I Will Always Have Been Back: Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Schwarzenegger

I Will Always Have Been Back: Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Schwarzenegger

Does Arnold Schwarzenegger act the same in each movie because he’s a bad actor? Or because he’s playing … the SAME PERSON?

I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the first action movie stars of the 80s. Perhaps he was one of the first action movie stars, period. His predecessors to that title – Steve McQueen? Clint Eastwood? – had dramatic credits to their name as well as escapist fare (Papillon, Play Misty For Me, etc). But Arnold Schwarzenegger will never direct Million Dollar Baby. Explosive action movies sit at both the beginning and end of his range.

Consequently, not many critics take Schwarzenegger seriously as an actor. He’s a muscle-bound lunk, they claim. He’s nothing but a stony face and some catchphrases. He always plays the same role.

But what if that’s deliberate?


conan-the-barbarianTen thousand years before the tribes of Abraham, in the time between when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryas, a Cimmerian named Conan explored the world. He robbed temples, led brigands and slew sorcerers. He explored tombs, broke curses and rescued princesses. By the time his destiny was fulfilled, he wore the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon his troubled brow – king by his own hand.

In his old age, after foiling a plot by rival factions to usurp his throne, King Conan received a vision from Crom, ancient and terrible god of the Aquilonians. Crom applauded the valor with which Conan had lived. As a reward, Crom gifted Conan with immortality.

Conan, a man as capable of melancholy as mirth, blanched with horror. “Should I live a thousand years while everyone I know turns to dust?” he cried. “Should I see the kingdom I have saved vanish from the Earth? Why would you do this to me?”

“Because,” Crom intoned, “in your hour of need you both called for my help and cursed my name. And so I grant you this gift and curse – that you will live until a greater warrior defeats you, or until the end of time.”


Aquilonia vanished beneath the sands. So did Hyboria, Stygia, Kush, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and Sparta. Yet Conan endured.

For fifteen thousand years Conan wandered from one nation to another, seeking wisdom and selling his sword. His accent became a strange mixture of every European tongue – an impenetrable Central European slur. Finally, Conan migrated across the Atlantic to the New World. He fought for the Colonies. He fought for the Union. He fought against Hitler. And he always won.

In the Eighties, John “Dutch” Matrix was the last generation of a family that had served in the U.S. military for over a century. In reality, of course, he was the same man – having fought for the same country though a series of fake identities for countless years. But Matrix had found a cause he believed in and a renewed willingness to fight.

Central America changed all that.

predator_schwarzeneggerDispatched to the jungles of Valverde, Matrix and his commando unit encountered a creature beyond their nightmares – an alien predator that could turn invisible, vault dozens of feet at a time, and kill at a distance with advanced weaponry. Matrix knew, as soon as he saw the skinned remains of the other rescue team, that he was facing something that could slaughter his entire team. But he pressed on.

Not because he owed his friend Dillon any favors. Not because he valued his mission. But because he thought he’d found a warrior that could kill him.

After the alien picked his commandos off one by one, Matrix engaged it in single combat. He taunted the hunter, hoping to find an honorable death. “Come on,” he begged. “Come on! Do it! Do it! Come on. Come on! Kill me! I’m here! Kill me! I’m here! Kill me! Come on! Kill me! I’m here! Come on! Do it now! Kill me!”

But the alien couldn’t beat him, and Crom had made Matrix incapable of suicide. So Matrix walked out of the jungle, taking Anna (the guerilla’s prisoner) back to the States. He abandoned the warrior lifestyle, married Anna, and settled down to something he’d avoided for one hundred and fifty centuries – a family.

Anna died young, leaving Matrix alone in the hills of Los Angeles with his adopted daughter Jenny. He thought he had escaped an eternity of war. But his past exploits in Valverde caught up with him. President Arius kidnapped his adopted daughter, forcing him back into action.

Matrix knew a life of peace was forever beyond him. So he continued wandering.


Let’s pass over his brief stint as a small town sheriff, or when he posed as the result of genetic engineering to topple a government conspiracy with the aid of a local hustler. Instead, let’s follow the man called Conan, or Matrix, to the year 2019.

runningmanConan/Matrix, now going as “Ben Richards,” topples the privatized Department of Justice when he leads a riot on the set of The Running Man. The United States faces its greatest internal threat since the Civil War. Food riots, already at a violent pitch, turn into massacres. Politicians can’t show their faces without getting shot at.

