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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Retro Review: The Terminator (1984) #Schwarzenegger

The Terminator
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen
Genre: Science Fiction Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $78 million 

Plot: A seemingly indestructible humanoid cyborg is sent from 2029 to 1984 to assassinate a waitress, whose unborn son will lead humanity in a war against machines, whilst a soldier from that war is sent to protect her from all costs

'Arnie's Big Breakout Role, In A Movie Superceded By Its Sequel'

1984's The Terminator sees the first major Hollywood film appearance and starring role for the Austrian man mountain, Arnold Schwarzenegger & the massive box office & critical success of the film paved the way for even more success in the 1980s and 1990s with hits such as Predator, The Running Man, Total Recall, True Lies and the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which went even further than the prequel and did even better.  

There are early appearances by Bill Paxton and Bryan Thompson as a couple of punks who try to wind up the T-800, only to end up dead.

Rewatching and revisiting The Terminator today, it has a slightly different impact on me and watching it today, it just doesn't wow me as much as it originally did when I saw it on TV as a teenager. The Terminator is a chase film with Sarah & Kyle as the killer cyborg's main bait: Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are on the run from the Terminator, who is sent to earth by Skynet, a so-called computer network which insists that all humans be made extinct and well, terminated. He has to erase all traces of Sarah, in order to prevent her future son in John Connor being born and leading a resistance against the other Terminator cyborgs in 2029. With Kyle, he is assigned by the resistance to protect Sarah from the deadly killer, the Terminator, and to destroy it, before it destroys them. This plot sounds intriguing, yet it is a shame this film takes a while for the story to get going. Yet there is just nothing more to it than that and without this aspect that is played out, The Terminator would have far less going for it. 

The longer the story drags, the less the Terminator utters his lines, which are very few and he doesn't say much. Nor does he, through Schwarzenneger emote. When he doesn't say anything but disposes of some people along the way, when it moves slowly it becomes a little frustrating and jarring and the film just wasn't able to hold my attention throughout. There were a lot of scenes where there was quite a bit of action going on, but no dialogue being uttered. Just people shooting each other, especially during the flashback scenes where Kyle is battling the Terminators.

There are less blood and gore in the remastered version than there is in the original version and I remember seeing the original edit on TV before it got the remastered treatment, a long time ago and even with the edits, it was still graphically violent. The pacing is incredibly slow, making the film a chore to sit through and the story, but for a few confrontation scenes involving Sarah, Reese against The Terminator was a drudge. 

1984's The Terminator, overtime has had a significant cultural relevance, not to mention it has been a cultural milestone in many respects and has since gone on to become one of the most hailed and important sci-fi based action films of all-time, but it is also a film that has been surpassed and superceded by Cameron's 1986 biggie, Aliens, the sequel to the 1979 movie and The Terminator's '90s predecessor, 7 years later, in practically all areas and one whereby these films outdo this effort. Both in terms of characterisation, plot, a narrative which is not only fleshed out more but the stories are also a lot more intricate and better developed than this movie. 

There is frankly little characterisation in The Terminator, as arguably none of the mainstay characters, including the self-titled antagonist, who here is stiff and later becomes the chief protagonist, leave a discernable impression on me & they all come off as one-note. Or be it an impression that literally says something about their character. There is just no complexity or range, with emotions reduced to being worried and scared or angry and long periods where no dialogue is uttered. Sarah Connor is virtually a nothing character here, yet thank goodness that she, alongside the T-800 was given plenty of characterisation, depth and a sense of purpose in Terminator 2, instead of being a what is a 'blank slate' female who is saved by a man, who protects her. & to think this was the same movie that I enjoyed back as a child or teenager - I guess I was in awe of the action, the special effects, the chase scenes, back then & which are all still terrific. 

The love subplot with Reese and Sarah felt like it was thrown in to entice audiences; although had it not been for that scene, we might not have heard of the name of John Connor being banded around, and neither would this character be making an appearance in Judgement Day. Whenever the film didn't concentrate on the main characters, it was dull and the pacing is just, brutal. It took over 30 mins for the T-800 to aim at Sarah, only for Kyle Reese to come to her aid. The performances, despite the one-note, pedestrian- like nature of the characters and their lack of development, and the action itself were sound, however.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was once asked about The Terminator, whilst he was on set of Conan The Destroyer and he dismissed it as ''it's some s**t movie I'm making. Take a couple of weeks'. The Terminator is far from s**t: it's not crap, but it is also a film where I don't love it as much as I used to. 

Final Verdict:

Still better than the disappointing sequels that came right after Terminator 2 and Conan The Destroyer, yet The Terminator comes off as not that grand, nor as incredibly compelling with a first half that offers little insight into the mindset of the Terminator character as he makes his grand entrance. As the film drags, it becomes a slasher-type film with the T-800 bumping random people off, right before going after Reese and Sarah.

An earlier James Cameron offering, luckily and thankfully his follow-ups in Aliens, Terminator 2, True Lies fared and did even better than The Terminator. & as an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, it pales in comparison to Total Recall, True Lies & The Terminator's mega blockbuster hit follow-up, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. 

In rewatching The Terminator, despite the impressive action sequences, it just wasn't all that it's cracked up to be. Just okay to good.


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