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  • Writer's pictureEvan Haines

On Writing: A Repeating Theme from Terminator Two

Updated: Jul 22, 2023


I want to look at good writers and storytellers; and how they use imagery to create meaning. Particularly underlying and subtle imagery and metaphor. A story can use these to connect with the audience on a deeper level.


A movie that does this really well is Terminator Two: Judgment Day. This movie is an action movie, but it’s also more than that; it’s a classic. One way that it achieves this, is through its themes. This is perhaps why it has sustained popularity and had such successful longevity.


A theme the storyteller uses is children’s playgrounds, which appear four times throughout the movie.


The first is in the opening scene which has a child laughing and playing on a swing. This then cuts to the future scene where we’re shown the charred remains of a playground covered in human skeletal remains. A battle between machines and humans breaks out on top of the burnt-out playground. This also has a great cinematic moment; where a terminator brings its foot smashing down on a human skull.


The second scene is during the opening credits which depicts a playground consumed by flames. A great image and symbol that represents the desolation of humanity’s future.


The third scene comes two-thirds into the movie. This is a dream sequence. It shows Sarah Conner looking at a younger version of herself with a child. They are playing alongside other families in a playground when they are all consumed by a nuclear blast.


The final scene comes at the end of the movie. However, only in the original and director's cut. I’m not sure why they changed this ending in the theatrical cut, but this original scene ties together all the playground scenes to give them greater context and meaning. Without this original ending, it loses a lot of its impact.


The scene opens on a beautiful sunny day in the future. The war between A.I. and humanity has been averted. Everything is clean and bright. And it’s set in a playground with Sarah, her son John, and who we can assume is her granddaughter. It mirrors the opening scene with optimism and brightness, but this time without the darkness of a coming war.


I think understanding and incorporating these types of scenes could really help writers and storytellers connect with their audience on a deeper level, and help create stories that stay with them long after it’s over.


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