June 29, 2016


James Cameron, 1984
The Terminator franchise is as culturally familiar to America as the Rocky franchise. The whole concept of artificial intelligence taking over the Earth and eliminating the human race feels very visceral, and scarily possible. The unfortunate part of this franchise is, while it’s such a rich story with much to draw from, it’s been repeatedly put in the wrong hands and the many Terminator movies are just wildly inconsistent. The best of all of them is undoubtedly Terminator 2: Judgement Day. But without this original right here there wouldn’t ever be a T2. 

Of course visiting this film in 2016 is going to involve looking past some of the primitive production elements. The periodic battle scenes of humans vs machines in the future feel like very obvious set pieces. There’s that distinctively 1980’s electrical light effect that we all remember so well from Back to the Future and any other sci-fi type film that was released in that era. 

But Cameron captures some of the energy that would be present in it’s successor. The relentlessness of the pursuit. The unbearably high stakes that Sarah Connor discovers she’s a part of. The coldly-menacing determination of the Terminator cyborg to eradicate Sarah so she cannot bear the offspring that would eventually give the machines their challenge. The Terminator manages to do a lot with the limited resources available in that period. The explosions, the gunfire. It’s an important movie. It is a cinematic piece that sort of has it’s place in time. The 90’s action films had a level of male bravado and big guns that sort of faded away over time. Now it becomes more of a nostalgia thing to revisit. Of course there’s humorous aspects of that as well. Like when the Terminator is shooting his way through the police station, taking out anyone in his path. You would think that the officers would quickly realize that The Terminator doesn’t exactly fall when shot. Instead of fleeing they all jump out at him firing like they are going to be the one who gets him. Even many years after this movie had been made, this still feels groundbreaking.