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).
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.
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
A little late on this again this week. But at least it will probably be on the weekend for most of you. This week’s trailer is for the upcoming Escape Plan, which may help us answer the question of whether Arnie and Sly still have it. If they ever had it to begin with in your opinion.
To be honest, this looks like pretty stock standard prison breakout fare. Except y’know, with Fiddy Cent and a terrible CGI looking prison. Not sure that either of those will help. Who knows if it will reach any great heights. Here’s hoping it does, because the prison break subgenre is actually one with some pretty interesting and fun films.
Here in Australia, the remake of Paul Paul Verhoeven’s iconic sci-fi/action flick Total Recall (1990) opens tomorrow. So I thought this was an apt time to take a look at the original. First of all, check out the awesome trailer for it below.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is undoubtedly one of the biggest actions stars in movie history. In my humble opinion, he is also probably one of the top 5 worst actors to have made a living by being an actor. In this film, Arnie plays the most buff everyman in history. When our hero goes to have memories of wondrous vacations to Mars implanted, he ends up discovering that his real memory has been wiped and that he actually was a secret agent who worked on the red planet. The rest of the film follows him as he attempts to piece together his past and who he really is. Thankfully, despite Arnie’s shortcomings as an actor, he is surrounded by some more assured performer chief amongst them being Sharon Stone, who is fantastic as his wife.
Total Recall is based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember it for you Wholesale”. Dick is one of my favourite sci-fi authors and his fiction is generally concerned with ideas about identity, the future and many other things. But it is ideas rather than action that are at their core. It is a little strange then that so many films have been made of his work. Total Recall chooses to dispense with most of the ideas and instead focuses on the action. It is really an action flick with a dash of sci-fi sauce on top. But it is an extremely fun one. The action, despite the sci-fi trimmings, is extremely realistic with cool hand to hand fight scenes and a willingness to show a little blood. Actually a willingness to show a whole lot of blood – this is a very violent film. The film is also really quite funny. Often when it does not intend to be, but there are also some pretty inspired scripted comedic touches as well. The film is a little dated, but no sci-fi film predicts technology completely successfully. And some of the dated aspects are quite cool to see these days – the most 80s opening credits ever, and miniature work, which you never see in this age of CGI everything.
I have to say, I consider this film a fun action romp rather than any form of stone cold classic. Others who saw the film closer to its original release, may be able to give some insight as to why the film is so revered. One thing the film has done though is gotten me intrigued to see what they come up with for the remake. Especially given the replacing of the ultra-buff Schwarzenegger, with the more normally proportioned Colin Farrell and the apparent decision not to have any Mars based action.
So there are my thoughts on the original Total Recall. Definitely try and take the chance to see it before the remake opens near you, and please share your thoughts on both films.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
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