Movie #99: The Terminator (1984)

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, and Lance Henriksen


“Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

2029: the world is run by machines.  Having eliminated most of the human race through numerous nuclear strikes on Judgement Day decades earlier, the machines are still hunting and fighting the human resistance lead by John Connor.  They created a cyborg that walks, talks, looks, and acts like a human, The Terminator (Schwarzenegger).  Sending him back to 1984, Terminator is assigned to kill Sarah Connor, mother of the unborn John Connor.  The human resistance sends back Kyle Reese (Biehn) to protect Sarah at all costs, and also conceiving John in the process.

The Terminator, though simple in execution as a film that goes from chase scene to fight scene to shootout and back, explores the dangers of an over reliance on technology and the potential threats when that technology becomes self-aware.

They also blow stuff up,  a lot of stuff.

It’s interesting looking back on a film like this now and seeing how The Terminator was the first big break to giants in the industry.  Schwarzenegger had already done two Conan  movies, the Terminator has been his calling card.  No one else could have pulled that part off better, and really anyone else would have simply done that character a great injustice.

This was also James Cameron’s first major film, and as they say, the rest is history.

terminatorsarah  Linda Hamilton also does great and establishes herself in this film.   She had done Children of the Corn earlier that year, but The Terminator introduced her to a wider and incredibly passionate fan base.

The Terminator is the quintessential summer blockbuster.  It relies heavily on action, chase scenes, shootouts, and asks very little of the audience other than to sit back and enjoy.  Funny, though, since this film was released in October of 1984.

For it’s time period, a lot of the special effects work.  However, the things I didn’t care for were most of the scenes from the future, and after Terminator was nothing but a machine.  Though limited with the special effects in 1984, I still felt these scenes unintentionally made the film more comical and unrealistic.  While science fiction by nature pushes far past what’s realistic, the way the special effects were used in this film just didn’t work for me.


On the other hand, Schwarzenegger does great as a cyborg.  His Austrian accent and mechanical presentation seem believable throughout the film.

terminatorreeseI like how Cameron presented Kyle Reese.  It takes a while for the audience to realize that he’s actually one of the good guys.  Given that he comes back to the past the same way Terminator does, and his emphasis and one-track-mindedness in getting a weapon would make you think for a while that maybe he’s another bad guy.  His chemistry with Linda Hamilton in this film is great, and his genuine hatred and disgust with Terminator makes for some great action sequences.

There’s not much else to say about this film.  I’ve been a bit disappointed with where The Terminator franchise has gone past Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  I haven’t watched The Sarah Conner Chronicles, but for me Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation were more of a yawn for me than anything else.  I also see that they’re making Terminator: Genesis, due out next year.  More like Terminator: We Can’t Come Up With Anything Original. 

The Terminator launched the careers of James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Linda Hamilton.  Though lacking at times with the visual effects, it’s still an entertaining movie that also presents a bit of a haunting message about our reliance on technology and the potential dangers of that dependence.  I could watch this one from time to time, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes or is interested in science fiction films.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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