When we look at Schwarzenegger nowadays, I daresay, we may see him as perhaps a bit of a has-been for film, especially considering he has reached the age of 73 and simply isn't in his prime. Having said that, one can't deny the legacy he's left behind, helping form the modern action movie, and becoming THE name in 80s and early 90s action. I strongly consider him to be the name who made action movies much more fun than serious. Arnold gave us a big brute to route for with an unforgettable accent, and this month we're here to celebrate some of his best titles that I, surprisingly, haven't even looked at yet. We start with 'The Terminator'.
I think by now, most know the general story here, but just in case, a short plot synopsis: We go way back to 1984 (before continuity of the series suffering could possibly be a thing) where a Terminator (Schwarzenegger - a cyborg assassin carrying out orders) arrives from 2029, and we see how violent he is right away in how he steels clothes and guns. A human soldier arrives as well, but we don't really know why either of them are here until the Terminator starts to seek out and kill anyone with the name Sarah Connor in the area. We soon meet the Sarah Connor he's after (Linda Hamilton), and learn that the human soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) was sent to protect her from this Terminator by her own future son, John (here played by no one).
John is, of course, the man who leads the uprising against the machines in the future who try to destroy the human race. If the Terminator is successful in his mission to kill John's mother, that will eliminate John's existence, and the machines will take the planet with no problem. It's up to Kyle to protect her now, but it's also up to her to rise to the occasion - and if you've seen 'Terminator 2', you know she figures out how to go from innocent to badass in a short amount of time. Of course, with any time travel movie there's a bit of a paradox to think about, but don't rack your brain too hard. This is 1984, and the film is among the most famous titles of the decade with good reason.
It's interesting to recall that this was often seen as a horror movie, considering it plays with elements like blood, gore, fear, and even boiling it right down to an unstoppable killing machine no dissimilar to Jason Voorhees (who just had his apparent "Final Chapter" earlier that year). Hell, it was even released a few days before Halloween. They play around with a lot of cringe-worthy practical effects here, and while a lot of it looks pretty rough by today's standards, it still makes once wince. For example at one point the Terminator is fixing himself up and takes out his eye with an Exacto knife. But much like with a movie like 'Poltergeist', you sort of toss that off to the side because you're enjoying the rest of the movie too much. Maybe it even adds to what makes it fun.
I think the big problem here now is that, when going back to watch this, you have to do a bit of rearranging in your head. Somewhere along the line, the whole story gets skewed, and timelines get confusing, but all you really need to know about the 'Terminator' movies is that you sincerely only need the first two. Yes, the second one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it leaves you deep in thought and, once again, doesn't feel the need to spoon-feed its audience. I appreciate having to use my imagination, and even this one ends in a similar way. Anything beyond is hit or miss (mostly miss) and is generally the same formula time and time again (except for 'Salvation' which at least had the balls to change it up a bit).
So, if you're looking to see some of the legendary films that helped make the 80s what they were, this is a very good place to look - especially if you're any sort of 'Terminator' fan and haven't actually watched it yet. Some of the effects are a bit dated and don't quite hold up, but one must bear in mind that we weren't quite there with CG yet in 1984, AND its follow-up would really help usher in the CG era. All in all, 'T2' is certainly the better movie, but no one can really deny this movie's place in the history books either. I generally compare the 'Terminator' series to the 'Alien' series in terms of quality by chapter - first one is classic, but the second is amazing, and anything beyond is either just okay or bad. It might not quite have the punch it used to, but it's still an essential watch for Schwarzenegger AND 'Terminator' fans, in my humble opinion.
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