I’ll be back.
It’s been a number of weeks since I last posted after an extended holiday in Europe and the UK but I’m back and reviewing a low budget science fiction classic, released in 1984, that broke box office records, and gave cinema a new superstar and a director to take notice of.
In The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg, where he has been sent back in time to assassinate the soon-to-be-mother of the future world leader, John Connor (who battles the machines in the future and leads an uprising). If Connor is killed, then there will be no one to oppose the machines of the future, and they will triumph. So the future John Connor has sent a protector back in time, to help save his mother – Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) who tells Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) about the machine that is trying to kill her. “It can’t be bargained with, it can’t feel pain or mercy, and it will stop at absolutely nothing until you are dead !” The movie deals with a war that was set in the future but the battle will be fought in the present.
Was there a better person to play a cyborg than Schwarzenegger ? For this movie he was a massively built oak tree of a man. His strange accent makes for a perfectly callous robotic sounding killing machine. It’s almost like his voice is a computer read out (which I guess it is in one sense). At one time his agent pursued Schwarzenegger to play the Kyle Reese, but Schwarzenegger wasn’t interested to be an action hero he was interested in being The Terminator and he played it so well and believable enough that it catapulted him to become the biggest film star in the world from the mid 1980s to the early 2000s.
The Terminator is one of those films that started something huge. People didn’t realise it at the time, but the careers of Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton were substantially started because of this film. And Cameron must have liked working with them so much that he gave most of them substantial roles in his next film Aliens.
The Terminator has become a science fiction action classic and started a massive franchise that is still churning out films nearly 40 years after the original, although none have bettered the original and now the series has degenerated into repetitious parody. As the budgets got bigger and bigger the quality diminished accordingly. There’s something edgy about The Terminator that the sequels could never quite match in that Schwarzenegger was the indestructible bad guy (cyborg) – not the super human good cyborg.
Many people look back at the films of James Cameron and suggest that the smaller the budget, the tighter the limitations, the better the end product. Films like Avatar, Titanic and True Lies had huge budgets and drew in even bigger audiences but I still yearn for the Cameron that gave us The Terminator and Aliens which were outstanding movies that packed a far bigger punch artistically.
The Terminator is a nightmarish, time travelling science fiction film told at a breakneck pace and delivered with confidence and style. The film has a very gritty, underground look to it and does a great job of telling its story amid the frenetic action. There is also a huge slice of horror and suspense thrown in, an impression that has diminished in the years since it’s release due to the inferior sequels. Viewed as a standalone piece however, The Terminator is an outstanding piece of work from a director with a very clear vision.
and the tease for next weeks post . . . Wannsee.