Review: The Terminator
The Sarah Connor Chronicles won't be premiering until
January, so in the meantime here at TerminatorSite, we'll
be sharing reviews with you of the three movies that introduced
Sarah Connor, John Connor, and the Terminators to this world.
movie reviews are brought to you by Nate Yapp of Classic-Horror.com.
who has been nice enough to take a trip back in time and share
his thoughts with TerminatorSite. (And of course, check
his site out too!)
Dir. James Cameron
I think about Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator, I think
about Hasta la vista, baby a cute phrase
meant to add warmth to his character in 1991s Terminator
2: Judgment Day. Of course, I also cant forget why
such a moment is necessary. When Schwarzenegger plays the
robot soldier from the future in the first film in the series,
The Terminator, there is nothing cute or heroic about
him. He is an unstoppable killer free of any pesky humanity.
When he says, Ill be back, its a statement
of cold fact. He will be back. He has killing to do. James
Camerons 1984 sci-fi action opus is as relentless as
its title character, but unlike a sleek robot, it understands
thrills and adrenaline and how to use them to the best possible
pre-credits text intro lets us know that the aftermath of
a future nuclear war has pitted man against machine in a battle
for survival, but that the resolution of this conflict will
take place in our time. Our time, incidentally, is 1984 (as
evidenced by the bad hairdos and ridiculous clothes) and the
two combatants are an unnamed cyborg Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
and Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a soldier from the 21st Century.
The Terminator has traveled back in time to kill Sarah Connor
(Linda Hamilton), the mother of the yet-to-be-conceived leader
of the future human resistance, while Reese has arrived to
such a simple, elegant premise -- two men, one nigh-unstoppable
and one all too mortal, playing a game of keep-away with the
life of a woman with a destiny. It requires no further twists
to play out, and Cameron is wise to avoid the temptation.
Any additional idea would have also lead to additional exposition,
an area where Cameron is clearly uncomfortable; most of the
pertinent plot facts are established by Reese in a long-winded,
almost uninterrupted monologue one-third of the way through
the film. Such an infodump is a no-no, especially in science
fiction, and here it acts as the only major hiccup in an otherwise
direction throughout the film is highly indicative of his
skill at making high-octane action films. He keeps the adrenaline
pumping and the tension mounting as he launches gun battle
after car chase after gun battle. His editing is precise and
quick without calling attention to itself or distracting from
the events on-screen. Cameron rarely dips into any sort of
self-indulgence; his interest is clearly in the plight of
Sarah and Kyle, and that transfers to the audience. When Sarah
is running from a semi truck driven by the Terminator, its
a well-paced sequence with strong direction, but its
the concern for the characters with which Cameron has imbued
the film that really has us going.
cant talk about The Terminator without talking
about the Terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger may not have many
lines, but boy does he have presence. From the first moment
we see his naked, freakishly muscled body, we sense were
in the presence of a very dangerous person. When he dispatches
a trio of punks (including a very young Bill Paxton) to get
their clothes, our suspicions about his menace are confirmed,
but were also proved quite wrong about his personhood.
As he punches through one of the punks torsos, we realize
that the Terminator is, as Reese later describes him, a
killing machine, without emotion, without pity, and without
remorse. Schwarzeneggers staccato (or robotic?)
delivery of his lines, largely the result of the actors
limited command of the English language, only adds to his
those used to the no-nonsense Sarah Connor of T2, the
character (and Linda Hamiltons performance) in The
Terminator will come as a bit of a shock. Connor begins
the film as a meek waitress, before transitioning into the
freaked-out and near-helpless prey of The Terminator, constantly
looking to Kyle Reese for guidance and leadership. Shes
frequently shrill, occasionally irritating, and on the rare
occasion, you kind of want to smack her and tell her to get
a hold on herself. Only toward the end does she begin to assert
authority and all the passive, frightened behavior pays off.
Weve witnessed a complete character journey, as Sarah
matures from just a girl to a woman. If The
Terminator was a slasher film (and theres some argument
to be made that its at least distantly related to that
subgenre), Sarah would be known as the Final Girl, she who
witnesses all the death and then transitions from victim to
hero in order to win the day and wrest the power from the
killer, using his own weaponry.
Winston, credited with Special Terminator Effects,
uses his special brand of makeup and technical wizardry to
bring the robotic aspects of Schwarzeneggers character
to life. Using a combination of model work, facial prosthetics,
and animatronics, Winston is mostly successful in selling
the illusion of a robot walking among us. Some of the animatronics
meant to look like Schwarzenegger are just inaccurate enough
to be noticeable, however, but otherwise, its top-notch
work and highly commendable.
its villain, The Terminator never tires or slows down.
Like its heroes, it pumps full of thrill-inspired adrenaline.
One of the definitive action flicks of the 1980s, it combines
solid writing with exciting chase sequences and plenty of
explosions (because what action film is complete without explosions?).
While it isnt as technical impressive as its sequels,
its more focused, more driven, and, ultimately, just
a little more satisfying for it.
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