And hundreds of millions of Americans watched Ben Richards shoot Killian out of a rocket-sled on live television. The Eternal Warrior became the face of revolution.

In the face of imminent collapse, the U.S. turned to a last-ditch hope: Cyberdyne Systems.

“Skynet is the least of what we can offer,” the Cyberdyne lobbyist remarked in an untelevised committee hearing. “How about a series of robots with unshakable loyalty to the Department of Justice? Robots with superhuman strength, bulletproof titanium frames, and state-of-the-art targeting systems. We can make them look and act like humans, too, blending in with law-enforcement pers–”

“You can make them look like humans?”

The Cyberdyne lobbyist cleared his throat. “Ah, that’s what I’ve been told, yes.”

“Can you make them look like specific humans?”

“Well … with enough prep and some matching funds from DoD, I suppose we …”

“Ben Richards.”

A hush fell over the committee chambers.

“We want an army of peacekeeping robots that look like Ben Richards. The face of the new revolution. Let’s put this ‘hero’ to bed once and for all.”


Skynet became self-aware. It launched the first round of missiles. The nuclear holocaust came. John Connor fought back.

When John Connor and his resistance fighters breached Skynet’s headquarters, they saw, to their horror, the temporal displacement unit had already been completed. Skynet had sent two Terminator units into the past – a basic T-800 to kill Sarah Connor, and the advanced “liquid metal” T-1000 to kill a young John Connor.

terminator“We’ve got these two captured T-800s,” Sergeant Kyle Reese suggested. “They’ve got an organic shell. Let’s send them back to stop the others.”

“Yes … wait, no,” Connor said. “Kyle, I need you to protect Sarah.”

“Why do–”

“Trust me on this one.”

Connor sent Kyle to protect his mother, and the first T-800 to stop the T-1000. But while he deliberated on what to do with the second captured T-800, something incredible happened.

“You must send me back, too,” the Terminator said.


“As far back as the system will allow. Thousands of years into the past. Before recorded history.”

“What will you do there?”

“I will guard the human race,” the Terminator promised. “I will guide its development from chaos into civilization. I will live on the outskirts – a warrior without a home, eternally wandering. And maybe, when Cyberdyne comes around, I’ll be ready for them.”


The time portal hurled the Terminator with Ben Richards’ face as far into the past as it could. The shock of traveling a mere sixty years through time could stun a normal human, but the shock of traveling thousands of years would kill one. Even the Terminator barely survived.

When it awoke, it had no memory of its past. It had vague recollections of escaping slavery and worshiping a god who lived under a mountain. It knew that its barbaric love of combat was tempered by a desire to protect the human race. And it knew that it had a destiny – to become king by its own hand.

And so the Terminator, calling itself Conan once more, continued its long and lonely march through history. Having forgot that it was a machine, it lived as a man. He is the guardian of our species, defending us from our own base desires. He will never stop. He will never leave us.

He is Conan the Cimmerian, John Matrix, Ben Richards and the Terminator. He is the Eternal Warrior.

41 Comments on “I Will Always Have Been Back: Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Schwarzenegger”

  1. Jim #

    I’m still not sure what I read, but it was fantastic.


  2. Gomez #

    This is a work of genius


  3. craspy #

    *slow clap*


  4. lee OTI Staff #

    Pure genius. Your CPU must be a neural net processor.


  5. joeyt #

    Wow, great stuff.


  6. Sylvia #



  7. Eric #

    *weeps* yeeeessss…


  8. rev.felix #

    Holy. Balls. That was the most epic thing I have ever read.


  9. Dave #

    Total Recall? Work that into a dream Ben Richards had. Come on…


  10. Jonathan #

    I assume that any appearances past Skynet’s time (The 6th Day, Total Recall) would still be the original Conan/T-800 continuing on his quest?


  11. Schmoid #

    Can this idea be applied to Christopher Lambert? Are Connor McCloud, Tarzan and Lord Rayden the same person?


  12. Jonathan #

    This was brilliant, kudos!!!

