a review by the Crow.
(Apologies if I sound a little off-beat, these days.)
SPOILER LEVELS at MAJOR
(But do you really care? It’s a tale as old as time.)
The Terminator is the movie that started it all for a certain Mr Cameron. It’s the movie which set up his long career of being successful at separating people from their money. With the latest instalment in the franchise now out, it would be best to take a look at how tall the tree from which the apple has fallen is. (Let’s face it: almost every one of them has been the same regurgitated nonsense.)
The idea for The Terminator — when looking at it objectively — isn’t what one would consider to be the “stuff” of good cinema. At best, it’s shlocky B-movie stuff. There’s a robot from the future, hounding a single, somewhat attractive woman through the streets of 1980’s LA. Opposing this robot is an equally-attractive soldier (also from the future), and they must fight.
The idea is nothing unique, and it’s the kind of idea which has been seen in cinema a thousand times. Of course, most of these other examples were created in response to The Terminator‘s success, but there were others before it. As a matter of fact, SF author and arguable menace Harlan Ellison successfully settled (in the financial sense) an argument over the originality of the movie — a settlement opposed by Mr Cameron.
If not unique, then, why is The Terminator so well regarded amongst its peers? While the movie was a smash hit in 1984 — and is remembered fondly by those who watched it during its run in theatres — looking back at it thirty-four years later, it’s hard not to argue that it’s only regarded so highly due to the legacy of its sequel. Perhaps it’s the fact that I am a product of 1989, and was first exposed to the sequel, but on a strictly objective level, The Terminator is at best a good movie.
The movie is executed quite well. Apart from a few suspect special effects — which are arguably suspect due to the relatively low budget — the movie looks good. It’s paced well, and the action set pieces are quite excellent. It’s hard not to see the influence of the movie’s action sequences on more recent works which are heralded as great (for example: the influence of one the chase sequences on Batman Begins). The characters are “fleshed” out as much as they can be, and the overall cast of characters manage to form quite a fun bunch — disposable as they might be. It’s at this point that I’d like to point out that Bill Paxton makes a brief appearance in the movie, as does Lance Henriksen — marking the first of his on-screen deaths at the hands of some of Hollywood’s most iconic killers.
The movie takes the time to play with the audience in the opening act, teasing us with the question of which one of our futuristic infiltrators is the hero, and which the villain. It’s not a game that works very well.
Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is our hero, even though Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has much reason to be wary of him before they get to know one another. Biehn’s appearance in this movie actually led to his image becoming the first basis for Solid Snake of the Metal Gear series — a fact made all the more appropriate by the way in which Reese moves. The sequence in which he is being hunted by police officers in a thrift store speaks of a character who has stealth ingrained into his body. If anything, that period of movement stands out to me as the best performance in the entire movie.
Opposing them, the Cyberdyne Systems T-800 Model-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) cuts a menacing figure throughout the movie, and retains its menace even when it’s revealed that its beauty only runs skin-deep. The machine manages to escape detection throughout the movie and call both Reese and Connor’s sanity into question at varying points, but there is one escape in particular where the movie glosses over the fact that there is not way a “person” that big and bulky (who is also shown not to be incredibly fast) could have escaped from the scene whilst surrounded by police cars.
The Terminator mixes elements of the science fiction, action, thriller, and even horror genres, and leaves us with an ending which promises no continuations. That said, we did get a sequel — a far superior one — but The Terminator could easily be seen as a one-off.
Given the B-movie roots of the movie, The Terminator stands as a champion of the kind. It helps that a director who would go on to be known as one of the most visionary directors of all time (before losing himself to an addiction to blue videogame characters) helmed the project. It’s made far better than any other movies of its type, and helped revitalise an interest in such movies which did not help anyone, considering how subpar most of them inevitably turned out to be.
Overall, The Terminator is a nice little movie, and comes recommended. And just as the T-800 Model 101 points out, as far as unstoppable assaaaination machines are concerned (on the insistence of Cameron):
“I’ll be back.”
— Crow out.
THE CROW: 6.5/10
Here’s the official poster: