Analysis of the Terminator

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  • Topic: Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor, John Connor
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  • Published : June 19, 2011
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American Cinema
Film Journal #1

The Terminator

It's early 21st century, and a nuclear holocaust has killed off most people. Those that remain are subjugated to a war against sophisticated machines. This sets the stage for the classical narrative that will unfold in James Cameron’s The Terminator. This film provides several examples of the classical narrative style, mise-en-scene, exquisite editing that matches on graphics and action as well as use of camera angles to feature the tale.

The classical narrative of The Terminator focuses on the story of Sarah Connor set against the backdrop of the larger conflict. The plot is exquisite in its simplicity as the machines determine to win the war before it even starts. They send the terminator (Schwarzeneggar) back through to kill Sarah Connor (Hamilton) and thereby prevent the birth of John Conner, the future resistance leader. The human resistance sends back a human, Kyle Reese (Biehn), to protect Sarah.

Unfortunately for both the Terminator and Kyle, Sarah's residence is not known. So both proceed to phone booths, where they learn that there are three Sarah Connor’s in the phone book. Kyle has the advantage here since he has a photo of her, while the Terminator must resort to assassinating each Sarah Connor in order to achieve his mission.

The alternating cross-scenes between the actions of Kyle and The Terminator are played in direct contrast to each other. The Terminator arrives calm, poised and untouched from his experience with time-travel. Kyle arrives pained and in physical distress. The Terminator easily kills someone and injures another to take their clothes. Kyle starts to rob a homeless man, but flees police pursuit. He does not kill anyone in the meanwhile. These scenes are inter-cut and the use of the music in both smoothes the transition as a part of the mise-en-scene. The music for Kyle’s scenes is tense, but lighter than the dark, ominous bass tones used to underscore the Terminator....
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