Sunday, July 5, 2015

Movie Review: The Terminator

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good story and characters
Cons: Definitely a product of the 80’s
The Bottom Line:
Robotic killer
Lose in this sci fi story
Good, can’t miss 80’s

Definitely Dated but Fun Film

Growing up reading instead of watching movies, there are a lot of films out there I’ve missed that the rest of my generation has enjoyed.  At times, I feel like I know the film even if I haven’t seen it.  That was the case with The Terminator.  I finally saw it for the first time this weekend thanks to it airing on TV.  While I knew the basics, I definitely enjoyed it.

The film was released in 1984, and takes place mostly in that year as we follow waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton).  She is shocked to find that two other women with her name have been killed recently.  What she does not know is that she is the ultimate target by a Terminator (Arnold Schwartzenegger), a robot disguised as a human, sent from the future specially to kill her.  Why?  Because in the future her son John will lead the humans in a fight against the machines that have risen up and taken over the planet.

Sarah’s only ally is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a soldier also from the future who has come back to protect her.  But with an enemy that is actually a killing machine, is there any way to stop the Terminator?

Within a few minutes of watching this film, I knew it was released in the mid-80’s.  The clothes, the hair, the music, the answering machines – it all just screams out the era.  Even the look at the future was through the lenses of the 80’s, and the special effects are from the era as well.

Not that this is a problem at all.  Once you accept the dated aspects of the film, it is easy to get into the story and root for Sarah to get to safety.  Granted, knowing there are sequels is a bit of a spoiler for the film, but it is still enjoyable as we watching Sarah trying to survive the killing machine.

Here was my biggest surprise about the film, however – it borrows much of the story from the slasher genre.  Oh, the killings aren’t that creative (mostly guns) or bloody (although that might have been because I was watching it on TV), but the story borrows many of the tropes of the genre.  You’ve got a super human killer going after anything in its path, and it is up to the final girl to stop him.  I clued in to this early on, but the climax really drove it home for me.  Hey, this was the 80’s, the heyday of the slasher.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Of course, fans of the genre will point out this is missing the stalking scenes and it’s not nearly as scary, so those easily frightened don’t have to worry about jump scenes.

Another difference from the other genre is the characters.  We get to know both Sarah and Reese much better than any character in a slasher film, and this movie is stronger as a result.  Sarah does come across as more of a wimp than I was expecting for most of the film, but the last few scenes show growth in her character I hope continues in the next film in the series.

All three of the main actors are good in their parts.  I haven’t seen Arnold in very many films, but he was perfect here, and his accent adds something to the part of the robot with one mission – kill Sarah.  The rest of the cast is great as well.

While the special effects in the future are definitely dated, the effects in the present day are perfect.  Granted, they mostly revolves around makeup and other practical effects, but I bought everything I was watching.

So I’m glad I finally watching The Terminator.  I will be moving on with the franchise soon, and I’m quite curious to see how things progress from this beginning.

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