The Terminator Versus The Matrix

Slavery most foul, the soul owned by cruel technological, oppressive and metallic overlords whose only use for humans is to provide their basic needs, worse still, they don’t need many of us at all. These machines have no heart, no soul and absolutely no pity…how can a ragged few save us from enslavement. Well if you have ever seen the Terminator films or the Matrix trilogy you know that a special man will be born, the one, a kind of futuristic messiah and he  is the lone hope for our species. We live in a technological age where messages are sent globally in nano-seconds, food is prepared in under 10 minutes and the limit of the humble IPhone is still of an apparent unending quantity.  Yes our silicone slaves are good, we love them , however in that part of the mind that fears the dark echoes beneath the bed, we wonder about the relationship and whether ’viva  la revolution’  is in the future.  The relationship of ‘man versus computer’ is the theme of these films, yet which of them speaks the loudest. Which of the two films causes us to watch the microwave oven out of the corner of our eye with the greatest trepidation?   To put it simply- which one is the best at transmitting the message “beware of our own ingenuity?”  It is clear that it is the Terminator series, why?  The Terminator series had characters who possessed no ‘special’ powers rather they were either very human or extremely robotic, the plot is seamless with each chapter complimenting the one, each film had a different take and yet  the story did not outlive itself and resort to sideshowesc , cheap attention getting techniques to amuse rather than entertain the viewer.  The Terminator series continually examines the very real folly of human vanity and uses that as the lynch pin on which it hangs its apocalyptic vision.

The Terminator has a superior cast of characters to The Matrix and this has left it with a rich palette to paint with. Consider if you will the villains of each series, Mr Smith,  is a bureaucrat database with a gun,  while T1000 is weapon on a mission who “does not sleep, he feels no pain and he absolutely positively will not stop until you are dead.”  If you injure T1000 he will not bleed instead he becomes a wicked chrome skeleton with demonic scarlet eyes, Mr Smith breaks his sunglasses, enough said really. The excitement and energy of the central villain is crucial to excellence of a film and clearly, The Terminator is vastly superior to The Matrix. There is also the matter of heroes within the series,  The Mattrix uses the hero Neo,  Neo as a character who is a hero might have  fine (computer geek goes action hero) but it is played by the wooden face of Keeanu Reeves and as such the character has no emotional depth.  The Terminator on the other hand has a father, son duo (pretty cool idea really.) The first film features Kyle Reese the father, he is a man who has  been sent  by his son (he does not know that John Connor is his son)  back in time to meet the mother of her child and to protect her.  He is a man who has been hunted since birth, who has witnessed horror abound, he is a rouge soldier defending the last remaining scraps of humanity.  Despite this he falls in love with the vulnerable yet feisty Sarah Connor and he fathers John, only to die tragically in the same night, it is tragedy and pathos with Shakespearian dimensions. It is the diversity, complexity and density of the characters of The Terminator that gives an edge over the much more mundane The Matrix.


Another way in which The Terminator proves its filmatic muscle is with its supreme plot. Although character is important, critical even, in the field of Sci- fi it is the plot that defines the genre and the fans expect, nay demand, that it is rich and novel.  The Terminator has it all, time travel, wars with lasers and skull crushing tanks,  road trips,  apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic earth yet despite the enormity of the vision, it is the small human tragedy and tenderness, elegantly told that provides the twists and the action in Terminator. This is not a movie that is just supposed to wash over us while we watch,  the Terminator asks us to think, listen and care.  This is not the story of T100 and T2000, this is the story of a boy , his mother and his father.  This is a story of horrific destiny and heroic fates yet played out in the smallest of theatres- the human heart. The Matrix however has everything to work with, the script itself does have ingenuity and cleverness but it has no real pulling power because while it may intellectually appeal it has the emotional excitement of a Chux rag. The Terminator  has emotional integrity, it reaches out from the screen and  it asks you, the viewer “Are you Sarah Connor?”  The answer to this is clear- we all are Sarah Connor.

