After some adjustments to the review schedule, we’ve got this, the first of the Terminator movies. The entire trilogy will be reviewed in the following weeks.
Cast, Crew, and Other Info
Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator
Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Paul Winfield as Lt. Ed Traxler
Lance Henriksen as Detective Vukovich
Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman
Written by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd, with credit for inspiration given after the fact to Harlan Ellison. William Wisher Jr. remains uncredited.
Directed by James Cameron.
information is available from the IMDB.
movie reviews can be found here.
Two soldiers are sent from the future to the then-present 1984. One is a machine sent to kill Sarah Connor before she gives birth to the leader of the human resistance. The other is a human sent to make sure Sarah survives and John becomes the savior of the human race.
The wreckage stirs, and stands up.
The massive electrical discharge that somehow does NOT conduct directly through a metal chassis and into the human on the other side.
This is a James Cameron movie. James Cameron movies are many things, but they are rarely original. In face, Cameron was sued by Ellison for the similarities between this movie and two episodes of The Outer Limits Ellison had written twenty years earlier. These elements were not common on the big screen at the time, but based on the way that court case ended, I’d say the similarities were remarkable. (Oddly enough, I bought that season of The Outer Limits the same day I bought this movie, with no knowledge of the connection. I haven’t watched those episodes yet, though.) I give it 3 out of 6.
The effects called for in the script were beyond the limits of the technology and budget of the day, but they filmed them anyway. I find it amusing that, mere minutes after Reese talks about how easily the infiltrators with rubber skin were spotted, we are treated to a model of Schwarzenegger’s head with rubber skin. When it comes to the bare Terminator, we’ve got an extreme mix of quality. If the shot is close enough to hide the Terminator’s waist, it looks very good. If it’s taken from so far back that we see more of the Terminator’s entire body, it has obviously jerky motion and washed out colours. It was hard to do better than that at the time, but they could have eliminated most of the problem with more intense, more convincing, and less expensive close-ups replacing the long shots. I give it 3 out of 6.
The story has some remarkable intracacies for an action flick. We’ve got some clear rules for time travel (which are later thrown out the window in the first sequel) being relayed by a character who wouldn’t be reasonably expected to understand the science behind those rules, thus avoiding much of the non-sensical technobabble that we could have been subjected to. The details and allowances that turn up with the time travel plotline are interesting in their own right. I give it 5 out of 6.
The acting is enjoyable from most of the cast the vast majority of the time. Biehn had a hard time with his large expositional chunks, but it’s hard not to with that dialogue. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response is sound. It’s a good action movie, with enough little details to farm for sequels that make this much more interesting. I give it 5 out of 6.
The production is clear James Cameron; some shots and cuts are just great, with tight editing and nice action. The only complaint I have is that he didn’t redesign the ending to accomodate the special effects that were actually working and eliminate those that weren’t. I give it 4 out of 6.
Overall, it’s as well known as it is for good reason. It’s far from perfect, but there’s a lot of stuff here to please the action fans. I give it 5 out of 6.
In total, the first Terminator movies receives 30 out of 42.