In 2029, the year of darkness, the rulers of this planet devised the ultimate plan. They would reshape the world by changing the past. The plan required something that felt no pity. No pain. No fear. Something unstoppable. They created "THE TERMINATOR".
The Terminator is a 1984 action film directed by James Cameron, written by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd, produced by Hemdale, Pacific Western Productions and Cinema '84, and distributed by Orion Pictures. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. The film was not nominated for any Academy Awards. This is the first film in the Terminator franchise, which consists of six films as of right now. It is followed by Terminator 2: Judgement Day. This film has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
"I'll be back." -The Terminator
In the year 2029, a war between man and machine is occurring. The machines send back a lethal cyborg assassin...a Terminator. The Terminator's mission is to kill young, innocent Sarah Connor, who's son is the only reason that the machines have not dominated the world yet. Sarah's son has also sent back a man named Kyle Reese to protect Sarah. Together, Reese and Sarah must destroy The Terminator...before it destroys them.
The first thing about this film is the suspense and urgency. You feel the danger of the situation and the hopelessness that Sarah feels while being hunted down by the machine. It gives the movie a darker tone and a more intense vibe that just resonates perfectly with the audience. In a way, it has a horror movie vibe. If the Terminator was hunting Sarah down with a machete or butcher knife instead of these massive guns, it would be a horror movie, and they capture that tone and thrill that Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street has.
It's also really fun to watch the Terminator just mow down the police officers when Sarah is in the station. That scene feels so helpless and intense, but you also get to see Schwarzenegger just absolutely obliterate all these police officers that are screaming and shooting at this thing that isn't at all phased by the amount of times that he has been attacked or shot at and he only cares about his one goal: kill Sarah Connor. While it is a gut-wrenching scene, they make the entertainment value of the fight so high that you just love to see the Terminator in full action.
I think that this a pretty good story. James Cameron has always done a good job with relatively simple stories, like Alien and Titanic. He doesn't always make these massive movies that have super complex storylines, and Terminator is a perfect example of that. The story can be summarized in one sentence by anyone that has seen it, but it is able to stretch out a story that could probably be boring and horrible and make it so entertaining and great. They also had a good reason for the Terminator's hunt for Sarah, which Reese explains at the beginning. It makes sense while also intriguing you and letting you into this ultra-violent, dark, futuristic world that Reese lives in.
The writing for this film is fantastic. Obviously, "I'll be back" is one of the most famous lines in Hollywood history, but there are other classic lines that the characters say as though it is normal to speak like that in this world. Most of it comes from Reese. It feels like the writers of this film were just talking and threw a ton of stuff into Reese's monologues about the future. For some people, some of what Kyle Reese says may seem ridiculous and it might make no sense, but it feels so sincere and real.
The acting is fine. Linda Hamilton is pretty great. She is very subtly scared at the beginning when she finds out that somebody is hunting down women with her name. Then she does something that I think is very hard to do for an actor or actress. She evolves and becomes tougher throughout the film. It isn't always obvious, but she isn't screaming and paranoid in the last twenty minutes of the film like she is after she finds out that the Terminator is after her. Schwarzenegger is perfect for the Terminator. Usually he isn't a great actor because most movies use him for his, you know, gargantuan biceps, but he really doesn't have to much acting because he's a robot. Good casting by the crew.
James Cameron did an amazing job of directing this film. There is just some absolutely fantastic shots that you can tell were clearly set up by him. The entire scene in the nightclub is so suspenseful and foreboding, and that is mainly because of Cameron's design for the scene. It is loud and public, but as soon as Sarah makes the call to the police station, you know that this isn't going to turn out well. Then the noise slowly quiets and we move into slo- mo shots of the Terminator approaching and pulling this enormous shotgun out of his coat. It is absolutely horrifying as you see Sarah stare up at him. Then Reese saves the day, we get "Come with me if you want to live!", and the pace picks up. There are other sick shots, but the one that I'm going to talk about is the Terminator standing up in the fire after Sarah and Reese thought that they had defeated it. It felt all over, and then a dark beat sends the cyborg back to chasing after Sarah Connor.
Firstly, I don't think Michael Biehn is that good. He doesn't really feel like he is fully invested in the part, and his chemistry with Linda Hamilton on screen isn't as good as I'd hoped it'd be. He feels like he could be another Terminator, with the somewhat emotionless, boring performance that he gives. He sucks some of the life out of the parts that he's in, and thank god for the writers, because he says some things that should be said without emotion. If he was supposed to be more of a Sarah Connor, excited teenager instead of a grizzled soldier, then he would be absolutely horrific. Either way, I just didn't dig his acting in this film.
I also really was not a fan of the jumps to the future. I think that they added these couple of scenes from the future to increase the runtime a good bit, but it really isn't a good way to fill in the extra fifteen minutes you need to make this a good length for a sci-fi action thriller. It feels like a commercial break in the middle of a football game or in the middle of a TV show you're watching. It doesn't really contribute to the plot for this movie, at least, and I really do not understand why they would do that at the most random times in the movie.
I also think that the effects do not hold up very well. The final battle with the machine is supposed to be this climactic, epic finale, but it looks so goofy with the Terminator moving in clear stop-motion while Sarah and Reese run away. There are also scenes where there is an obvious animatronic Terminator in place of Schwarzenegger. It can be incredibly distracting and it can pull you out of the film. In most movies, I won't retract much for being negative on the effects, but the effects are so vital in this and they just look horrendous.
Despite some bad acting, unnecessary extra scenes, and very bad effects, Terminator has a suspenseful and thrilling story that captures the tone perfectly and a fantastic leading lady.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 12+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 9.5/10
Directed by James Cameron
Released on October 26, 1984
Rated R for strong bloody violence, scary images, sexual material, and language
1 hour and 47 minutes
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese
Paul Winfield as Ed Traxler
Bess Motta as Ginger Ventura
Rick Rossovich as Matt Buchanan