The world of the Terminator is our world and we are the heroes of that world,  ordinary people can relate to this series and they can see who they are and who they would like to be reflected back at them. The toughest criteria of all to apply to sci-fi films is relatability, after all don’t their audiences wish to escape their relatable world and visit a “galaxy far, far away.”  It is conceded however that if the audience cannot on some level recognise the fantasy world they will, as The Matrix points out, not accept it, they will reject the vision passionately. The intriguing thing is that despite The Matrix pointing that out it is here that they made their biggest flaws. The Matrix asks you to believe that the crew could harbour the traitor Cypher, in close quarters and never notice that he was capable of killing them, it asks the viewer to believe that Neo made no connections at all in Matrix, no mother, no best friend and no girlfriend yet his is evolved emotionally to have a relationship with Trinity, Orpheus and the rest of the crew. It is these anomalies that lead the viewer to feel disconnected with the film however the characters of The Terminator are recognisable and their responses  to the strange situations and emotional complications around them are genuine.  When the audience is feeling as if fiction has an authentic representation of reality then they are receptive to messages that the film is trying to impart- thus the film is more meaningful.

Needless to say, both of these films are great sci-fi classics yet if pushed to identify which film is the greatest it obvious that The Terminator wins hands down and twice on Sundays.  The Terminator is not just an action piece, it is also a character portrait with some depth and authenticity.  The plot of The Terminator is unique and works on both the macro and micro level and yet despite a nuclear war, robot hitmen, and a synthetic 80’s music there is something timeless and genuine about this film that speaks even to modern cinema goers.  The Terminator is the perfect vehicle to carry the warning about complacency in the modern world, the theme is delivered by this film with touching power, making us uncomfortable and yet believing  that there is “No Fate but that Which We Make.”

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Comments

Andrew Worrall
11/22/2011 23:50

Alexis, if you watched and comprehended the enormity of the matrix entire storeyline then you must have been drugged. This is clearly a biased that you derive from your reminicance of the 1980's and the terribly limmited concept and dialog in the "Terminator" film. Yes the "Terminator" is still a good film for scaring little children and baby chickens, but in the "Matrix" they have a machine to destroy EVERY man woman and child. You also miss represent the roles of Agent Smith, Neo, The Orical, Morpheus, Trinity, and lastly The architect. Atleast the "Matrix" has more than 3 characters, each with a deeply developed character basis and storeyline emphasis. To make a deep and emotional connection with any of the three character in the terminator films would require most people to have a frontal labottomy. IE The terminaor only has one line at a time dialoge (hmm sooo deep) and the other two are basically repeating "run or we die" for 90 minuites of the movie. Where as the "Matrix" requires viewers to think about the concepts of understanding their decisions, and that each decision that they make will have consequences that lead to futher decisions. Any how I am prepared to battle this one toe to toe.... And Im bigger and scarier than you are :-P

Regards
Andrew

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11/23/2011 00:43

Andrew,
You fail to understand the inherent pathos that in 'The Terminator" it is man's own weapon that is turned on them. It is the fact that at heart we trust the machine more than we trust the human and it is this lack of trust that causes our own demise. Secondly you assume that numerical superiority inherently results in a superiority of characterisation- simply it is better to go deep with a character then wide. Arnold's terminator is mearly a catalyst via which we learn more about the characters of John Connor, Kyle Reese and of course Sarah Connor. We see where they start, he recieve hints on who they end up, but we have to journey with them through out the series to understand why. Neo on the other hand undergoes his journey in the first film and then prances around for the rest. Yes, I am biased because I am offering an opinion. I do however love the Matrix, I think it is a great film, just not as good as the Terminator. Thanks for the argument- Heaven knows I love it!

