Ah the ’80s! A time when one man could purchase an armory of weapons with no questions asked and your hair was a suitable replacement for a motorcycle helmet. I’m so happy that I found The Terminator on Netflix. I’ve seen the movie plenty of times before on TV, but this was the first time I’ve sat through it beginning to end uncut. Watching this again made me realize that I remember Terminator 2: Judgement Day much better than the original, so there was a decent bit of it that I didn’t recall too well (it’s also been quite a while). My memories of the Terminator movies aside, I guess the real question is: Does it still hold up? I say, hell yea it does!
Do I even need to give any background on this movie? I mean everyone has seen The Terminator right? I’ll give a brief plot summary anyway. In the future (2029), machines have taken over the world and have basically eradicated humanity. Cyborgs called terminators were created to infiltrate the humans in order to take them out. John Connor is the man responsible for leading a human uprising against the machines, so a terminator is sent back in time to kill his mother, Sarah Connor, in order to prevent his existence. John sends Kyle Reese (who also happens to be his father cuz time travel) back in time to protect his mother and, well, create him. Now that we have that out-of-the-way, let’s talk about what makes this movie so great.
I had no idea that James Cameron wrote and directed the first two Terminator films. I’ve only really started paying attention to directors in the last few years and in doing so, I’ve learned a lot of surprising facts like this (well surprising to me). While this is a science fiction movie, I also feel it’s a great horror movie. There are a lot of great shots in this, especially during the terminator chase scenes. Even knowing that he wasn’t going to kill Sarah Connor, I still found my heart racing each time he found her. Some of it was legitimately terrifying. During the movie I was wondering if this is what Jason would be like if he was smarter, super focused, and a robot. I mean, if you think about it, the terminator is a lot like a slasher villain. He takes ridiculous amounts of punishment but still keeps coming after you. This guy gets shot numerous times by a variety of weapons, he’s in multiple horrific car crashes, he gets blown up and engulfed in flames, and then he gets blown up again and he’s still going. He’s the damn Energizer Bunny if someone programmed it to kill. Arnold Schwarzenegger adds to this already scary character by being so imposing and cold looking. The terminator is definitely one of my favorite Arnold roles (makes sense that I’ve heard he’s one of the best parts of Terminator: Genisys). Arnold’s terminator isn’t the only great character in this film, we still have Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese to talk about. I liked Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor (browsing her filmography tells me these are the only movies I’ve actually seen her in). She had a convincing transformation from being a young, terrified waitress to becoming the great warrior that Kyle Reese knew her as (we only get a glimpse of this at the end, much more in Terminator 2). She also has good chemistry with Micheal Biehn, who plays Reese. He just shows up in her life and tells her a story that a crazy person would have trouble believing and then tells her that he loves her. As things begin to escalate, she starts believing him and showing actual concern for his well-being as he tries to protect her. It’s really sad when he dies and you could see that Sarah developed a genuine connection to him in the short time they knew each other. Overall, I loved the performances and characters in this movie. There’s just a lot to like.
The other thing I wanted to talk about here are the special effects. I’m a sucker for practical effects and boy does this movie have some good ones. Now I will say that I don’t hate CGI, I have seen it done well and mixed well with practical effects. I just don’t think it’s the only way to do things, I think there’s plenty of reason to still use practical effects in modern films (so hyped that J.J. Abrams is going a more traditional route with The Force Awakens). I loved the special effects in The Terminator, they gave it a much more convincing feel. During my re-watch, I could definitely see through some of the effects, there was some obvious green screen and Arnold’s face with the exposed eye clearly didn’t look right, but it didn’t matter. That stuff is easy to look past in a good movie. The scene where you see Arnold repairing his arm and removing his eye is cringe worthy. There was a lot of great detail in the exposed arm and it was convincing enough to make me uncomfortable as he tore his skin off and started digging around. And I could barely look when he removed his eye with a knife. I don’t care if it’s fake I still don’t like knives going into eyes *shudders*. When he gets run over by a tractor-trailer, it’s obviously a dummy but you still think ‘oh fuck’ while he’s being thrashed about under the tires. The ending battle has some of my favorite shots in the whole movie. After having all his fleshed burned off, the terminator emerges as just the endoskeleton which is shown as a mix of what looks like stop-motion animation and an actual animatronic endoskeleton. The scenes that keep cutting to the puppet are amazing because it helps you believe that this thing is real. The animation looks nice too, but it’s the real prop that sells this chase scene. I love watching it get crushed too.
So there you have it, The Terminator has a great atmosphere, great characters, and some damn awesome special effects! I thoroughly enjoyed watching it again and it’s a go to movie for me to throw on as background noise anytime it’s on TV. I’ve only ever seen the first two movies so maybe I’ll check out Terminator 3 and Terminator: Salvation at some point, but they’re not on my priority list. I’m not really interested in Terminator: Genisys until it comes to Netflix or something like that. For now I’ll just stick with the classics. That’s all I’ve got so I hope you had as good a time remembering this movie as I did. See ya next time!Follow @mindless_static