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The Terminator
1984 - R - 108 Mins.
Director: James Cameron
Producer: Gale Anne Hurd
Written By: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen
Review by: John Ulmer
Rarely has a film so frightened an audience as "The Terminator." After its release in 1984, the extremely low-budget sci-fi actioner broke box office records, and gave audiences something more to fear. Through the years, there have been stories of nature's beasts, of creatures from another world, and so on and so forth. "Jaws" was terrifying because it seemed so possible. And if "Jaws" is terrifying, "The Terminator" is horrific. The realization of this hitman machine dawned on everyone watching the film. In a time of exceeding technology, how long will it be before man is overtaken by the very things he created? In a time of fast-growing artificial intelligence, I predict that in the short years computers will start to almost think like humans. If they aren't already.

And that is what is particularly scary about a film like "The Terminator." There are a lot of Arnold Schwarzenegger haters out there, but he is my all-time favorite action star. He has a strong screen presence, a sense of happiness, and a sense of fluffiness given the film. Unlike other stars out there, he doesn't seem to take his personal life--or on-screen persona--too seriously. He's happy about where he is, you can see it in him. And unlike a lot of other actors I can think of, he actually worked hard to get to where he is. He can be a dreadful terminator, or a loving father, or a commando on a mission. And who can forget the catchy one-liners? "I'll be back." "Consider this a divorce." "Stick around." "Hasta la vista, baby!"

In "The Terminator," Arnold plays a cyborg, Cyberdyne system model 101, a T800, though I could never tell what a 101 is. He has been sent back in time to assassinate the soon-to-be-mother of the future world leader, John Connor (who battles the machines in the future and leads an uprising). If Connor is killed, then there will be no one to oppose the machines of the future, and they will triumph. This would be pretty bad. So the future John Connor has sent a protector back in time, to help save his mother. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) tells Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) about the machine that is trying to kill her. "It can't be bargained with, it can't feel pain or mercy, and it will stop at absolutely nothing until you are dead!" Talk about a bad day.

The Terminator hunts them down time after time, including the famous police station scene, where Arnie says, "I'll be back," and returns moments later, crashing through the wall in a car. He then takes on a whole squad of cops, but don't worry, Sarah and Reese escape slightly unscathed.

There are countless classic scenes in "The Terminator." You will see them spoofed your entire life. From the image of the Terminator, to the lines they speak, to the scenes they act out. Everything is spoofed. And the film is worthy of its fame.

I don't particularly think James Cameron is a particularly nice guy in this particuar real life. I've seen him in interviews, and he's very demanding, a bit flippant and brief, and sometimes a bit rude. But these are the marks of a great director. On the special edition "T2" DVD (the second one ;), there is an on-set documentary for the making of the "Terminator 2" 3-D ride at Universal Studios. As the camera moves around, it shows Cameron detailing what he wants in this scene. Some guy suggests something else, and Cameron gets a tone. "No, no, that won't work. You do it like this - we come off here, he walks around..." etc. The point is, he's a perfectionist, and a demanding director. Some directors are a bit too easy, and don't really care where their films are going. But James Cameron seems to have a clear vision of what he wants, and he goes around making sure it gets done exactly the way he wants it to be done. And it shows in his work. It's hard to find any mistakes in a James Cameron film. And it's even harder to find plot holes.

Which people accuse "The Terminator" of having. Not plot holes per se, but plot "how-comes" and "what-ifs?" For example, one often thought up is that if the machines of the future send someone back in time to assassinate John Connor's mother, then by the time John Connor grows up and we are in the future, the machines have already sent back a machine, and therefore John would be dead. But he's not. And some people say this is a plot hole. But it is entirely based on how you view time. Do you view it as one long time line, looking like __________________? If so, then if the future is F in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___P____________F, and the past is P, one could send something back in time, and it would effect the entire timeline. But if the timeline is continually going, then it would be possible to stop this. You could send something back to that exact same spot in time, because AS THE LINE MOVES FORWARD, THE FUTURE REMAINS THE SAME UNTIL WHATEVER IT IS CARRIES OUT. In other words, as the past moves, the future does, too. So if the Terminator is attempting to kill Sarah Connor, HE STILL HAS NOT YET, so the timeline in the future is THE SAME UNTIL HE DOES. In other words, time is not instantaneous. (Is this a lecture?)

But some people view time as instantaneous. You do something, it's done. Bada boom. I view it as a timeline, where the line continually goes forward. And is changeable. And until that act is actually carried out, nothing in the future changes, even if the act WILL be carried out, it hasn't been yet.

So, you see, the theories are arguable, but I refuse to accept there are any "plot holes" in "The Terminator." They are simply different theories one can rely upon.

Some people say "Terminator 2 - Judgment Day" is better than the original. It's hard to choose, because the two films are very different. I view "The Terminator" as more of a deep, intellectually-consuming, dark thriller. I view "Judgment Day" as an action film, with a more or less recycled plot. (The plot is still good, but it's still the same, too.) It's hard to choose a favorite because they are so different. On "T2" the budget is ten times larger, probably even more than that. But if you want a horror/thriller, "The Terminator" is better for you. If you want special-effects and a really fun time, see "T2." They're both excellent films.

"The Terminator" is a great movie. It is one of my favorites; it is terrifying, horrifying, and 100 % entertaining. And unlike a lot of other cheap actioners out there, "The Terminator" has some thought put into its plot, and that is what seperates it from the rest of its kind.
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

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