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Andrew Worrall
11/23/2011 01:44

Dear Misguided Alexis,
The machines of the "Matrix" is mans own weapon also, just a whole lot cooler than a middle aged steroidal Austrian. And no I do not think that the number of characters in a movie make it better or worse, I was simply pointing out that for 12 hours of viewing pleasure its nice to have more than 2 speaking characters. And there is no way in this living hell I call life that the "Terminator" movie can be called deep! Not even if you were a crack smoking acid dropping, hooka smoking rastafarian could you call the Terminator a deep and meaningfull movie! And no Neo doesn't undergo his journey in the first film, he just discovers he has one in the first film! In the second film he understand what his journey will require him to do, and he begins to understand his place as "the one". And it is the thrid matrix film where he finally undergoes the journey of conceptual transendance from the physical into the metaphysical to understand that he must die!(to resolve the recuring mathematical phenomena that he is). Perhaps it is the lack of Arnies manboobs that creates your bias, lets face it the terminator just doesnt have the sexapeal to men that the matrix does. Or is it because the good guy dies, and doesn't get the girl (who dies) and hapily ever after is left as a hanger on and not really proven, and just left for the immagination of the viewer?
Regards
Andrew

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Alexis Sims
11/23/2011 03:04

Andrew, I have no attraction what so to the Governator but I am starting to wonder if you do? This is a cerebral argument and you, my less then worthy opponent, have swum in the gutter. Surely you can not justify the codswallop of Matrix 2. I know that there is Terminator 3 and that every series has a week spot(Check Phantom Menace.) Nether the less the appalling self indulgence of Matrix 2 was simply a visual feast and a mental desert and I am afraid that Matrix 3 was not much better. The question that really matters is which one matters most, has the greatest impact. I interpreted this as which one has the greatest emotional pull in the audience member and I still have not heard from you on why you find the Matrix series more gripping then the Terminator series. Ignor the stars, ignor when they are made and instead focus on the story and the characters- what was it, that by your criteria, advances the Matrix series above the Terminator series?

Reply
Andrew Worrall
11/23/2011 18:06

Alexis, The Matix is better than the terminator, you will just have to live with this knowledge. Ok why I believe the Matrix is superior to the terminator: 1- Because it was an entirely new concept for a film, to think that humans had become little more than a battery to fuel the machine world, and that we live in a subconcious reality imposed uppon us by the machines. 2- yes it is a visual feast. 3- hovercraft. 4- The concept of federal agent -esk people actually being a anti viral software... thats just freakin' cool. 5- the Oricale and the kid with the spoon.... mind benders.
why the Terminator (1) is not as good: 1- 1 bad guy with limited acting and dialoge, I relaise he is supposed to be a "advanced robot" but even for the 1980's he pulls off thuggishly moronic brilliantly. 2- excape and defeat the bad guy had been done to death even by 1980. 3- The acting as a whole is disgracefull. 4- the movies dialog is suitable for an infant, and there is nothing to challenge the way we think about.... anything. 5- Oh look out its a robot... wow what a deep plot. 6- If the robot has gone back in time to kill the leader of the resistance, which only exists because when killing said robot part of it is then discovered to creat said robot, is what is know as a function time loop. A concept that you might have trouble grasping. But if the robot comes back in time and succeeded in killing Sarah Connor then the robot would not exist either... hence the futility in it having to travel throught time to prevent its own exisitance.
I like the matrix because it makes you ask - "Is this real, and how can it be proved to be real?" "how do we know we are not in a Matrix like reality and are unable to escape?" Basically in the end the Matrix is the thinking persons version of the Terminator. The terminator is a fine 90min entertainment piece, but the Matrix is 90min of thought provoking art.

And there is never anything wrong with gutter type arguments, when dealing with teachers!

Regards
Andrew

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01/27/2012 23:48

Fine info dude

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03/22/2012 02:58

will return shortly

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03/28/2012 07:50

nice post

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05/30/2012 13:35

good post

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07/12/2012 05:53

nice post

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