Editor's note: With Terminator Salvation opening in theatres this week, we asked Peter T. Chattaway—a self-professed Terminator geek—to write an essay about the spiritual themes in the franchise, which he has seen since the first film released in 1984.
Whenever people ask me what my favorite Christmas movie is, I tell them it's The Terminator—and I'm only half-joking.
The film, which celebrates its 25th anniversary later this year, is not exactly a religious movie or even a holiday movie on any obvious level. It's an R-rated sci-fi action film with plenty of violence, a fair bit of profanity, and a sex scene that was standard fare for modestly-priced B-movies of that time. And yet, there is something about the storyline, written by director James Cameron, that has always brought the Nativity to mind.
The story concerns a man from the future named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) who comes back in time to tell a woman named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) four things: the machines created to control our defense systems will become self-aware; the machines will launch a full-scale war to destroy the human race; humanity will be saved under the leadership of Sarah's son John; and a cyborg called a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent back in time to kill Sarah so that her son John can never be born.
Kyle has thus been sent back in time to protect Sarah, and, although he does not know it, he will also become John's father. And so, in an admittedly imprecise way, the film concerns an Annunciation of sorts; and as the Terminator, bent on finding Sarah and killing her, kills everyone else who happens to get in his way, the film evokes parallels to the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem as well. Just as the ...