The World According to Arnie – The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator Title Now we’re talking. After a pretty lackluster (to say the least) start to his career, Arnie finally finds the role he was born to play. A massive, hulking, emotionless robot killing machine in James Camerons (official) directorial début. And what a terrific film it is.

The Terminator Poster It’s 1984 Los Angeles and waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is happily living out a normal life, unbeknownst to the fact that she’s living through histories most horrendous fashion period. In separate storms of lightening two naked men appear out of nowhere. One is a musclebound Austrian cyborg delightfully known as The Terminator (Arnie) and the other is Kyle Reese, soldier from the future (Michael Biehn). In the future, after a nuclear war started by machines, most of humanity has perished. But a small number of survivors, led by John Connor, fight back. Connor is on the verge of victory when the machines, not ones to play by the rules, make one last move, and send a cyborg back through time to kill the mother of the unborn leader of the resistance. In turn, John sends Reese to protect his mother, and himself.

The Terminator 2 Arnie, as The Terminator, is terrific. Granted, it’s not exactly the most demanding role, but what he does, he does brilliantly. He projects a terrifying threat, the emotionless face, the constantly scanning eyes and the monotone, robotic voice all combine to create a classic horror character, in the mould of Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. He’s a virtually unstoppable killing machine, and Arnie, with his imposing physique, creates one of the most memorable characters in film. Apparently he suggested that the Terminator should turn his head slowly, left and right, scanning like a security camera, keeping with the theme of a machine, and it works brilliantly.

The Terminator 3 Linda Hamilton is very good as Sarah. She is particularly successful at pulling off the subtle shift in her character, who begins the film as a normal, average horror film victim, to a strong woman capable of surviving the relentless pursuit of a robot killing machine. She makes the character believable, and what’s smart about it is that Connor doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. She manages to overcome her pursuer through grit, determination and a little bit of luck.

The Terminator 8 Michael Biehn is also very good as the soldier sent back from the future to protect the woman he loves. His love of a woman he only knows from a photograph is at base level absurd. But Biehns performance sells it, and we believe. Just as he was in the future, he is clearly outmatched by an enemy far superior, and he uses his guerilla know-how to defend Sarah, and John. He is particularly effective in the scenes where an understandably disbelieving Sarah learns the truth about her adversary, selling the story and making it not only believable, but terrifying.

Written by Cameron, William Wisher and Gale Ann Hurd, the screenplay is simple in it’s structure, direct and effective. There is plentiful exposition, which is necessary to broaden what is essentially a very simple story, but its masterfully drip fed throughout the film. We gradually learn the scope of the story, and how and why these future soldiers travelled back in time because of an anonymous waitress.

The Terminator 5 As I said earlier, this is James Camerons official début film. After doing fx work on the original Piranha, he was hired as director for Piranha II: The Spawning, only to either quit, or be fired (or a combination of the two) a few weeks in. That’s probably a substantial blessing, because as a début film, The Terminator ranks up there with the best of them. The film, made on a modest budget of $6 million, looks terrific, especially the brief future scenes, with the humans battling the huge machines on the ground and in the air. For the most part, the special effects are seamless, particularly the rear projection. The brief future scenes are incredibly believable, and expand the story to an epic scope. The stop motion of the metal Terminator, and Arnies model head are a bit clunky in this day and age, but well made considering and they don’t effect our experience of the film when viewing the film today. Cameron originally envisioned the character of The Terminator as a small, unremarkable person, able to blend in with the crowd. He was considering Lance Henrikson (who appears as a cop), and Michael Biehn for the role, and Arnie (who was already attached to the film) for Kyle Reese before he wisely chose to switch it around. It was a very sensible decision.

The Terminator 1 The score by Brad Fiedel is hit and miss. On one hand, it’s just like the film itself, simple and epic. The opening credits with the simple percussion is terrifically effective, and the love theme is brilliant. These are understandably the only noticeable parts of the score to carry over to the sequel. The other aspects of the score are a little dated when viewing the film today. The electronic element is typical of the 80’s, but a little cheesy by todays standards. It dates the film in a way that no other element does, apart from the fashion and hair. But the film is set in 1984, and unfortunately that was the fashion then. The films crew is also filled with terrific people like effects guru Stan Winston, cinematographer Adam Greenberg and editor Mark Goldblatt.

