johnlink ranks THE TERMINATOR (1984)

I gave myself the goal of getting through multiple series this calendar year. We’ll see if I gave myself enough time to rifle through all of the TERMINATOR universe. I’ve always regarded this as great science fiction, but it has been awhile since I’ve put it on.


I watched THE TERMINATOR (1984) on 12.11.12. it was my fourth viewing of the film, and first in probably a decade or so.

This is a film which has plenty going for it. The makeup and robotics effects still hold up (except, perhaps, for the final battle). The characters still work. The fear of an increasingly computerized society still rings true. Arnold is still effective. Linda Hamilton still elicits empathy.

What works against this movie, other than the understandably dated computer technology which serves as futuristic, is the presence of Michael Biehn as the heroic Kyle Reese. I have no problem with Biehn in general, he has done some pretty decent work. But he just whines and complains through this film, and I can’t help but think that there must have been better actor choices in 1984. Some of that surely falls on James Cameron as both writer and director. He tries to make Reese exceedingly human to contrast the machines. I just wish it felt connected. When he suddenly starts talking about loving Sarah Connor from a distant time, I just don’t find it believable. Never mind the science-fiction time-loop created (I’ll give that a pass), it just doesn’t strike me as fitting the rest of the film.

So I do have that pretty big knock to make. In a film which is about a hero, a budding heroine, and a villain, one of the three just does not effectively work as well as I’d like. But, even given that, THE TERMINATOR is wildly successful. It builds tension impressively. It takes the rare tactic of making its biggest star a villain, and asking us to fear and hate him. THE TERMINATOR is Tech Noir (which also serves as the name of the club where the three main characters first do battle). It is in the vein of BLADE RUNNER, but it is a more enjoyable film than BLADE RUNNER. Perhaps less heady, perhaps less “deep”, but certainly more enjoyable.

This is a film, then, which is a rare case of being inferior to its sequel. Cameron had much more to say with the second TERMINATOR film. While he wants to make points about man versus machine here, they are unquestionably infant in their presentation. The more complex questions come as computers themselves get more complex.

So, while I previously considered this a classic in both the action and science-fiction realms, I think I would have to qualify that a little bit and say that I would consider it classic action, though not necessarily classic science-fiction. But I am open to an argument…







~ by johnlink00 on December 13, 2012.

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