Movie Review: The Terminator
Nate Yapp of reviews a Terminator classic - the movie that introduced Sarah Connor way back in 1984!


The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Terminator, Terminators, Sarah Connor, and related characters and images are copyright ©2007 Warner Bros. Television and FOX. This is an independent site and not authorized by FOX. Page copyright ©2007 KryptonSite, unless the material is noted as coming from someplace else or being by an individual author.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles stars Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, and Richard T. Jones. No Governator here.


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premieres Sunday, January 13 and Monday, January 14, 2008 on FOX


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Movie Review: The Terminator
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.

These movie reviews are brought to you by Nate Yapp of 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!)

The Terminator (1984)
Dir. James Cameron

When 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 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Of course, I also can’t 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, “I’ll be back,” it’s a statement of cold fact. He will be back. He has killing to do. James Cameron’s 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 effect.

A 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 protect her.

It’s 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 smooth ride.

Cameron’s 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, it’s a well-paced sequence with strong direction, but it’s the concern for the characters with which Cameron has imbued the film that really has us going.

You can’t 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 we’re 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 we’re 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.” Schwarzenegger’s staccato (or robotic?) delivery of his lines, largely the result of the actor’s limited command of the English language, only adds to his performance.

For those used to the no-nonsense Sarah Connor of T2, the character (and Linda Hamilton’s 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. She’s 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. We’ve witnessed a complete character journey, as Sarah matures from “just a girl” to a woman. If The Terminator was a slasher film (and there’s some argument to be made that it’s 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.

Stan Winston, credited with “Special Terminator Effects”, uses his special brand of makeup and technical wizardry to bring the robotic aspects of Schwarzenegger’s 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, it’s top-notch work and highly commendable.

Like 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 isn’t as technical impressive as its sequels, it’s more focused, more driven, and, ultimately, just a little more satisfying for it.

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