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May 1, 2009

Human vs. machine = spirit vs. body?

John Connor has an interesting line in the newest TV spot for Terminator Salvation:
Victory lies in the soul of the human spirit, not in the hands of the machines.
A phrase like "the soul of the human spirit" sounds a little redundant at first, but when you hear it contrasted with "the hands of the machines", it sounds more emphatic than anything else -- and its meaning seems clear enough. As far as John Connor is concerned, machines are defined entirely by their physicality, their material qualities, their bodies, but humans are defined by something more invisible, something more intangible, something more spiritual.

Incidentally, this isn't the first time John Connor has referred to the "hands" of his opponents. In a trailer that was released late last year, John Connor remarks, "The devil's hands have been busy," and then proceeds to say some not-very-friendly things to a man who may or may not be a Terminator.

Is the man in question really a Terminator? John Connor certainly seems to think so, at least in that scene. But other trailers released since then have indicated that this man might be something else, either a human-machine hybrid or a machine that has achieved an unprecedented degree of consciousness, such that he is now virtually indistinguishable from a human being.

Either way, it seems John Connor may have to rethink the sharp line he has drawn between "human" and "machine" in this film.

Note, also, that this TV spot goes on to include a line from Kyle Reese, spoken as he points to his head and then, presumably, to his chest, just below the frame:
Stay alive, in here [head] and in here [chest].
Once again, the trailer suggests that true "life" is not simply to be found in the body; it is not simply a matter of keeping all the physical parts working. Instead, it is to be found in something more intangible, tethered though it may be to the body: in this case, the mind and the heart.

But who is Kyle talking to in that clip? John Connor? One of the other human resistance fighters? Or is it possible that he is speaking to the mechanical man? If so, does Kyle know the man is at least partly mechanical when he says this line? What does Kyle believe about the human-machine dichotomy in general, and about how it might apply to this man in particular?

I guess we'll learn the answers to at least some of those questions in three weeks. In the meantime, the trailers have certainly given us a fair bit to chew on.

And for what it's worth, I can't resist noting the irony that almost all of the humans depicted in this film will probably be played by actual people who were physically present in front of the camera, while many of the machines will be digital creations that exist only in the minds of the computers that generated those images.

Related Tags: terminator


Say, that IS ironic.

But the drift of these sound bites also remind me of classic Gnosticism.

Victory lies in the soul of the human spirit, not in the hands of the machines - this is so true. But our world is still a quite materialistic one ...