Saturday, July 11, 2015

Franchises: The Terminator. The Terminator (1984)

This is a film that I consider to be a major turning point in my movie-viewing life for a number of reasons. For one, it was one of the first hard R-rated, violent movies that I ever watched, seeing it for the first time just a few months after that pivotal Halloween weekend in 1999 when I first watched some contemporary horror films like Child's Play 1 and 3 and Halloween I and II, in addition to the classics of the 30's, 40's, and 50's that I normally watched. My late aunt's live-in boyfriend was watching it on TV one night in either January or February of 2000 when I came back from visiting some relatives that lived just down the street and found out from him what it was. I had heard of the Terminator title before, mainly from talk of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and having seen the VHS for that film numerous times at video stores when I was a kid, but that was all I knew. I had no idea about the films' premise and it would be a while until I learned who Arnold Schwarzenegger was, so when I walked into the original film that first time, I had little to go on except that, by then, I did know who Arnold was. I hadn't seen any of his films, except for Kindergarten Cop, since I was too young (I had seen a little bit of Eraser, though), but I knew that he was mainly in a lot of 80's and 90's action movies, always as the hero. That's why it surprised me when, as I sat down to watch The Terminator with my aunt's boyfriend, I found out that he himself was the Terminator and, moreover, was the bad guy here. In any case, as I watched the movie, which I came into fairly early on, with him, I was very quickly drawn into it. Having never been allowed to see any R-rated horror or action movies up until just recently, this was a very different kind of experience for me. The violence and the action grabbed me by the throat and never let go the whole time I was watching the movie and I was absolutely riveted just watching Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese trying to escape from and find a way to destroy this unstoppable mechanical monster. By the time the movie was over, I couldn't get over the high it had given me and I couldn't stop thinking about it. This was a movie that I had to see again, no matter what. Although I caught a brief glimpse of it the following day on the same channel (USA), I wouldn't really see the movie again until one night near the end of the summer of 2000, when I watched it with my dad. After that viewing, where the film was still as exciting as I had remembered it, I knew that this was a movie that I had to own on video.

And that's exactly what happened that Christmas when I got it, along with Terminator 2 and Predator (from the very same aunt whose boyfriend I had watched it with), making them the first R-rated movies I ever owned and another reason why they're so special to me, particularly this movie. There's no telling how many times I watched the VHS of this movie, along with Predator. It easily must have been over thirty times, maybe even more than that. It was a film that I never, ever got bored with and whose dialogue and scenes I learned verbatim after a short time. It was also the film that taught me about TV censorship since when I watched the VHS for the first time, I saw a lot of stuff that I didn't remember seeing on cable, such as the Terminator cutting his arm open or cutting his eyeball out in such gory detail, not to mention the sex scene where you see Linda Hamilton's bare breasts (I thought you only saw nudity in that much detail in porno movies). When I saw the movie on cable again and learned more and more about how movies worked and such, I realized that there was often a lot more to them, especially horror and action movies, than what you ever saw on TV. Because of that, I've always considered this to be the movie that served as the beginning of the end of my movie-watching innocence. From here on, I began actively seeking out harder, darker-edged stuff, especially after I bought my first DVD player in 2002 when I was 15, and I knew that other, harder movies that I had already seen, such as the ones I've mentioned, probably had a lot more to them than I had seen on TV, which ended my innocence with them as well. But I digress. To this day, The Terminator remains one of my absolute favorite movies of all time. In fact, I'll come right out and say that this is my personal favorite of the entire franchise. I enjoy Terminator 2 and I can watch Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and have fun with it for what it is, despite its flaws, but I don't think any of the other movies ever captured what makes this one so special. Maybe it's the film's relatively low budget that led to a darker, grittier feel that the bigger-budgeted sequels couldn't capture, the more graphic edge that this one has, or the fact that there's not as much humor, especially with the Terminator himself given his portrayal, and it's a much more straight to the point movie. I don't know what it is but, regardless, this movie is in a class by itself, a class that no one else, not even James Cameron, has ever been able to match.

