Stop me if you’ve heard this one…
A young woman is visited by a messenger from the sky, who comes bearing a prophecy that she will give birth to a baby boy, and that child will someday grow up to be the savior of all mankind, humanity’s only hope when Judgment Day comes. But then the enemy of the whole world, seeing his defeat is inevitable, tries to snuff out the promised child in his infancy, before he can become a threat.
Feliz Navidad, Baby.
I realize the microprocessor in your head just got fried entirely, so forgive me if I’m departing from the main narrative here for a sec, but I promise—I’ll be back. You see, for millennia (okay, for like the last couple of years) a national debate has raged and divided our country like no other: Is the 1988 action classic DIE HARD a Christmas movie? Our own Resurgent family has publicly been torn apart over this like bare feet on shattered glass, as seen in the recent articles by JC Braswell (who is correct) and Merrie Soltis (who wouldn’t know the meaning of Christmas even if her first name was…oh).
But do you recall… the most overlooked 80’s action classic that’s also really a Christmas movie …of all??
That’s right—long before Bruce Willis wrecked the halls with shells for Holly (his wife’s name), Arnold the Great had already gifted us a true holiday epic for the ages (no, not JINGLE ALL THE WAY) with a violent night of his own. That movie is 1984’s family heart-warmer, THE TERMINATOR.
Yes, Virginia, there is NO FATE…
I’m not even kidding a little. What I really relish about this conversation, folks, is that somehow, James Cameron made a staple of modern cinema almost 35 years ago, which has since totally saturated pop culture, but was a stealth allegory of the Nativity story all along, and no one ever noticed.
Now, obviously any story about a mythic hero figure will carry Messianic overtones. But the unique thing about the TERMINATOR plot line is it’s about his mother. That’s the story Cameron found interesting, and ripe for a sci-fi remix. And, man—do the details ever bear that out…
So. Let’s see… a dude from another realm (the future) comes to our world to attend to a peasant woman. Unlike bubble-Arnie, bubble-Kyle bursts into the present from high above the ground. He literally falls out of the sky. When he finds the woman, he warns her about the coming Judgment Day, and he tells her she will soon be with child, the future leader of the human resistance against evil machine intelligence Skynet. That man’s name? John Connor. “J.C.” Wwwaaait…
But that’s just the low-hanging fruit. His mom’s name is Sarah. “Sarah”, of course, is the mother of all of Israel. Okay, maybe still coincidences. But there’s this other, related nuclear name warhead: the surname “Connor”. About that… on the surface, it just means “lover of hounds”. Okay. But dig a little more into the etymology, and you’ll discover it’s derived from Irish mythology—specifically the legend of a guy named “Conchobar”. The thing about Conchobar you’ll find relevant is that his mother was told he would be a great king of everlasting fame because she gave birth to him on Christ’s birthday, December 25th.
I’m not making this up. Just so we’re clear on that.
Meanwhile, Sata- I mean, Skynet tries to pre-empt John’s destiny by attacking in the form of a human avatar (sorry), and going all Herod on every potential Connor womb. Upon arrival, the titular Terminator begins his anti-Connor crusade by first conferring with a gang of local youths getting wasted. From these “wiseguys”, of whom there are three, he acquires some “gifts”. A stretch? Maybe. If not for the curious detail of where Cameron has staged their impromptu kegger. They’re not drinking at a bar, or a party, or their mom’s garage. They’re drinking at—wait for it—an observatory. Kid you not. Now, I’m no scientist, but I don’t believe such establishments are renowned for their single-malt selection. If I recall, observatories are primarily places where people go to look for stars.
Let me just pick this mic back up.
There. Okay, almost done; hang with me here. Throughout the film, we’re reminded that the main way resistance fighters identify Terminators is with dogs, who have keen sight for recognizing these visitors and alerting/guarding their human friends. Now, there are several dog cameos in THE TERMINATOR of different breeds. Some cyborg-pertinent, others less so. But I looked up all dog references in the screenplay (by the way, I have a Master’s degree), and though not all are identified by type or function in the narrative, there are several notable scenes of man’s best friend doing their part in the robopocalypse. To be precise, there are exactly three scenes of anti-Terminator guard dog duty: with Kyle in a flashforward, then later at the motel, and in Sarah’s Jeep at the end. Please be advised that in each instance, James Cameron chose the same breed and made a point of identifying said breed in his script explicitly: German Shepherds. Three of them. Of course.
It’s worth noting that Kyle actually fulfills two key roles in the traditional storyline. In the first half, he’s Gabriel, clearly. But the big twist in the movie is that he actually turns out to be John Connor’s father, having fallen in love (etc.) with Sarah. This creates a classic “grandfather paradox” time anomaly, because John apparently sent Kyle to create himself. It’s a loop. It’s impossible. Outside of science. It’s a miraculous conception…
Even the father’s name, “Kyle Reese”, is most likely a play on the word “Kyrie”, which is familiar to anyone who has attended a liturgical church. It’s from the Greek for “Lord”. That makes J.C. the son of the “Lord”.
By the end of the film, we shouldn’t be surprised to find Sarah, seeking to protect her son from the enemy’s persecution, fleeing into the desert to hide him for a few years. It’s almost inevitable. Fate, one might even say. But this movie does not believe in “fate”. No, this was all according to a very deliberate plan. We need look no further than the opening words of the screenplay:
“EXT. SCHOOLYARD – NIGHT. Silence.”