The machine that keeps coming back…
Written By: Andrew Lowe
Date: 25th June, 2015
This is one of several films that made the eighties famous for action films, and made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star, and to this day some would argue that it is the best role he has ever done.
The Terminator franchise has gone through many ups and downs since 1984. However the original concept of the original is a fantastic idea that has inspired what is now very much a cliché. The story is very simple a cyborg is sent from the apocalyptic future where machines, controlled by a computer called Skynet, have waged a war against humanity, lead by John Conner. With the humans eventually winning the war, Skynet sends a terminator back in time to kill John Conner’s mother, Sarah. When the human resistance finds out about this, they send a soldier to protect her, Kyle Reese.
Once both the Terminator and Kyle reach 1984, they both search for Sarah Conner. The Terminator working through the process of elimination, uses a public phone book to locate and kill her, but kills everyone with the name Sarah Conner. Kyle Reese, however, has a photo of her so can quickly find her more accurately. After hearing about the deaths of the other women, Sarah believes that the killer is following her. Its not until the Terminator appears and Kyle intervenes does she know that who truly is out to kill her.
Kyle and Sarah are then on the run from the Terminator. Eventually this involves the Police. Of course they do not believe Kyle’s story about coming from the future, and believe him to be insane. That is until the Terminator shows up and kills all of the Police officers looking for Sarah. However Kyle and Sarah escape during the chaos and go into hiding.
While alone, Sarah asks Kyle about the future. This lets them get closer, and eventually very intimate. The Terminator have has been searching for Sarah, by visiting her parents, and killing them. Sarah then makes the mistake of calling them whilst the Terminator is searching the house, and inadvertedly reveals where she and Kyle are.
This leads to another car chase to the Cyberdyne factory, in which the Terminator’s skin has been completely burned off exposing it’s metal skeleton. Kyle at this point is in very bad shape too. The both of them face off in the factory, and although he destroys nearly half of the Terminator, he is killed.
After Sarah checks on Kyle, the Terminator comes back to life and crawls after her. After initial shock, Sarah leads him into a hydraulic press and crushes him. Police and paramedics take Sarah and Kyle’s body away.
Months later Sarah is driving in the desert near Mexico, heavily pregnant. She pulls up to a petrol station, and starts recording a diary for John to hear in the future. A child then takes a picture of her and sells it to her, then gives her a warning that a storm is coming.
The whole film is executed and acted superbly; it was a perfect sample of what can be done with a creative story, something that is a lost art these days. What makes this film work so much is the premise is simple and hasn’t been tainted by commercialism. There is no catering for set pieces in films. There is no real major or at least distracting product placement.
The look and feel of the film is dark and moody which is perfect when dealing with a post apocalyptic setting. As most of the action takes place in night, it kind of implies that 1984 LA is not that different. Every shot shows exactly what is needed to show the mood of the settings and characters.
The characters are perfectly worked to have development. This truly is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best role he has ever done. His body language and movements prove that he can actually act, if he doesn’t speak much. Arnold manages to give a performance that emotes that he is a cold-blooded, unfeeling, killing machine.
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner is very underrated if you ask me. She plays the role in a way that grows and adapts to what is happening to her, and becomes what she is destined to do. Growing from a young woman who hasn’t got her life in order to a young fighter embracing a chaotic future.
Michael Biehn again puts in a good performance as a soldier, a role he appears to be have typecast in unfortunately, but he does play it well. The pain and emotional scarring that he has after living in a warzone, is played out well and is very believable. Biehn manages to show that he tries to be like the Terminator, by keeping everything controlled and emotionless. But his humanity shines through by being around Sarah. There is definite chemistry between him and Linda Hamilton. I can believe that they have fallen in love with each other in only a matter of hours of meeting.
The action sequences are all very believable and still look to this day excellent. The only aspects that have dated badly are some of the animatronic puppets, although they would have been great in 1984. There is also some dodgy fashion but hey that’s the eighties for you.
The one thing I have to say about the whole Terminator franchise is that it should ended with this one. As far as I was concerned there was no more story to be told. I know that James Cameron has always said that he planned elements of Terminator 2 in the original, but to me I just felt that everything got more and more convoluted as the films went on, especially the continuity (which has been completely been destroyed with the new film, Terminator Genysis).
Overall what we have here is probably one of the most influential of the eighties. It changed science fictions films and stories. It even inspired the original story for X-Men: Days of Future Past. This film is that good. If you don’t like action, science fiction or horror-suspense films then you will hate this, but if you do then you should have watched it years ago.