You can probably guess that I had no earthly clue who James Cameron was when I first saw The Terminator. I certainly knew of many of his movies, like this and Terminator 2, Aliens, and, of course, Titanic (I think everybody on the freaking planet, no matter how old, knew about that movie when it came out) but I had no idea of him or just how major of a person he was in filmmaking. Of course, that was mainly because, up to that point, I had only been preoccupied with movies themselves and never gave a second thought about who made them. In fact, I don't think I really grasped the concept that people actually "made" movies, and I certainly didn't understand what a "director" was or anything of that nature, except for maybe Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Alfred Hitchcock since I had heard their names tied to certain films. As I slowly understood and learned more and more about this idea that there were people whose jobs it was to make movies and that there was one person in particular who was behind everything, I began to connect directors' names with films that I enjoyed, with Cameron being the one who made this movie that I enjoyed so much. It was shortly after that when I learned of how much of a big deal he now was, having made the biggest movie of all time with Titanic, as well as a number of other enormous box-office successes, and while he didn't become a director whose films I actively sought out like John Carpenter, although I have seen just about all of his movies at this point, I have always respected him as a filmmaker and how much of a brilliant and devoted person he is (I'm not too crazy about him as a human being but, again, I digress). Even though he went on to much bigger things, I would say that the first Terminator is still my favorite film of his. Save for Piranha II: The Spawning, I've enjoyed just about all of his movies that I've seen, such as those I've mentioned and Avatar, but as I said in my introduction, I don't think he's ever been able to recapture the magic and special feeling of this flick. Again, maybe the millions of dollars he had on his subsequent movies had an impact on it but, whatever the case, I feel that this is the film that really shows off his talent as a director, both in terms of telling a good story as well as getting the most out of a budget. I can't blame him for taking the bigger opportunities that he got afterward but I still wish that he had perhaps built himself up a little more slowly, doing another movie for just a little more money than this one afterward before moving on to the major stuff.

Like I've said before, there are some actors who seem to have been born to play certain roles and that's most definitely true with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the character of the Terminator. It's a shame that he hasn't played villains more often in his career (let's not even acknowledge his ridiculous turn as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin) because this movie is proof positive that he can be a very intimidating and threatening presence. Since the Terminator is meant to be an infiltration unit, you would think that putting someone as big as Arnold in the role as opposed to a normal-looking, nondescript person (like Lance Henriksen, who was Cameron's first choice and fit with his initial concept of the character) would hamper that idea but, surprisingly, it doesn't; in fact, as producer and co-writer Gale Anne Hurd once said, it boosted the Terminator's threat level tenfold because you only needed to take one look at him to know that he was deadly long before you found out that he was an android. This movie is also evidence that Arnold is a much better actor than people give him credit for because his performance is frightening on more levels than just the physical. From the moment he arrives from the future, you get the sense that he's not what he appears to be, with his monotone, inflection-less voice, mostly blank face, and above-average strength when he punches right through a guy and smashes a car window with his bare fist. While his movements are smooth and fluid rather than jerky as you might expect a robot's to be, they still have a deliberate, efficient, non-human feel to them, like when he takes his gun out and targets very quickly and precisely, reloads his weapons without even looking down at them most of the time, and his body remains rigid when he walks save for his legs and his head when he's looking for his target. Speaking of which, once his target is within sight, he becomes completely focused on it and never takes his eyes off it unless absolutely necessary, like when he's about to kill Sarah in the Tech-Noir nightclub and keeps looking at her rather than his weapons when he has to reload or when he arrives at the house of one of the other women named Sarah Connor and walks directly towards it with his eyes glued to the door, only briefly glancing at a barking dog nearby. One of the most unsettling movements he makes for me is when he's driving around the city in a police car, slowly moving his eyes and then following with his head and doing so back and forth, like he's scanning the surrounding area for his prey. That, coupled with the expression on his face, makes him across even more so like a deadly, intent killer. His face does remain mostly blank but, that said, there are instances where he does go through different expressions, mainly a look of intense, almost evil-looking, focus whenever he zeros in on or is searching for his target, as well as one of wide-eyed targeting and another of slight irritation and anger when he gets shot a couple of times during the police station scene. While I can accept those, some expressions he makes, like that grimace when he jumps onto the car and punches through the windshield, don't seem like they would be made by a robot with human flesh over it, especially when you see how fixed his real face is at the end. Plus, I don't like that he blinks his eyes when he shoots his .45 pistol (the only times in the movie you do see him blink, now that I think about it). I know Arnold probably couldn't help it because of the flash that gun gives off but it does hurt the illusion this is a robot a little bit for me.

