The Terminator Reviews
In viewing the film now, almost 30 years later, one can't but notice the cinematic conventions used to get around things like budget constraints, the lack of blue screen and of course, ironically, CGI. That James Cameron succeeded so well in showing us things that hadn't been seen before is a testament to his filmmaking craft, (like the very first Star Wars film, which from the opening sequence was one big Wow, ain't seen nothin' like THAT before).
So, does this iconic film still stand up? Overall, yes, even though the story, the pace, in fact the entire genre has been done to death - but yes, so much of it stems from this fountainhead of a film. Note Cameron's use of close up and focus on an item, like a gun or knife, so that he can cutaway from the action without having to try to show you things that couldn't be generated yet. His editing and pacing are superb here, and funny thing - as much as I dislike car chase scenes, so much of the film is just that (probably some of the weaker moments, really) - and it is within these car chase scenes that the film shows its age. The squeeling tires as police cars burn rubber - all so very dated now, just as the sound effects of same (obvious film "sweetening" done in post production, and again a budgetary and technology issue). Also, look at how Cameron used a shot of the skeletal cyborg's feet as he climbed the stairs in pursuit of his prey - pretty nifty, you only had to place the fake feet on the steps and move them from above camera - instead of creating CGI to show you the action... this is yet another example of how a true filmmaker gets around his limitations.
But regardless, the film is just like its main character: relentless. So very little time to catch your breath (like Aliens in that regard).
Of course there are a few picadillos to consider - first and foremost is why a cyborg is speaking with a heavy Austrian accent - but who else would you have cast for the part? Arnold is so perfect, and this is the film that gave him iconic status - even though he only says about 100 words in the entire piece. This is Arnold's film, make no mistake, even though the heavy lifting is ably done by Michael Biehn (who later showed up in Aliens) and Linda Hamilton. On the side you have the perfect minor role of Lt. Traxler (Paul Winfield), the tired and yet still sharp policeman who puts together that someone is systematically killing off all the Sarah Connors. His interplay with Lance Henrickson (who later went on to star in the wonderful and underrated TV series Millennium, as well as playing Bishop, the cyborg in Alien; another Cameron film), is so effortlessly acted that it's a joy to behold. (Another interesting side note: Henrickson was originally tabbed to play the title role, but then Arnold came along...).
And talk about flashbacks - those hair styles! Yikes! Then the technology on display - clunky phone recorders, pay phones, huge video machines - wow!
In viewing this now, 30 years later, and since I knew the story and how it all played out, I had time to think - which I didn't back at the U.A. 6 in 84. Things that make you wonder - how a computer AI wouldn't have been more imaginative in trying to achieve its goal. I guess that is part of the charm, and again, a product of the non computer world of 1984 - assuming that a machine would simply take the immediate goal in front of it instead of processing the information and reaching a better conclusion (although Cameron did display a certain algorhythm in the scene where the landlord asks if there's a dead cat in Arnold's room - Arnold's HUD shows "possible responses" including the priceless "fuck off". However, it occurred to me that while Arnold was chasing Connor and shooting the hell out of the back window etc., that a cyborg should have been aware that the best way to disable a fast moving vehicle would have been to shoot the tires!!!!! Dumb machine!!!!
Anyhow, this was a nice trip to the past - and while some of my warm and fuzzy memories of this film were tripped up, and the film hasn't aged as well as I would have hoped, it still entertains. If I were to go back in time and review it in 1984 it would surely have gotten a 100 rating, but here in my jaded present, an 80 is still nothing to sneeze at.
Oh, and before I forget - here's an interesting tidbit; during the credits it states that Cameron and producer Gale Ann Hurd wrote the screenplay - and then there is a disclaimer that some of the "concepts" for the film were provided by Harlan Ellison. This made me take notice as Ellison will always be in my memory banks as the writer of perhaps the best Star Trek episode "City On The Edge of Forever", as well as the cult classic film A Boy And His Dog. Turns out that Ellison really had nothing to do with Terminator, but sued Orion claiming that some of his short stories outlined the concepts used in the film - the solution of course was a settlement and inclusion of the little disclaimer - hooray for Hollywood attorneys!
Excellent Film! This is one of the great movies of the 80's. The Terminator is a thrilling sci-fi that entertains. This is the movie that got started James Camerons clime of fame. The action, suspense, plot, acting, and dialogue is great. The score is great especially the main song. Arnold gives a scary performance as one of my favorite villains The Terminator. Kyle Reese's dialogue when he talks about the future is very well written, and gives you a good impression of how bad it is in the future. The shootout at the police station is great, and shows off how The Terminator is a killing machine. Also I am impressed with how they made the movie with just almost 6 and half million and made it look so good. The Terminator is a great film.
In the future, Skynet, a computer system fights a losing war against the humans who built it and who it nearly exterminated. Just before being destroyed, Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah, the mother to be of John Connor, the Leader of the human resistance. The terminator can pass for human, is nearly indestructible, and has only one mission, killing Sarah Connor. One soldier is sent back to protect her from the killing machine. He must find Sarah before the Terminator can carry out it's mission.
The fascinating concepts imagined by James Cameron along with his excellent directing results with a taut, dark and original film. In my opinion, Schwarzenegger's sinister portrayal of the hard, soulless Terminator is far better than the softer, more human depictions in the sequels. Also, the transformation of Linda Hamilton's character is also well acted. I watched the film with a few contemporaries recently (I'm 18 years-old), who picked flaws in the dated music and effects. Firstly one has to appreciate the budget (a mere $6.5 million), and I personally feel that the music perfectly aids the tension of the cat-and-mouse sequences (however I am unusually partial to a bit of 80s music). Anyway, whatever your stance on those matters, the film's substance and breathtaking action far outweigh any 'flaws'.
James Cameron gives us one amazing action sequence after another!
an amazing brillant sci-fi master-piece in my opinion!