The definitive action movie that helped define an era, The Terminator remains as popular today as it was upon release in 1984. Despite not being James Cameron’s directorial debut, this is the film that would spark his career; seven years later he’d direct Terminator 2: Judgement Day but not before his venture into The Abyss and Aliens.
Linda Hamilton stars as Sarah Connor, your typical big city waitress trying to make ends meet. When a cyborg assassin is transported from 2029 to 1984, Connor is forced into a terrifying game of survival when she discovers that her unborn son will play the key figure in humanity’s war against the machines.
As action movies go, The Terminator has everything from a mix of strong characters to big explosions. However, what makes the film so great is that its narrative doesn’t get lost in an ocean of machine guns and violence. With the vast majority of action films deciding to favour action, as the genre would suggest, over narrative, it’s refreshing to come back to a film that perfectly balances the two. Everything is relevant which makes everything so much more exciting; nothing beats a big budget fight sequence quite like a big budget fight sequence with meaning!
The SFX that Hollywood offers is constantly advancing so it goes without saying that things have really changed since 1984. When we finally see the T-800 out of its Schwarzenegger skin suit, it doesn’t take a genius to tell that The Terminator was way ahead of its time. Unfortunately though, this is undermined by the previous effects in the film where Arnie is blatantly replaced by a stop motion dummy. In defence of the film, whilst the latter still makes the film feel somewhat dated in our current generation, we all know that the infamous scalpel-to-eye scene is enough to make even Chuck Norris cringe. If dated effects can still pack a punch, you know that a film is still worthy of high praise.
What James Cameron does so well as a filmmaker is that he can take on a specific genre, combine elements that are genre specific with elements that aren’t, and thus create a genre hybrid. This technique can easily be applied to The Terminator, especially when concentrating on the final chase between the T-800 and Sarah Connor. Classed as Bravo’s 82nd scariest movie moment, the sequence could easily be categorised as horror out of context; the upper half of a robotic skeleton crawls through a tunnel, trying to grab the ankle of a terrified woman whilst an eerie futuristic soundtrack pierces over the sound of clunking metal. Away from this scene, before the chrome body of the T-800 is even revealed, horror is at play with Schwarzenegger’s appearance getting increasingly more grotesque from start to finish in a Cronenberg style, body horror bid.
Although The Terminator isn’t as highly regarded as its 1991 successor, the film remains to stand as one of the great Hollywood blockbusters. Complete with iconic imagery and dialogue, 1984 seems like it was only yesterday with “I’ll be back” drilled into your ears on a weekly basis.
Are you a fan of The Terminator? How do you think it’ll compare with the upcoming Terminator Genisys?
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