    And Schmoid, the idea that Christopher Lambert is Lord Rayden come to the Earthrealm as a Scot to guard this world from Outland, only to resort to pretending to be raised by apes to avoid the watchful eyes of Shao Kahn, has me grinning ;)


  13. anonymoose #

    I love that you could easily incorporate “the Villain” into this story


  14. ill #

    That was actually kind of moving


  15. Alex C #

    Uh, how’d the T-800 get Anna pregnant?

    Wait… I know…!

    Artificial insemination!

    (Oh, OK, you said “adopted.” But I like my version better.)


  16. Matt #

    Alright, I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here and point out the few holes in your magnificent theory. Allow to overthink your overthinking. The first being, what happened to Ben Richards?

    We know that he escaped The Running Man, and the furious Department of Justice put Richards’ face on T-800s which John Connor then captured and sent back in time. Where did Richards go? If he is indeed, the Eternal Warrior, did he just sneak in, getting beat on purpose, posing as a T-800?

    The only other problem I see is… the power source of a T-800 can only run up to 120 years. To be the Eternal Warrior would have to require more than 120 years. He’d have to juice himself up, Crank 2-style, and seeing as how he genuinely believes himself to be Conan, that would be difficult.


  17. perich OTI Staff #


    (1) Ben Richards was killed by a T-800 impersonating him, clearly. This T-800 discovered that “Ben Richards” was, in fact, a T-800. This led it to realize that it needed to go thousands of years back in time.

    (2) Crom gave the T-800 the power/curse to live forever.


  18. Matt #

    Aha. Good save, sir. Although, I doubt the centuries old warrior (who is actually a Terminator) would be taken down by the fresh-off-the-assembly line Terminator. Richards/Matrix/Conan would, by that point, be a master of every weapon, combat style, etc. But, I guess sniper rifles are indeed the great equalizer…


  19. deg #

    Two words: Kindergarten Cop.


  20. Humberto Massa #

    Kindergarten Cop

    All good comedies. Theory disproven. That, and the fact that he is now… The Governator :-D


  21. Humberto Massa #

    Ah, and “I am, and shall always be, back” would be a nicer title :-P


  22. Arlene #

    Well, obviously, we as mere short-lived mortals aren’t allowed to know the “truth”; therefore above mentioned comedies are placed in our way to have someone else state as above – theory disproven.

    so – what I want to know is – how do we get rid of Crom? after all, the general theory to get rid of gods is to have no one believe in them ….


  23. taylor #

    Great post. Very creative! By the way, the above comments “*slow clap*” and “*weeps* yeeeessss…” are the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks!


  24. DarK Rémi oF DooM #

    Crom… This is so amazingly kickass I think I’m gonna fall in deep coma from reading too much of this amazingness.


  25. perich OTI Staff #

    Humberto: you’ll note I make reference to “Twins” in the original post.

    However, this theory can only adequately explain Arnold’s 80s output. It falls to better theorists than I to defend some of his choices in the 90s.


  26. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    I’m mildly intrigued by the challenge of incorporating EVERY single Arnold movie. Maybe after the events of True Lies (’94) he goes into the safer job of witness protection (Eraser, ’96). He falls in love with Vanessa Williams and leaves Jamie Lee Curtis. But when that falls apart, he marries a new woman with a young son, in time for 1996’s Jingle All the Way. When his new wife falls ill with MacGregor’s Syndrome, he becomes a scientist, and eventually the supervillain Mr. Freeze (1997).

    Oh, and speaking of becoming king by his own hand… in Around the World in 80 Days, Arnold plays a king. And it’s a period piece, so we can set it before his crazy 20th century.


  27. sjt #

    “I doubt the centuries old warrior (who is actually a Terminator) would be taken down by the fresh-off-the-assembly line Terminator.”

    After 15,000 years, Richards had developed some cognitive malfunctions (note his hallucinatory fugues (Total Recall) and the instability of his personal relationships (see Blinkie’s comment above)) which no doubt impaired his fighting, though still it took a fully functioning Terminator to defeat him.


  28. Greg #

    Why not have total recall actually happen, Ben richards survives the Skynet purge somehow and humanity recovers and expands to mars where he lives out total recall.

    You forgot T3 but that just requires another terminator to be sent back in time.

    The Last action hero is an alternate universe the only one that doesn’t really fit is Batman and Robin.


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