The Terminator [MOVIE REVIEW]

In preparation of the upcoming release of 'Terminator: Genisys', we will be looking back at the Terminator franchise which all started way back in 1984 with an incredibly low budget film ($6.5 million!) directed by James Cameron who also wrote it together with Gale Anne Hurd. The question is, does it still hold up after all these years?

Yes. The movie definitely holds up thanks to excellent use of practical effects (apart from a very obvious prostethic Arnold Schwarzenegger head) and inventive cinematography that hides all the things they could not get away with due to the small budget. Of course there are things that stand out and looks a bit dated but it is never distracting and I doubt it would be for anyone watching this movie for the first time today. It does a great job of keeping the story moving in a very engaging way to distract you from the technical flaws. With the story though, for a movie that has time travel in it, it is surprisingly clean, there are not a lot of plot holes that you usually see in time travel movies. For the 'Terminator' franchise though, it is not until the sequel and beyond were the plot holes show up (some unnecessary and some I can deal with).

This is the movie that really put Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron on the map and it really showcases both of their talent well. While of course Arnold is not any great shakes, you can see that he fits this role perfectly and I am sure people knew this was not the last film he would be starring in. 

'The Terminator' is one of those films that is completely filled to the brim with memorable scenes and moments that you have most likely seen spoofed or referenced in several other pieces of media. It is a classic and a must see for everyone who likes movies and is one of the big staples of the 80's action movies. It is the perfect blend between action, horror and science-fiction while also not just having a bland one dimensional story, there is more stuff to it than just what is on the screen. James Cameron apparently got the idea for this movie while filming 'Piranha Part 2: The Spawning' which must have come as a savior for his career as the shooting for Piranha did not really go so well and ended up being a terrible movie with lots of reshoots directed by someone else. In terms of the direction here though, it is fantastic. All the shots are very well handled and look great despite the budget. The movie also benefits by very sharp editing with some wonderful cuts. An example of this is when we first cut to "modern day" Los Angeles after witnessing two minutes of the post apocalyptic war and the opening credits. What makes the cut so great is at first you do not really know if you are still in that post apocalyptic time until you start to realize what you are looking at and then the title shows up telling us the year and location. What a lesser director would have done is just cut to an establishing shot of the city - but at the time, James Cameron was definitely not a hack director.

Another strong point with the film is its pacing as it all flows very well and never holds on one scene for too long. It delivers exposition just right without grinding the movie to a halt and there are no unneccesary action sequences that go on for 40 minutes that does not add anything to the story (That is a saving grace with having a low budget). What is interesting to note about this installment in the franchise is that most of the future sequels are really just aping off of 'The Terminator', they all mostly follow the exact same story.
What this movie has that the sequels do not is very small but detailed things that you pick up on later on. Kyle Reese always wondered what Sarah Conner was thinking of in that picture he had of her in the future - and then in the past, when that picture was taken it turns out she was thinking of him. Very poignant detail but it is lovely to see small things like this in a sci-fi action film (rarely see that nowadays). To conclude though, 'The Terminator' is one of the best action films of all-time and one of the best of the 80's. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers a great performance as the titular character, James Cameron knocks it out of the park with the writing and the directing - in fact I would go so far as saying this is my favorite film of his.


- Lucas


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