In the future, Skynet, a computer system fights a losing war against the humans who built it and who it nearly exterminated. Just before being destroyed, Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah, the mother to be of John Connor, the Leader of the human resistance. The terminator can pass for human, is nearly indestructible, and has only one mission, killing Sarah Connor. One soldier is sent back to protect her from the killing machine. He must find Sarah before the Terminator can carry out it's mission.
Directed by: James Cameron
. Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger
, Michael Biehn
, Linda Hamilton
, Paul Winfield
, Lance Henriksen
, Rick Rossovich
, Bess Motta
, Earl Boen
, Dick Miller
, Shawn Schepps
, Bruce M. Kerner
, Franco Columbu
, Bill Paxton
. Music by: Brad Fiedel
In order to properly appreciate The Terminator, you have to look at this film and take into consideration the budget that it was made on and the status of the director who created it. Before this film, James Cameron was not the king of the world like he was after Titanic and Avatar broke through. He was a person who very little people had faith in with a film idea that didn't go over very well among the top studios. And if you look at this film from a technical point of view, you can see that they were being conservative with the budget for a bizarre science fiction premise created by a struggling filmmaker who nobody really had much faith in. But in the end, it turned out to be a very good movie with real heart and soul, exciting and suspenseful action, an interesting if unlikely plot, and great performances from Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn.
But what about Arnold Schwarzenegger? Well, Arnold is unique in this film since he is not really a character in the traditional sense. He is more of an obstacle; a force of nature that cannot be stopped that haunts the protagonists with his fierce demeanor and acute focus on his main mission: to murder Sarah Connor. There is an intensity to his presence on-screen, no small part do to Brad Fiedel's excellent score which includes a foreboding metallic heartbeat every time the Terminator walks onto the scene. And fascinatingly enough, his "character" as the Terminator encompasses a very dark fantasy of man: the ability to do anything to anyone without any consequences or anyone being able to stop you.
The movie hits all the right notes! It starts with a disastrous view of the future before jumping into a dark, disturbing view of the present, with the gritty, dirty streets of nighttime LA providing the perfect setting for a suspenseful chase between man and a murderous machine. It gives us a glimpse of lighthearted humanity as we see Sarah Connor, and ordinary young woman living her life as a normal person, before we are thrown into her nightmare as she finds herself stalked by an unknown assailant with an unknown cause. We feel sympathy for her as she finds herself not only in physical danger but facing the emotional crisis of having the responsibility of saving humanity in the future. And we feel for Kyle Reece, the soldier sent from the future to protect her against impossible odds, as we see him trying to operate in a world that he does not know after growing up in the wake of nuclear destruction. Even the minor characters feel real and human. The only thing "wooden" about the acting in the movie would be from Arnold himself, but that's okay because his character is supposed to be a lifeless, emotionless killing machine - and he excels at his role as the Terminator in that way.
But despite how much I love this movie (I even love it more than Terminator 2: Judgement Day, believe it or not), I can't ignore the fact that certain elements of the film have not aged well at all! Chase scenes that were filmed and sped up to look faster, choppy stop-motion animations on the Terminator endoskeleton, and prosthetic animatronics with plastic skin are just a few examples of how this film shows its age and its low budget. Setbacks like this can take modern moviegoers out of the experience simply because a lot of the special effects look incredibly dated compared to other films, even films that came before this movie like Return of the Jedi.
However, in the end, this film comes across as James Cameron's true labor of love. This isn't the blockbuster high-budget mega production Titanic or Avatar. This is the film that got his name well known among the movie-making industry. This was his equivalent to Spielberg's Jaws or Lucas' Star Wars: a film that was so hard to make, but you can see he poured his heart into, and it paid off! You have to respect something like that!
Just watch this film! Do it! Do it now! Go! Leave this review and find a copy of The Terminator and watch it!
Review by retrorenegade from the Internet Movie Database.