The Terminator

terminator poster

No amount of derision for the late sequels can dim the love of folk for the first two Terminator films. The lacklustre reception to Terminator: Genysis (2015) reminded me that I had never really gotten around to seeing the classic entrants into the series, so it was time for Terminator (1984).

Gotta love the hair a young Bill Paxton is rocking here.

Gotta love the hair a young Bill Paxton is rocking here.

For a beloved sci-fi, the story is actually pretty stripped back. Taking place on separate timelines, 2029 and 1984, a lot of the early exposition is handled by a single screen of text explaining the rise of the machines. From there, a couple of mean dudes arrive in ’84 from the future, and the story is underway. It’s astutely written, setting up the goal of the plot (i.e. kill/protect Sarah Connor) without explaining why. It allows the action to fly from the very start, but maintains intrigue as to exactly where the plot will go. Even today, the violence in the film is quite bracing in its brutality. The body count is ultra high and with major characters possessing zero empathy, they mow numerous people down without a care. The Sarah Connor character, at least in this film, does not feel like a particularly strong one. It’s a traditionally matriarchal spot for her in a film. She has to be fought over by men, to preserve her abilities as a mother. Whilst that could be more modern, thematically the film remains resonant. You could easily patch drones onto this plot with no troubles at all. It’s a cautionary tale of the dangers of over-automation, particularly in the military sphere.

Linda Hamilton, who is so good as Sarah Connor

Linda Hamilton, who is so good as Sarah Connor

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a decidedly awful actor. But he does have an undeniable and unique presence to him. As such it is easy to see why the Terminator has become his most iconic role as it is designed for someone with his abilities. He doesn’t have to emote, in fact it’s better if he doesn’t. The film’s much lauded effects have undoubtedly dated to a degree. But they are yet another example of how you would take dated practical effects over dated CGI any day of the week.. It is impossible not to respect the level of craftsmanship and artistic creativity that went into the process. But there is no doubting that some of the effects work toward the film’s conclusion has a bit of a Harryhausen vibe, and not in a good way. Overall though, the design is one of the strengths of the film.  Arnie’s body and the way it breaks down looks great, whilst the interaction and fuzzy borders between man and machine is rendered effectively. In addition to the lean writing, much of the tempo can be attributed to the soundtrack. Brad Fiedel’s score is electronic, but with a real authentic sounding beat, a combination that sets the pace of a lot of the action.  

Verdict: Deserving of its place as an action/sci-fi classic, The Terminator still holds up despite some of its elements showing their age. It did strike me as not particularly setting up for a sequel, so I will be interested in how forced the storytelling of future films in the series feels to me. Pint of Kilkenny

Progress: 130/1001

Related articles for you to check out: Planet of the Apes and  The Incredible Shrinking Man.

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8 responses

  1. Stands up well to time IMO, I still enjoy watching it. Plus the second and third one..Off to see the Man from Uncle on Sunday, I watched the series as a kid, interested to see how the latest stands up..

    1. What did you think of Man from Uncle? I was surprised how well this holds up, given how effects heavy it is. But those old school effects guys were so creative. Keen to get to the second one soon.

      1. I could see what they were trying to do, And it sort of worked, but it was a bit too much like a pilot, I will give it another go and see what develops

  2. Glad you finally got a chance to view this 🙂 It does look dated in many aspects but somehow transcends that as a story-telling and action experience. I like T2 the best, and I like the 3rd one quite a bit, even though it gets much less praise.

    1. Yeah that is spot on mate. It is able to transcend any of the really dated aspects. Something to be said for a simple, well made action plot I think. Have heard good things about 2 and 3, so keen to give them a look (am sure I’ll end up seeing the rubbish ones too).

  3. An all-time favorite of mine. And Kyle Reese!!!! He’s an all-time favorite of mine too. 😉

    1. Haha. I respect that.

  4. I need to take a look back at this old guy, saw Genisys over the summer and while I didn’t end up in the Hate It camp, I wasn’t blown away and felt the story and multiple timelines thing really have worn out their welcome. It’d be nice to go back to the time where this was still fresh. Good work Tim

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