The Terminator 9 I mentioned earlier that this was essentially a horror film, in the vein of Halloween. The young woman pursued by a seemingly invincible assailant. But it transcends the horror genre by perfectly blending the standard horror theme with science fiction, action and thriller elements to create one of the best films of the 1980’s. I hadn’t seen The Terminator for quite a few years and was surprised at how good it actually was. This is the film that made Arnies career, which is a mixed blessing. We can thank Cameron for Junior and Jingle All The Way, or for Predator and Commando. I like to choose the latter.

 

4-changs

Droid

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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

50 responses to “The World According to Arnie – The Terminator (1984)”

  1. Droid says :

    Eh. This reviews a bit shit. My apologies. It’s so much easier to rip in to something than praise it.

  2. ThereWolf says :

    Attention: this review is not shit.

    The Terminator is timeless. This was the first film I bought on VHS, I think it cost £25! I didn’t care, worth every penny.

    Sometimes I wish there were no Terminator sequels, just this one brilliant movie. I went to see T:Salvation. Furious, when I got home I immediately slammed The Terminator into the DVD player. Becalmed once more, I was transported back to a time of poodle hair and Kajagoogoo. Wonderful.

    Biehn. He’s got to be in Avatar 2. Surely.

    • Droid says :

      Cheers Wolf. I’d love to see Biehn in Avatar 2. Seriously, between this, The Abyss and Tombstone, the guys in 3 of my all time favs.

      T4 review coming. It’s last on the Arnie agenda.

  3. tombando says :

    Oh the review’s fine.

    Fave line: Sarahh Connors?

    SC: YEs-?

    BOOM!!!

    Anyways. This rocks.

  4. kloipy says :

    I really will have to check this one out. First i’ve heard of it…
    just kidding of course. anyway, this was a great write up Droid. I actually prefer this to T2. Although I was never on the ‘linda hamilton is hot’ bandwagon. She looks like something I ate and then dropped

  5. xiphos0311 says :

    Michael Biehn is also very good as the soldier sent back from the future to protect the woman he loves

    I think you mean he was fucking outstanding. To bad Biehn disappeared into the witness protection program sometimes in the 90’s. He was great for his limited range.

    I actually prefer this to T2

    That’s becasue this is a better movie.

  6. lordbronco says :

    Right, as a Bale defender and worshipper, I too have to admit that T-4 sucks.

    Mostly because Of Lord bale’s antics both meddling with the script and hissyfitting after grappling with Shane Hurlbut.

    I am quite sure that you were going to review Terminator 3 Rise Of the machines, but you were too far into your cups to make post anything sensible.

    This review is sterling-and I believe it is your first 4 chang review….

    I could be wrong-and stop judging my lifestyle.

  7. DocPazuzu says :

    Love this movie so much. Despite being rough and raw around the edges, I find it to be a virtually perfect viewing experience which hits all the right marks. Where T2 is at times bloated, sentimental and meandering, T1 is sleek, lean and mean.

    I loathed T4 but find that T3 is somewhat underrated. The truck chase and the bleak ending alone are worth watching it for.

    Oh and FUCK Bale for throwing his star weight around and making T4 even worse. Cunt.

    • Jarv says :

      Worst bit of T4: Bale’s “I’ll be back” followed by playing Fucking Guns N Roses to attract a motorbike.

      Awful. That’s when my temper completely snapped with it. T4= 2 Murphs.

      • Droid says :

        I may piss a few people off with my review then, since most people seem to hate it. If my opinion doesn’t change from the cinema then I’ll be giving it 2 Changs.

        Bale is by far the worst thing about it.

      • Jarv says :

        Well, I think you’ll dislike it more.

    • tombando says :

      I actually liked T-4 OK, but nothing more than that. It was fairly ludicrous etc sure, another totally unnecessary sequel. I was however fairly entertained(It had a big Robot) despite itself.

      Hope they don’t make any more, however.

  8. Droid says :

    This is my intended recommendation when rating a film…

    4 Changs – See it NOW

    3 1/2 Changs – See it SOON

    3 Changs – See it SOMETIME

    2 1/2 Changs – Well worth a look

    2 Changs – If you haven’t got anything better to do

    1 1/2 Changs – I wouldn’t bother

    1 Chang – Avoid

    1/2 Chang – Actively avoid

    0 Changs – Avoid as if your life depended on it.

    Essentially the Chang rating shouldn’t be necessary since the review should state my opinion, but it can be helpful to support my case.

