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I stumbled upon this recent question about Terminator 2, in particular about the scene where Miles Dyson dies after having been wounded lethally and trying to buy time for the others by detonating a grenade. He warns the upcoming SWAT team that the grenade will go off shortly and they run away.

This question states that the policemen didn't have enough time to escape the explosion. But I for myself always thought they made it out of the explosion radius in time, but then again, I'm not totally sure about this anymore, since this question says they surely didn't have enough time as judged by the immediate cut to the explosion destroying the building (although I vaguely remember it to only destroy a single floor).

The reason I'm asking this is, that I think the fact of the policemen dying would bring a major inconsistency with the general moral justification of the heroes' actions throughout the movie. There are actually no real human enemies in this movie and the movie more than one time elaborates on the fact, that the heroes (and especially the supposedly good Terminator) don't kill anyone, in order for the viewer to better identify with them on a moral basis. Whereas the previous movie had that touch of sweet immorality, once you decided that it is cool to watch Arnie run around and kill everybody, this one goes to great lengths to show him as a "good guy", especially in the scene more or less immediately before the questioned one. And in the end most action movies where the hero kills multiple bad guys in a row still try not to show him directly killing innocents.

So I see different possibilities for this:

  • The SWAT team didn't die and managed to escape in time.
  • Their death is to be justified as kind of collateral damage (in line with all the others killed by the T-1000, the "evil Terminator"), since Dyson didn't kill them completely on purpose.
  • Their death is merely ignored or justified with a sense of "the end justifies the means" (which IMHO wouldn't be in line with the movie's previous moral elaborations, though).
  • It is left open for the viewer to decide (which in turn was a bit too "heavy" an aspect for such a straight-to-the-point action movie).

And my question is, did the SWAT team die from Miles Dyson's grenade, and if yes, how is this supposed to be justified?

(disclaimer: Now it might be that this has been intentionally left open for interpretation which would make this a bit of an open discussion question. But I might also just have overlooked something (or not remebering it that well) or there is even an official statement about this from the writers.)

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Since this might provide some general insights into the moral justification of innocents killed by heros in movies, I hope the analysis tag is justified. Feel free to remove it if you don't think so. –  Sonny Burnett Feb 4 '13 at 18:50
    
Ahh all for the greater good! –  Dredd Feb 5 '13 at 2:29
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BTW it's 'heroes' not 'heros' –  A Pale Shadow Feb 5 '13 at 14:25
    
@APaleShadow Thanks, feel free to correct it. –  Sonny Burnett Feb 5 '13 at 14:55
    
I can't it's too small to be editable otherwise I'd have done it already –  A Pale Shadow Feb 5 '13 at 15:57

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I stumbled upon this recent question about Terminator 2, in particular about the scene where Miles Dyson dies after having been wounded lethally and trying to buy time for the others by detonating a grenade. He warns the upcoming SWAT team that the grenade will go off shortly and they run away.

You are implying in the question that there was a moral line the film didn't want to cross. Where no humans are intentionally killed.

Except, Sarah goes to Dyson's home and shoots him infront of his wife and kid. Attempted murder is just as morally wrong as murder. The terminator then cuts the flesh off his arm to show he's a machine. So violence wasn't some hidden in the film.

I don't think the moral line is drawn in the sand as deeply as you imply, and the film was rated R so there wasn't an issue with violence.

Still, the question isn't the morality, but if the police survived the explosions.

Here are a couple of facts, because I happen to be watching it on NetFlix when this question came up.

  • The police enter the science lab from the stairwell, and that is the same door they leave in when they run out.
  • I was able to count to about 14 seconds from the time the police start moving before the bomb goes off.
  • Sarah, Arnold and the kid are in the elevator when the bomb goes off, and have no problem surviving the explosion.
  • The bomb doesn't destroy the floor. It only destroys the research lab on that floor (see image below). The fireball only comes out from a wide second, but clearly not the entire floor.
  • When Arnold exists the elevator there is the same swat team there waiting for them. They were able to get downstairs before the elevator. I was find the same actor playing a swat team member both before and after the bomb explosion (see image below).

Explosion Of Research Lab

enter image description here

Swat Team Member Before/After Explosion

enter image description here

So it's clear the swat team didn't die, and they actually appear again in the next scene. Sadly they are all shot in the leg by Arnold. Black guy with big explosive bomb zero points. Terminator with hand gun 10 points. You have to feel sorry to Dyson. First Sarah shoots him, then the swat team shoots him and then he blows up.

I'm going to watch the rest of the film. If I see anything else that I can add, then I'll be back.

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"Except, Sarah goes to Dyson's home and shoots him infront of his wife and kid. Attempted murder is just as morally wrong as murder." - But the movie heavily emphasizes, that this was a hard decision she made and her son does not agree with this. She has to fight a moral struggle with herself and her son if she wants to buy a possible future by crossing the line and killing Miles, which she in the end doesn't. –  Sonny Burnett Feb 6 '13 at 9:54
    
"So violence wasn't some hidden in the film." - Of course it wasn't and Arnie freely hurts other people. But you seem to forget that the movie in various situations tries to emphasize that he never kills anyone and that this is completely no option for the human heroes at all, even if Sarah has a weak moment she could in the end withstand (as written above). Moral justification of the heroes' actions is not just about R rating vs showing them dance around a rainbow. –  Sonny Burnett Feb 6 '13 at 9:57
    
It may be that this isn't that much important for the end viewer (and I for myself wouldn't have cared that much if those policemen died as collateral in the explosion and would still stand by the heroes), but it is nevertheless a recurring theme of the movie. Showing violence doesn't have anything to do with it, never is anybody sadistically tortured by the heroes. Arnie still just shots them in the leg ("Terminator with hand gun 0 points"), no matter how much blood spills out from there. –  Sonny Burnett Feb 6 '13 at 10:01
    
But nevertheless good answer, +1 for all the hard facts, seems like the answer. –  Sonny Burnett Feb 6 '13 at 10:03
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lol, you make me want to edit my answer and remove all that stuff. I think the conscience decision not to kill people was the boy's desired not to be like his mother. Where he states many times in the film how others saw her as crazy. I think it was a way for the writers to show his inner strength so that we could accept that one day he would become the leader of the resistance. He's the only person in the film who didn't see violence as the answer. This makes him a polar opposite of the terminator trying to kill him. –  Mathew Foscarini Feb 6 '13 at 18:57

I always assumed SWAT didn't die -- that Dyson was able to hold the detonator long enough for SWAT to get to safety.

If it's true that the scene-cutting didn't allow enough time elapse for the SWAT escape, I have to think this was an editing decision made for visual effect -- not to indicate that the SWAT guys were killed.

Killing SWAT would not add value to the story, but killing SWAT would add conflict with rest of the movie's "don't-kill-innocent-cops" theme.

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