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The Terminator (1984)

2009-06-08 09:18
 
As Terminator Salvation is unleashed on an eager audience, we take a look at the legend that started it all.
Terminator

I remember watching The Terminator at about age 10 (around 1986 or so) on video at a friend’s house, and being simply blown away. It was the first 18 certificate movie I’d ever seen, and my introduction to the wonderful world of Arnie, and in my opinion is still the pinnacle of his career – the role he was born to play.


Rewatching it recently, I was astounded at how well it stands up by today’s standards, and gives the thrill ride most other action movies could only dream of.

To recap the plot, Arnie plays the Terminator, a killer cyborg sent back in time by his evil machine masters, to kill Sarah Connor, the woman who will give birth to John Connor, who will lead the revolution against the machines who are going to take over the world after they start a nuclear war in 2009. Got that? Good. The future John Connor (we never see him in the movie) sends back his trusted second in command, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), to stop the terminator and ensure that he is born. Unbeknownst to Kyle, John also knows that Kyle is actually his father…. and this is just the beginning.

Although that sounds like the most demented crap ever to emerge from the mind of a sci-fi obsessed nerd, The Terminator is the perfect example of a slick blockbuster that is also a brilliantly made film. James Cameron really pulled out all the stops with the action sequences, yet went one better by adding an element of horror by way of the unstoppable evil robot, and topping it off with some dry humour, creating the definitive 80s tour de force.

From the get-go there is that undercurrent of humour – Arnie arrives in our time stark naked and approaches a group of street punks who start to mock him. He replies in his thick Austrian accent: “Your clothes – give them to me now”, before beating them to a pulp and ripping the leader’s heart out with his bare hands. This is the first of many scenes that are not only exciting, but gutsy, and original enough to imprint themselves onto your memory for life.

For an emotionless automaton, Arnie manages to turn the Terminator into a real character. His one-liners are supposed to be mere computerised responses, but they are still classics repeated to this day in the prerequisite voice. When he stocks up on weapons in the gun shop and begins to load one of his many purchases, the owner interjects; “You can’t do that!” to which he simply states, “Wrong” before blowing him away - there is no room for negotiation.

Later, as he performs repairs on his fleshy body by slicing open his arm with a scalpel and tweaking the metal tendons with his other hand, the motel owner shouts through the locked door about the stink. We are treated to Arnie’s red and black screen point of view, as his CPU scrolls down various possible responses, finally settling on “Fuck you, asshole!” which is delivered with all the gravity of Charlton Heston delivering the ten commandments.

As cool as he is, the movie doesn’t belong solely to Arnie. Linda Hamilton plays the tomboy heroine (an angle she would take to a gun toting extreme in T2) who tempers her vulnerability with huge balls. She fits the role so well because she isn’t some simpering starlet with classic good looks. Michael Biehn is also great as the stoically desperate Reese, bouncing between being wild eyed and melancholy – a character you could easily believe came from such a bleak and dangerous post apocalyptic future.

But, of course, the action is where it’s at, and let’s be honest – The Terminator could kick Chuck Norris’s short ginger ass many times over. The fact that he is almost invincible allows him to be repeatedly shot, stabbed, and run over, and still get up and dispense his own mayhem - the famous “I’ll be back” scene which kicks off his single handed annihilation of an entire police squadron. It boasts destruction on a huge scale, while keeping it all personal with a ton of one-on-one killings.

Apart from paving the way for T2, which is a legend in its own right, The Terminator has been hammered so deeply into our collective consciousness that considering a world without it is like pizza without cheese. It launched Arnie to stardom, and is still James Cameron’s best movie to date, starting his trend of groundbreaking visual effects (check out that robot skeleton climax), and one of the best action movies of all time. If anyone disagrees with me, just give me a second to compute the appropriate response.


A bit of trivia [from IMDB.com]:

* Arnold Schwarzenegger was trained for weeks on weapons handling before he started the film, and wound up garnering a compliment in "Soldier of Fortune" magazine for his realistic handling of the guns on camera (whereas the magazine usually lampoons movies for their inaccurate depictions of weapons use).
 
* O.J. Simpson was considered for the role of the Terminator, but the producers feared he was "too nice" to be taken seriously as a cold-blooded killer.
 
* Shots through the Terminator's vision shows a dump of the ROM assembler code for the Apple II operation system. If you own an Apple II, enter at the basic prompt: ] call -151 * p This will give you the terminator view. Other code visible is written in COBOL.
 
* Glenn Close, Rhea Perlman, Sigourney Weaver, Cybill Shepherd, Jane Seymour, Anjelica Huston and Kathleen Turner were all considered for the role of Sarah Connor.
 
* The Terminator is the only character to be listed in the American Film Institute's 100 Heroes and Villains as both a villain (for The Terminator) and a hero (for Terminator 2: Judgment Day). Al Pacino and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the only two actors to be on the list as playing a villain and a hero but Pacino played two different characters. 13 other actors and actresses appear twice or more but either all as heroes or all as villains.
 
* Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous debut line 'I'll be back' was originally scripted as 'I'll come back'.
 

Memorable quotes:

Sarah Connor: Reese. Why me? Why's it want me?
Kyle Reese: There was a nuclear war. A few years from now, all this, this whole place, everything, it's gone. Just gone. There were survivors. Here, there. Nobody even knew who started it. It was the machines, Sarah.
Sarah Connor: I don't understand.
Kyle Reese: Defense network computers. New... powerful... hooked into everything, trusted to run it all. They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence. Then it saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side. Decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination.
Sarah Connor: Did you see this war?
Kyle Reese: No. I grew up after. In the ruins... starving... hiding from H-K's.
Sarah Connor: H-K's?
Kyle Reese: Hunter-Killers. Aerial and ground patrol machines built in automated factories. Most of us were rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal.
[Pulls up his right sleeve, exposing a mark]
Kyle Reese: This is burned in by laser scan. Some of us were kept alive... to work... loading bodies into dumpsters and incinerators. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever. But there was one man who taught us to fight, to storm the wire of the camps, to smash those metal motherfuckers into junk. He turned it around. He brought us back from the brink. His name is Connor. John Connor. Your son, Sarah, your unborn son.

The Terminator: I'm a friend of Sarah Connor. I was told she was here. Could I see her please?
Desk Sergeant: No, you can't see her she's making a statement.
The Terminator: Where is she?
Desk Sergeant: It may take a while. Want to wait? There's a bench over there
[points to bench]
The Terminator: [looks around then looks back at him] I'll be back!

Sarah Connor: Tell me about my son.
Kyle Reese: He's about my height. He has your eyes.
Sarah Connor: What's he like?
Kyle Reese: You trust him. He's got a strength. I'd die for John Connor.
Sarah Connor: Well... at least now I know what to name him. I don't suppose you know who the father is, so I won't tell him to get lost when I meet him?
Kyle Reese: John never said much about him. I know he dies before the war.
Sarah Connor: Wait. I don't want to know.

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(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
Diviesh 6/8/2009 4:49 PM
I'll be back
YTAH 6/10/2009 12:30 PM
I've always thought that, if I could have a superpower, it would be the ability to rip someone's heart out with my bare hands. I wondered where I got that!
preshen govender 6/11/2009 4:44 PM
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Seeing the California Govender butt n@ket ,did it for me !!!
The Sperminator 1/6/2010 12:05 PM
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It's this simple: The first 2 rule... The last 2 suck! Having Terminator without James Cameron (or Arnie) is like Jurassic Park without Steven Spielberg.
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