time from 2029 to find ‘Sarah Connor’ and kill her.

The second arrival is ‘Kyle Reese’ (Michael Bien) who has been sent back to protect ‘Sarah Connor’ from the ‘Terminator’. He is flesh and blood and does not have the resilience that the cyborg obviously has but makes up for this lack with cunning, intelligence and speed just like an animal defending its own. It transpires through huge info-dumps from Reese that he knows the future leader of the human resistance and that the leader is Sarah Connor’s son. It is now clear that the Terminator by killing Sarah Connor will stop her son from being born. This will then stop the leader of the resistance being born and put an end to this triumphant challenge to the machines and Skynet. Sounds logical to me.

The movie itself much like a Terminator is a relentless juggernaut with an obdurate onslaught of thrills and edge of your seat set pieces. But for me the genuine strength of the film is in its intelligent, well-crafted plot which grapples…

Marc Barham

Column @ on iconic books, TV shows/films: Time Travel Peregrinations. Reviewed all episodes of ‘Dark’ @ site.