Saturday, January 24, 2009

T-X: The Good Parts (Terminator 3)

While I heartily disapprove of the sexually exploitive characteristics of the T-X of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines as I’ve discussed in my previous post on the subject, I also think much of her design to be pretty cool. In comparison to the previous Terminator models, the T-X has far improved in several ways. Many of her facets are innovative evolutions of the concepts previously employed, while others are whole new tricks that further her capacity for termination.

Our first view of the Terminators was of the T-101 in The Terminator. The T-101 is the first Terminator model successfully able to pass as human. It is a cybernetic organism, living tissue over a sturdy metal endoskeleton. The Terminator can withstand numerous direct shots from contemporary 1980s weaponry, and is able to repair itself.

The T-101’s flesh is capable of healing itself over time, but a damaged eye needs to be removed entirely to allow the T-101 to properly see. It is likely that a new eye could not be naturally regenerated, prompting it to wear dark sunglasses to cover its luminous red eye rendered visible by the removal of the human eye. Eventually, the T-101 suffers continued burning that destroys the flesh entirely and forces it to move unclothed by its human guise. It meets its end when Sarah smashes its head underneath a hydraulic press in a Cyberdyne factory.

In Terminator 2, the Terminator antagonist got a big overhaul. The T-1000 is a sentient mass of liquid metal that can morph into human form. It can morph into specific individuals by acquiring their form (somehow) after touching them. It can also form parts of its body into hard solid pieces of metal to create knives and stabbing weapons, as well as sledge hammer heads, and wedges to pull open elevator doors. Its ability to pass as human is remarkable and can infiltrate human organizations easily, able to adapt to changing social conditions without the awkward lack of comprehension obvious in the T-101 models.

The T-1000’s lack of true living tissue allows it to pass far longer than the T-101. When the T-1000 is shot, instead of a bullet wound, a crater is formed in the mass of liquid. In short time, the T-1000 is able to move itself back into place and resume its illusion without even the mess of bullet holes left in clothing. However, it lacks the stability of the T-101 and suffers greater response to the kinetic force of bullet impact, slowing it down considerably. It survives being frozen and shattered by a torrent of liquid nitrogen, but at the cost of being able to control its ability to transform at will, rendering it unable to pass completely. It meets its end by being blown out of shape by numerous shotgun blasts, and then knocked into a pool of molten steel.

As the T-101 in Terminator 3 describes, the T-X is specifically designed to hunt down other Terminators, presumably those captured and reprogrammed by the Human Resistance. This requires her to be incredibly powerful. The T-X shares the best of both previous models. It has a strong metal endoskeleton similar to that of the T-101, but instead of living tissue it has a coat of the liquid used by the T-1000. Its endoskeleton is not as firmly cemented and can shift around to suit its needs, and while unable to assume every shape as the T-1000, it can take any human form of similar build. When the T-X is shot, it is able to hold its ground. The skeleton offers stability and protection, while its liquid layer can repair itself within seconds.

The T-X also has its own brand new tricks. Without small arms the T-101 only has its massive strength and the T-1000 its morphed metal. However, the T-X comes with a large assortment of weapons stashed inside its arm, much like a Swiss army knife. A plasma rifle, a flamethrower, a buzz saw, a nanobot-packing drill, and other tools of destruction can come out of its arm like a Transformer (robots in disguise!) should the T-X have need of it. (Another similarity shared with the Transformers would be the apparently magical appearance and disappearance of certain parts during shifts, but I digress…)

Despite being built as an Anti-Terminator, the T-X is also perfectly adept at infiltration of human society and termination of specific individuals. It is equipped with excellent knowledge of human psychology and social conventions, allowing it to slip undetected through human society. To aid in its ability to seek out its targets, it can analyze DNA from a blood sample when placed on the tongue, enabling it to detect identities from blood alone. The T-X can also access the Internet through cellphones, using vocal emissions that serve the same purpose as a modem.

Its arguably most nifty trick is its ability to control other machines. Using a needle-like titanium drill, the T-X can access the computers that govern machines and it sends nanobots inside, which hack into the system and take it over. The T-X is then able to control these machines remotely. Its zombies can be everything from cars to T-1 Terminators to T-101 Terminators, making the T-X especially deadly in that half the time it doesn’t even have to be in the same room as its targets in order to attack them.

In addition to its enhanced martial abilities, the T-X has also undergone some aesthetic modifications from the previous Terminator models. The T-101 endoskeleton featured a head that looked very similar to a human skull, albeit with shining metal teeth and demonic glowing red eyes that offered a surreal creepiness. The T-X, on the other hand, has a very inhuman head comparable more, in my opinion, to a cat or a Grey alien than a female human. This Terminator’s aesthetic creepiness derives from its known power and its otherness rather than its imitation of human form. Its eyes, which glow and perceive the color blue rather than red, imply the T-X’s enhanced power in that red lighting is generally a thing of the past while blue represents the newer and better machinery. (I’m not really sure the reason for this, but I am aware of its existence and I believe it applies to the Terminators’ aesthetic differences.)

In conclusion, despite the numerous gratuitous sexual characteristics I dislike about the T-X, I find its new design to be effective and demonstrative of enhancement upon previous models. I believe an early version of the antagonist of Terminator 3 had it as a gaseous entity, essentially moving on to another state of matter after the solid T-101 and liquid T-1000. This version of the T-X I find to be more grounded in reality by having it exist as an evolution of the previous models, sharing the best characteristics of both. If they had only stuck to the seriousness of the subject and not let it degrade into the T-X getting bustier to flirt her way out of a ticket, I feel the movie could have been far improved from what it turned out to be.

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