Above everything else you can say about him, the Terminator lives up to his name with lethal efficiency. Anybody who gets in his sights is more than likely a goner with how well he can handle weapons, including modern-day ones that are unlike the advanced ray guns and such that the others like him used in his own time, and how accurate his targeting computer is. Were it not for Kyle Reese's intervention, Sarah Connor would have most definitely been done for when the Terminator tracked her down to and cornered her in the nightclub. Even when he's unarmed, the Terminator is no less dangerous as you can see when he attacks those punks shortly after arriving, kills the driver of the tanker truck, and beats Reese senseless during the climax in the factory. He can adapt to modern-day vehicles just as well as weapons, he can run quite fast when he needs to (I've always found it kind of weird how, throughout this franchise, Terminators seem to be able to move faster and with more agility when they're encased in human flesh), and can take a ton of abuse, like getting shot dozens of times, crashing a car, getting caught in big explosions, and even getting blown in half. What's most disquieting about him, though, is how, as Reese says, he absolutely will not stop until he terminates his target. It doesn't matter how far you run, where you hide, or how much you damage him; he will find you and kill you unless you destroy him first, which is easier said than done given what he's able to withstand and that he's more than able to cope with whatever damage he suffers since he feels no pain. One last thing that I think makes the Terminator all the more frightening of a character is how little he speaks. He talks whenever he needs to but, for the more part, he's the very definition of "silent but deadly," walking around, searching, and killing without any of the quips that Arnold would later become known for or any grunts and groans of pain. His ability to mimic other people's voices makes him even more chilling because of just how disturbing it is to hear them, especially that of Sarah's mother, come out of Arnold's mouth. It all adds up to make the Terminator an unstoppable killing machine in every sense of the term.

Just like Arnold, I strongly feel that Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn were both born to play their respective roles as well. As Sarah Connor, Hamilton goes through quite an arc during the course of the film. She starts out as just an everyday, working girl who has a rather mundane life with a typical, less than stellar job as a waitress (I always cringe during that scene where she's having so much trouble getting people their food and some little brat puts a scoop of ice cream down her dress) and whose only real concern is her boyfriend cancelling their date at the last minute. However, she soon finds herself thrust into a terrifying situation, hearing that there is someone out there murdering people with her name and that, according to the phone book, she's going to be the next target, which is compounded further when a man that she's never seen before appears to be stalking her and she then gets caught up in a horrific shootout at a nightclub that she takes cover in. Things become all the more nightmarish when Reese forces her to come with him and, right before they flee the scene, she sees the man that tried to kill her get up after Reese shot him almost half a dozen times with a shotgun. Poor Sarah doesn't know what to think when she's caught up in a violent car chase, with Reese evading and incapacitating the cops while telling her a wild story about the killer being a machine called a Terminator and that her unborn son will save humanity from being exterminated by sentient machines decades in the future. When they eventually get taken into custody, all she knows for sure is that her roommate, Ginger, has been found dead along with her boyfriend, with Reese being written of as a severely deluded person and that the killer was more than likely wearing body armor and on pain-numbing drugs. But, after the Terminator massacres everyone in the station trying to find Sarah, she has no choice but to once again escape with Reese, now fully believing his story. However, now that she does believe it, she tries to come to terms with her supposed importance to the future, with doubts in her mind that Reese has the right person since she doesn't consider herself to be as tough and organized as the Sarah Connor he claims to know. Moreover, she doesn't want any part of this whole thing and wants to go back to her normal life but, after hearing a message from her son that Reese tells her, she slowly accepts her destiny, even though she still doesn't believe it herself.

