Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Terminator (1984) Review

The Terminator poster
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton
Genre: Action, Science fiction

Ah, the one and only. One of the most popular and recognized action films of all time. The Terminator.

I'm not much of a James Cameron fan. I'm also not much of an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, but I actually think Arnie fits the role perfectly here. The emotionless, silent powerhouse. Can you imagine anyone else playing the Terminator? Actually there were originally plans to cast O.J. Simpson for the part but James Cameron said, and I quote, "I do not feel that Simpson would be believable as a killer." Funny, I know.

So besides this being one of Arnie's best roles, how do the other actors fare? Well, Micheal Biehn was good. So was Linda Hamilton. Nothing exceptional but good.

The plot, if you don't know it already, involves time travel and cyborgs. I don't really need to say more. This isn't exactly a thinking man's science fiction. It's pretty mindless, as many Cameron films tend to be. It essentially plays out like a slasher film. The Terminator really is just another Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.

I liked the character development though. The beginning was very well done where we were thrown in and slowly learned each character. We see the terminator start a car by forcing the ignition with his bare hands. Then we see Kyle Reese start a car by hot-wiring it. Showing us right off the bat that Arnie is sheer strength and Reese is a bit more strategical. Very cool.

Then we get to know Sarah Connor pretty well but at first we don't really know how these three characters fit together. Why is a giant brute hunting down some average girl? So it's nice to see that there is a good pacing to the film. Even though you can guess where the plot is going early on and probably be right. It is pretty damn predictable. And I even noticed a few plot-holes, but hey, it's an action flick.

The romance between Sarah and Reese seems a bit forced, and was actually only added at the request of the studio. So, you know, whatever.

Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese in The Terminator

The best aspect of the film is the theme and setting. It's just so cyberpunk and tech-noir, it really is an awesome atmosphere. It's also so 80s. But the two kind of go together, don't they? Any fans of cyberpunk, this is a must watch.

The soundtrack compliments the theme well, with awesome 80s synth music playing the entire time. Really helps set the mood. A very awesome soundtrack.

The special effects I found to be pretty damn bad. Like really bad. Don't get me wrong, the lasers were awesome and fit the film perfectly, but the makeup and stop-motion were pretty bad, even by 80s standards. The ships from the future look so obviously fake, like toys. The stop-motion effects for the terminator towards the end looked like they were straight out of a 30s film. Seriously, King Kong had just as good stop-motion effects. The design of the robot is pretty damn badass though. The makeup for the terminator when he has his robotic eye showing looked ugly, particularly in the mirror scene. Towards the end there's a pretty obvious green screen scene. The list continues.

The Terminator at his barest

The film was obviously more ambitious than effects could allow at the time. In fact James Cameron had to save a lot of things he wanted to do until the sequel in 1991. Though I recognize the art and talent behind great effects, I don't really mind bad effects if the film is good. However the effects here do subtract from the overall experience which is unfortunate.

We never get to see much of the future in here, probably due to budget limitations. But I guess it made it a bit more mysterious, so it works out.

It's a very enjoyable film and worth the watch. Fans of cyberpunk will be pleased. Science fiction fans be warned: this isn't sci-fi with big ideas, it's just mindless action. It is one of the better action films out there though.

3.5/5 stars
Pros:
+Cool theme and atmosphere
+Fitting soundtrack
+Character development
Cons:
-Bad effects
-Predictable
-Simple, mindless

Purchase The Terminator on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream
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