Sound and Fury

Things have been a bit lax around here with comprehensive exams highjacking all my time and energy.  With the written component of those behind me, there should be more frequent updates to Pop Theology.  Look for some more contributions form Richard Lindsay as well who is no longer teaching Pop Goes Religion.  For now, I’ll pick back up with another summer blockbuster, Terminator Salvation in which there was this explosion, and another one, and another one, and not much else.

Terminator Salvation picks up where Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines left off.  The machines have risen and decimated the world, and a remnant of humans has survived, “led” by John Connor.  Spread out in small pockets, the resistance struggles to survive and stay in communication with each other in this post-apocalyptic world.  However, the situation grows more and more dire as the terminators evolve into more human-like iterations who actually believe they are human and exhibit human emotions.  How will the “real” humans respond and will they survive?

Terminator Salvation looks great!  Director McG gave Christian Bale and the rest of the crew a copy of Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road for inspiration on how he wanted the design of the film to look.  The filmmakers do this inspiration great justice; however, the story that takes place against this backdrop is just as empty as the deserts and cities in which the remnant hides out.   At its heart, the Terminator story is one with great potential that has never really fleshed out, except, perhaps, for the second film.  Proleptic and eschatological issues abound in the story though they are never really explored.  This latest installment has the potential to make contributions to the meaning of existence and the nature of humanity, but they often come up short of any serious impact.

The questions of human meaning that do arise in the film focus on what makes us human:  are we solely biological or can we be biomechanical as well?   We can also consider how our reliance on machines impacts our humanity.  The concept of a signal plays an important role in Terminator:  Salvation.  In light of that, thinking less perhaps of machines themselves and more about the signals that they emit or on which they rely, how do we as human beings respond?  How do we respond when we lose our cell phone or internet signals?  In what ways does our communication with one another increasingly rely on these signals?  Have the machines risen in our own lives and do they emit corrupting, and potentially destructive, signals, or do these signals bring us closer together?