    • Jarv says :

      You don’t use either the Orang of Doom or murphs.

      I find Murphs to be a useful guide to how bad it is:

      1. 1 Murph- Avoid like a hooker with herpes
      2. 2 Murphs– Avoid like Aileen Wournos
      3. 3 Murphs– Avoid the way Murphy avoids salad
      4. 4 Murphs– A film so shit that not even the presence of hookers and blow can redeem it.
      • Droid says :

        I’ve never bothered to review a film I thought was worthy of a Orangutan of Doom. If I get a zero chang film then I may be inspired to use it.

      • Droid says :

        That said, Jingle all the Way and Batman and Robin are likely candidates for the Orangutan of Doom.

      • Jarv says :

        Junior.

        Yuck. Arnie pretending to be up the spout and Emma Thompson.

      • Droid says :

        Thought you liked Junior. Didn’t you say you enjoyed watching Arnie in a dress acting dainty?

      • Jarv says :

        I hate Junior more than Jingle all the Way.

        Someone needs to tell Arnie that he sucks ass at comedy. Nobody watches an Arnie film for comedy. We watch his films for him smacking people in the head.

      • Droid says :

        The only successful Arnie comedy is True Lies. Although Kindergarten Cop was decent and Twins wasn’t terrible if I remember correctly. Haven’t seen Twins in a long long time.

      • Jarv says :

        Twins and KC are perfectly acceptable Sunday afternoon watching.

        True Lies is good.

  9. Droid says :

    What’s this “Like” button up the top and why aren’t you bastards clicking it?

  10. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    great review Droid. Think that without a doubt this is Arnie;’s finest hour. Either way, it was mostly uphill for him after this. until sometime around Last Action Hero, which sucks.

    Queue the hidden cult that actually thinks Last Action Hero is better than Terminator 2 in 3…2…1…

    • Jarv says :

      I watched LAH recently and was surprised to find that it didn’t suck goat nob anywhere near as badly as I remembered. It’s still not great, but it isn’t a total write off.

      Doesn’t Danny love it? I’m sure he said it’s “magical” or some such shit.

    • Droid says :

      I don’t think LAH sucks. It’s just not very good. Too overblown and too much of a mishmash. Like it’s trying to hard to be clever.

      • Jarv says :

        The worst thing about LAH is when Dance uses the ticket to get the defeated Villain from the other film.

        Fuck’s sake- you can get anyone and so you go out of your way to get someone that Arnie has already pwnd? What sort of evil plan is that?

        You, sir, are a moron, a crap villain and a cunt,

    • DocPazuzu says :

      Last Action Hero is awful. Seriously. It’s smug in the same way that Shoot ‘Em Up is, although I do admit to detesting the latter much more than the former.

      • DocPazuzu says :

        May be that comparison is a bit unfair. I’d say Last Action Hero is to one-man-army, 80’s-style actioners what Oasis’ album “Be Here Now” was to 90’s britpop — an overblown death knell.

      • Jarv says :

        I fucking hate Be Here Now.

  11. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    Ive clicked it too for you.

  12. just pillow talk says :

    This is by far the best of the Terminator movies. Limited budget or no, it’s a 100 times more exciting.

  13. Fata says :

    I enjoy these Arnie-reviews, mostly because I’ve seen them all during my early teens (Yes, even Cactus Jack and Stay Hungry).

    Arnie used to be awesome. I don’t know whether that was ironic or not.

    I actually saw T2 first, so when I popped this into my VCR, I was sorta dissappointed. Today, I’m more friendly – despite of some rather wanting special effects. Guess I rate this second best in the Terminator series.

  14. Stuntcock Mike says :

    It’s got the 20 Minute Workout chick in it.

    Success.

    I love the gunshop scene.

    “Anything else? ”

    “Phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range. ”

    “Hey, just what you see pal.”

  15. koutchboom says :

    I gotta watch this again. Just for the Bill Paxton cameo.

  16. M. Blitz says :

    Junior is a seriously fucked up movie. Terminator, however, is a very good time. I remember this being one of THE movies to see when I was a kid.

    As for the “subtle shift” for Sarah…..more like ridiculously overt, right? I’m mostly thinking of the silly fuck scene when she switches and gets on top? My ex and I used to crack up laughing at that. “Look! She’s a woman in control now!” ha, ha, ha…

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