Friday, 7 July 2017

The Terminator (1984)

Fig 1 - The Terminator Poster
Written and directed by James Cameron (alongside producer Gale Anne Hurd), The Terminator follows the story of two individuals sent back in time to change the course of history. In the midst of a freak electrical storm we first witness the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) return from the year 2029 curled up unclothed in the street with only one purpose - to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). On the other side of the city, a human named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) returns from the future in the same way, with the sole duty of tracking down Connor before she is executed. Sarah becomes increasingly paranoid as the Terminator begins picking off other Sarah Connor's by process of elimination. Once the story hits the news, Sarah soon realises she is the primary target of the Terminator's spree and sets off on a desperate fight for survival alongside Reese, a soldier from the future who knows her son, John - the only hope for humanity...

I had never seen a 'Terminator' film before and found it to be surprisingly approachable for such a behemoth franchise-opener. For one, I had no idea that Arnie's character was the antagonist of the piece, as future films appear to prove he is very capable of cooperating with humans. It was certainly the best Schwarzenegger performance I've yet to see, perhaps due to it being mainly physical and void of emotion. The practical effects are somewhat dated, but not to a laughable degree. There was clearly an extensive effort to perfecting Arnie's 'dead-eyed' dopple-face and the film relishes the ability to close in on shots of it. As for his skeletal structure, which appeared to move using a mix of puppetry and stop-animation, I was surprised at how convincingly the visual effects held up overall. I believed in the character and felt his looming presence in every scene, having witnessed just how unstoppable he is. For this, I cannot fault Schwarzenegger's performance at all (mainly out of fear that he'll return from the future to pull out the hearts of finicky critics).

Fig 2 - The Terminator - The Terminator returns to 1984
I thought the blend of 80's-style futurescape and present-day worked well as a further establishment of the stakes. Generally, films that mess with time travel are heavily scrutinised for dabbling with such a complex notion, but The Terminator seems to make sense of it and proposes it's rules early on. It is essentially their dual return that triggers the birth of John Connor and thus was always set in stone. The film then reaches a climax that clearly begs for the sequels that it got, though I have no doubt that 'Terminators en mass' are the next logical step since Cameron ruined all possible tension that Alien (1979) had with it's subsequent film. Nevertheless, what is most striking is the film's progressive narrative of female empowerment that allows Sarah Connor to ultimately come out on top and join the ranks of beloved cinematic heroes, a list which to this day severely lacks in the gender equality it ought to boast.

I found The Terminator to be a tense thrill-ride from start to finish that gives it's characters the necessary time for an audience to develop a bond with them. Though the music was slightly questionable in places, it manages to sustain a tone of utter suspense and unease throughout whilst handling what could have strayed into a convoluted plot reasonably smoothly in under two hours. With Terminator 2 on the horizon for this list, it's pretty safe to say that "I'll be back" with high expectations...


Fig. 1 The Terminator Poster (1984) From: The Terminator (1984) - Directed by: James Cameron

Fig. 2 The Terminator Screenshot (1984) From: The Terminator (1984) - Directed by: James Cameron

No comments:

Post a Comment