Let’s pretend you’ve never seen The Terminator. Never heard of it. And if you did, you can’t keep it straight with The Terminal. You know that Tom Hanks is in one of them. Okay, that was a bad way to start. Maybe a better introduction would be to make a time-travel joke about Arnold going back 14 years or Maria Shriver going back 14 years to terminate... ok, look, it doesn’t matter what this introduction says. We’re talking about a classic, here. We’re going to go ahead and review The Terminator!
Having not seen this film in recent years, it was exciting to go back and see what inspired a franchise that included, amongst other things, a game-changing sequel and two subsequent lousy movies. Amazingly, both succeeded equally in nullifying the original, which is a very straightforward movie about two men who want the same woman. I haven’t read “Save the Cat” yet, but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is a clumsy waitress who likes to go out and party -- or would if her date ever showed up. She also has a gold motorcycle in case you question her edge later on. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is good guy, but of a different time, with different sensibilities from his competitor. Of course I am referring to the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Terminator, who is a robot. As was previously alluded to, the two of them proceed to fight over her. But you see it’s how they pursue her that is so special.
I don’t care how many times this film is touted as an action movie, or a sci-fi picture, or thriller, or a combination of all three. It strikes me more as a horror film. In fact, it's reminiscent of John Carpenter's Halloween, in that it's about an unstoppable pursuer with a fake face and a detached approach to killing. You can see James Cameron’s sentimental characteristics begin to take shape, but the overarching feeling is that of “the hunt.” The city is one large, dark hallway through which the robot assassin, void of all emotion, is chasing the girl. Even the prosthetic used to alter Arnold’s face, as the machine within the body reveals itself, has a certain quality to it that just rings of horror, and it’s fun to revisit the film with that sort of lens. In fact, the restraint in the reveal is quite strong. It must’ve been a completely different experience for the original audience who was not yet so inundated with the iconic metal endoskeleton.
This movie takes place in 1984 and is definitely of 1984. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story of The Terminator holds up nearly as well as the machine it’s named after, and the look of the movie, though a little worse for wear, is also thematically appropriate.
The Blu-ray Book really stands out on the shelf. Literally, it sticks out. Taller than a Blu-ray and shorter than a DVD, Goldilocks would love it. This book is a pretty cheap read. Whereas Criterion booklets offer incredible insight and are worthwhile in their own right, this book seems to be written by a high school yearbook staffer. Did you always wonder if the Terminator was the only character to make it to AFI’s 100 Heroes and Villains as both a hero and a villain? Well, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.
The picture quality is pretty rough. In some ways it’s neat that the film looks like a film. It reminds you that even though Cameron may have money and a love for CG, he’s not going to throw in a shot of Jedi Ghost Hayden Christensen giving E.T. a bath. That said, the night shots are extremely murky.
The special features are also straight out of previous releases. The better 30-minute feature, “Terminator: A Retrospective,” actually looks like a rip from a VHS. But content is king, and it’s an insightful look into the history of the film and the nuances of Arnold’s performance. It’s actually a very satisfying watch.
The deleted scenes are mostly filler, except for one that is extremely worthwhile. In it, Sarah plots to take out Cyberdyne. It’s pretty intense and adds a lot to her character. It also shows another side of Reese, who breaks down in tears upon realizing that flowers and waterfalls and Sarah are all so beautiful compared to the hell-hole he comes from. Lastly, there’s an interesting scene that sets up a sequel as a Cyberdyne hotshot finds a computer chip where the Terminator was terminated.
It’s great to see the classic movie, but it’s hard to say that this particular is edition is better than others that have come before it -- although the Gameboy-like sound effects in the menu are amazing.