What I like about Sarah is that, even though she is a victim trying to evade her would-be killer for 85% of the film, she's not a shrill, damsel in distress who's constantly screaming. In fact, she doesn't scream that often but rather just comes across as a very confused, frightened person and it's impossible not to relate with and feel for her as she's thrown into this nightmare and learns that even if she survives, life as she knows it will never be the same. The only real nice moment that she has once the game of cat-and-mouse between her and the Terminator begins is the romantic night she has with Reese, where the two of them conceive John Connor, and even that is soon interrupted when they're once again forced to evade the Terminator. However, for the rest of the film, Sarah is now much tougher and more self-reliant, particularly after Reese gets shot during the chase and she has to pull him out of the truck after it's flipped over and help him run down the road away from the tanker truck that the Terminator is now driving. Moreover, when the Terminator pursues them into the factory after his flesh is burned off, Sarah continues to have to help and carry her injured lover, yelling at him like a drill sergeant in order to get him back on his feet at one point when he collapses. Although she's unable to prevent Reese from dying, she is able to finally destroy the Terminator by crushing him in a hydraulic press. I really like that, after running away from her would-be killer for the entire movie, she finally becomes courageous enough to stand up to him and put him down for good. She's come a long way, and during the film's epilogue at the gas station in the Mexican desert, we see that she's now pregnant with John (I think that she already suspected she was after she and Reese made love, which was why she was much stronger during the climax; she felt her life was now more important than ever) and is preparing for the future, making tape recordings so John will understand everything when he's old enough and carrying a gun and a dog with her for safety. At the very end of the film, she's told that a storm's coming and, looking at the horizon, she calmly says, "I know." She knows what lies ahead of her but now, she's more than ready to take on her responsibility.

As much as I feel sympathy for Sarah Connor and what she goes through, I also have a lot of sympathy for Kyle Reese. For the first third of movie, he's just about as mysterious, violent, and even threatening as the Terminator, walking around with a long overcoat to hide his shotgun and seemingly stalking Sarah throughout the city. Even after he saves Sarah from the Terminator and does everything he can to protect her from harm, he does come across as rather fanatical and loony with how he jerks her around, screams at her, and refuses to let her go, even if it is for her own good. His raving reaches its max when, after he becomes frustrated with talking with Dr. Silberman, he yells straight at the camera in the interrogation room in a vain attempt to try to make the police understand what they're dealing with, saying, "He'll find her! That's what he does! That's all he does! You can't stop him! He'll wade through you, reach down her throat, and pull her fucking heart out!" However, these instances of apparent craziness are perfectly justified because, in the midst of it, you see the glimpses of the horrifying world he comes from and you learn that he was born after the war that almost wiped out mankind and grew up in the ruins. You understand what he's gone through, how horrible and painful his life has been, so much so that he's had to shut off his emotions, and now he's stuck in a time that he doesn't understand and can't relate to and the only purpose of his existence now is to protect Sarah. After he and Sarah just narrowly escape the massacre at the station, you learn even more about Reese, that he would give his life for John Connor and that he volunteered for the mission to protect Sarah. Eventually, you find out that the reason Reese volunteered was not just so he could meet the woman who taught John to prepare for the war against the machines but that, ever since John gave him an old picture of Sarah, he's been in love with her. That picture and the love he developed for this person he never knew was the only good thing in his entire life and now, all that matters to him is to protect her with his life. Who knows if he figured out, consciously or unconsciously, that he would end up being John's father (I'm pretty sure that's why John sent him back, though)? Whatever the case, Reese does ultimately sacrifice himself so Sarah and their son can live in and I say that because I think that, like Sarah, he had to have know that he was John's father after they made love. It's really tough to make a character both a tough, action guy and a vulnerable, emotionally-scarred person and Michael Biehn pulled it off perfectly here in my opinion.

