Another look at the 80s with one of the all time greats. We look at a franchise making film that is often overshadowed and overlooked in favour of its sequel. Yet both are two very different films both deserving praise.
The film opens up 9 years from now where I can only guess the Trump years didn’t work out too well for Los Angeles (ok easy joke not doing that again). The film really opens up in 1984. Two figures appear naked, one a somewhat shabby man who steals a hobo’s pair of trousers and runs. The other famously is a buff bodybuilder like figure (look I don’t need to tell you who played that). He acts cold, emotionless. Calmly yet powerfully he walks over to some street thugs demanding their clothes, when they refuse and stab him he is unfazed, killing the stabber while the other hands over the clothes in a panic.
So you know the plot, who doesn’t. Machines sent a cyborg back in time to kill the mother of the leader of the resistance. The mechanical nature of the terminator is done amazingly well. Even before you see it is a machine he acts like one. All the credit to Arnie’s acting here. We like to think of the hamminess but that’s in the sequels here the Terminator is a cold calculated machine, going about things like a machine. He finds a phone book and starts hunting people down in the order they appear there, no elaborate plan just showing up and killing them. Arnold really did make this character feel like a machine in how it acted.
Now onto the other main character Sarah Connor. Now known as one of the all time great female action movie characters, but since people often ignore this film they miss the most important elements, her journey to becoming that. We see her working at a diner. This is the tale of a completely ordinary person, being pursued by a ruthlessly persistent and emotionless killer for something she hasn’t done and it’s handled really well. She isn’t some dumb person or super competent baddass; she’s not that person yet.
Part of me wonders, what if ? Is there a cut of this movie where it doesn’t reveal what the Terminator is and that they indeed are from the future till much later in the film? It instead is focusing on Sarah Connor right from the start as she finds out from news broadcasts that everyone with her name is being killed in the order they appear in the phone book? Imagine if that was you, that would be terrifying. Of course we know what the murder is because of the opening but if we didn’t because that wasn’t there, and instead all we got was the ramblings of a possibly crazy man, but as the indestructibility of the assailant shows his ramblings look more and more plausible. Just a thought, we have countless different versions of Blade Runner after all.
The film also goes with an ultimate reveal for those paying attention, not going to reveal that but most people can guess. It’s one that rewards you for watching and enjoying the film. It’s very much a shame how this film is overlooked and how all attempts at copying Sarah Connor fail to do so, perhaps because they fail to watch this one too.
This isn’t some admittedly awesome action movie; it’s a much tenser more chilling tale. Sure some scenes involving the Terminator’s damaged face look a bit off but then this is a machine not a human, and here we see how Arnold became that beloved actor as he sells a machine to us. Here we see why this became a franchise, but also understand why it shouldn’t be. After all outside of the second film (and maybe the 4th) all the other films are complete junk.