The Terminator (1984)
Post-apocalyptic 2029. The world looks pretty dark and gray. The only thing stopping artificially intelligent beings from completely exterminating the human race is a handful of rebels led by John Connor. Robots plan of action will execute itself on the battlefield of 1984, where a Cyborg Terminator (Arnold Schwartgenegger) is sent on a deadly mission to eliminate Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of the future’s rebel-leader. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is sent from the rebel’s side to detail Sarah and keep her safe.
I finally saw James Cameron’s sci-fi magnum opus, and Schwartzenegger’s defining performance as an actor before he became, you know, governor and stuff. I always thought that Terminator would be one of those movies that gets its awesomeness because it’s nostalgic.. not because it’s actually good. Well, this movie bears zero nostalgia for me and I absolutely loved it. So I guess Cameron DID do a few things pre-Titanic. I don’t know, maybe it’s just my nerdy fixation with sci-fi and dystopian societies. Actually, that probably is it, but I still think that Terminator is a good movie.
First of all, while I’m not a huge Arnold fan in general, he is pretty boss as the ruthless killing machine. His lines are few, but weighty. “I’ll be back.” He’s got some serious presence. Annnnnd, he’ll probably be nothing but The Terminator. The limited speaking fits the limited acting talent. No offense. The others are pretty good too – Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn in particular. They didn’t shine necessarily, but they still were fine in a movie where the acting REALLY doesn’t matter that much. Their interactions with each other? Mehh. Whatever. Indifferent.
I guess what it boils down to is some serious surpassing of expectations. Coming into this for the first time (finally, I might add) I was expecting some action-packed explosive kinda movie. Lots of shooting… lots of blowing up… things like that. Of course, there was definitely some of that junk. I guess what I didn’t expect was the intrigue and mystique behind all the action. The jumping back and forth through time and the detailed machines. The dark thrill, the fear. A computerized killing machine, programmed to do nothing but. Man this crap is awesome. It makes me proud to be a sci-fi nerd.
A word that keeps coming to mind is convincing. I feel like the movie believes its own tale. It believes in this world that we are so unfamiliar with it we hardly know to be scared out of our pants. It convinces us that this could happen, it sucks us into this land of incredulity. We’ve got Kyle to explain us the ups and downs (man I love those scenes where someone unfolds every detail for the audience).
And I could rave for days about the music. Er, the main title anyway. It’s such a quintessentially deep science fiction feeling. I… adore it. There’s nothing quite so captivating as a good score, and this nails that aspect. The credits are rolling and I’m sitting there wide-eyed and drooling from my open mouth I feel so much from the music. Yeah, I’m going crazy. The main theme’s just really cool, okay?
What I found fascinating was how truly apprehensive I felt at the climax. I am not one to jump or scream, but I was near holding my breath as our heros ran from the killing machine. His seemingly human appearance is slowly unveiled and with that, the wall between comfort and terror. His arm inching towards Sarah with such slow tension. Yeah, I was kinda scared. That rarely happens – and for it to occur in a freaking action movie with Arny was, well, remarkable. The camerawork and special effects are also fantastic, as well as James Cameron’s craftsmanship behind the scenes. I’m AMAZED at the low budget, it’s really top-notch even with the lack of funding.
The Terminator was ahead of its time. Though one could still recognize it by some rather obvious 80’s labels, it does manage to achieve a level of timelessness still. It will always be iconic, and it will always be parodied. It will always be freaking awesome. 8/10