'80s Movie Month! " Terminator" Review

Photo Credit: Orion Pictures Corporation

'80s Movie Month! " Terminator" Review

Rating: R (violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity)
Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: October 26, 1984
Directed by: James Cameron
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi

In spring 1984, waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is leading a fairly boring and somewhat aimless life in Los Angeles. That all changes when a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a robot from the future disguised as a human, arrives in an alley, naked and aloof. He is soon followed by a human who is also from the future, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). It turns out that Sarah is the future mother of a man named John Connor who will lead a resistance against the machines that rule the future. The Terminator has been sent to kill her, thus snuffing out the future resistance.

Reese must find her before the Terminator does in order to ensure she stays alive. Luckily, the Terminator is busy killing other women named Sarah Connor, which allows Reese just enough time to grab her and hit the road to try and outrun the machine. The Terminator is completely relentless and seemingly can't be killed, at least not by most normal things. Bullets only slow him down temporarily, and even the loss of his outer skin and eye are merely annoyances that the cyborg can easily ignore.

Reese and Sarah lead the Terminator on a long, action-packed set of chases over several hours until they are forced to make a stand. If they don't destroy the Terminator, it will kill them and end the hope for a future in which the human race survives. Will Sarah live long enough to give birth to John, or is all hope for humanity about to be lost forever?

The film was a sleeper hit when it was released, exceeding all expectations from the producing studio. It made a total of $36 million at the box office, which was a huge deal back in 1984, especially considering that the budget was just $6.4 million. Considering the then-groundbreaking amount of special effects that had to be used, it is quite a feat that director James Cameron could complete the film as it is. " Terminator" is a thrill ride that was unlike anything else that was in theaters at the time, and it probably should have cost much more than it did.

Schwarzenegger was already somewhat famous before the film because of his bodybuilding career, which had netted him five Mr. Universe and seven Mr. Olympia titles. He transitioned to acting in 1969 with "Hercules in New York," but he mostly had small, supporting roles at first. In 1982, he played the title character in "Conan the Destroyer," but it wasn't until 1984 that he really became a bankable action hero. It's a bit funny that his breakout role was one in which he had so few lines, but he used those lines to great effect. "I'll be back" is still a part of the pop culture landscape to this day and became a catchphrase for the film, which was a surprise hit when it was released. After "Terminator," Schwarzenegger rivaled Sylvester Stallone as the biggest action hero on the planet. He has made a long career out of playing the lead role in many an action film, but " Terminator" is where his very storied career started, long before he went into politics.

Schwarzenegger was definitely not the only breakout star of the film. Cameron's career was also made by the success of the film. He had previously been an art director and worked in other jobs, but it wasn't until he cowrote the script for " Terminator" with future wife Gale Anne Hurd that he did something so audacious that Hollywood producers simply had to stop and pay attention. He was given a small budget to make the film, but the young director decided that he was going to make the best of it despite the pricey special effects that he knew would take up a substantial portion of the budget. Somehow, he made it work, and the film was a box-office smash. He was given his choice of projects to direct and showed that " Terminator" wasn't just a flash in the pan with such film as "Aliens" and "The Abyss." He would go on to win Oscars and make some of the highest-grossing films of all time, such as "Titanic" and "Avatar." None of that would have been possible if he hadn't captured lightning in a bottle with " Terminator." The film joined the "Star Wars" trilogy in helping to make sci-fi cool again at a time when the genre had recently been on life support. For that reason alone, "Terminator" is a landmark film that still entertains and thrills nearly thirty years after its release.

Rating: 4 out of 5