Like David Cronenberg's The Fly, I view The Terminator as a film with only three main characters as while everyone else, as well played and memorable as they are, are more or less ancillary. That said, though, I do enjoy Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen as Lt. Traxler and Detective Vulkovich. They have a really nice chemistry with each other, coming across like two guys who are lifelong friends and have been working together for years with how they rib each other, providing the movie with some of its few instances of comic relief. Even though they're both pretty snarky, Traxler is a little more serious while Vulkovich is a smartass with a rather odd sense of humor, with how he finds Dr. Silberman's patronizing interrogation methods to be funny and how he tries to tell anecdotes that nobody wants to hear and never gets to elaborate as a result. I like how Vulkovich goes on about how he hates weird press cases like this, with Traxler adding at one point, "I can see it now. He's gonna to be called the goddamn phonebook caller." One moment that always makes me smile is when the two of them are trying to reach Sarah and when Traxler starts drinking some coffee, Vulkovich tells him that it's been cold for two hours before quietly adding, "I put a cigarette out in it." Right after that when Vulkovich attempts to call her again, Traxler asks for a cigarette and when Vulkovich gives him the pack, he realizes he already had one in his hand and rolls his eyes at himself. Despite all of this, though, the two of them do take their job seriously, doing everything they can to reach Sarah when they realize that she's going to be the next target and then trying to keep her safe once they find her. I especially like how comforting Traxler is, telling Sarah over the phone that she'll be safe as long as she stays in the nightclub and after she's been taken to the station, he explains to her how her would-be killer was probably able to do what he did and reassures that, with thirty cops in the station, she'll be perfectly safe. Granted, he ends up being wrong about everything, but at least he still made the effort, and it's nice that, even though they die, both he and Vulkovich go out trying to protect Sarah.

Even though she doesn't last very long, I do enjoy Bess Motta's performance as Sarah's spunky roommate, Ginger. She's just hilarious with how she's always listening to her walkman and dancing around and singing to herself while doing stuff like getting ready for a date, making herself a midnight snack, and even during sex! I also like how she's clearly a good friend to Sarah, trying to comfort her when her date dumps her by saying, "So what if he has a Porsche? He can't treat you like this. It's Friday night, for Christ's sakes!" and then adding, "I'll break his kneecaps." (While we're on the subject, does anyone else find it so ironic that James Cameron himself voices the boyfriend who blows off Sarah's date and that in real life, he would later marry and then cheat on Linda Hamilton?) You get the feeling that, had she survived long enough to hear Sarah's message, she would have dropped whatever she was doing and tried to help her. Although he doesn't come across as anything less than a sex maniac, Rick Rossovich is still pretty funny as Ginger's boyfriend Matt, with his best moment being when he calls them and when Sarah answers the phone, he mistakes her for Ginger and begins describing in nasty detail what he has in store for her. When he finds out that it's Sarah, he gets so embarrassed and meekly asks to talk to Ginger, starting the whole thing over again when she gets on the phone. Although, I have to say that Matt was pretty stupid when he tries to fight the Terminator when he attacks him in the bedroom, saying, "Don't make me bust you up, man!" He may not know what he is but still, just looking at how much bigger Arnold is compared to him, I can't help but think, "You're gonna bust him up?!" Earl Boen makes his first appearance here as Dr. Silberman, who would surprisingly become a recurring character throughout the first three films. Simply put, Silberman is the last person you'd want as a psychologist. He's a patronizing, scheming little shrimp of a man who's much more concerned about his career than helping his patients, boasting about how he could make a career off of Reese. He's so focused on that idea that he doesn't even think to turn off the tape of Reese's interrogation when he starts to rave about how Sarah has no chance against the Terminator, with it not even crossing his mind how disturbing it would be for her to hear that. It's only because of Traxler that she doesn't hear or see any more, another reason why I like Traxler. He doesn't seem to really take his job itself all that seriously, yawning when he introduces himself as a criminal psychologist to Sarah (I know it's late at night but still) and not thinking to turn his pager off when he's interrogating Reese. His patronizing method of interrogation is enough to infuriate anyone, as it does Reese, and you can't help but roll your eyes when he comes out and says that Reese is nothing less than a loon to Sarah. Not very professional, is he? He just barely avoids the massacre at the police station, leaving right as the Terminator arrives.

Given that, despite its ambition, this is a fairly low budget movie, you can see lingering elements of the time James Cameron worked for Roger Corman , none more so than Dick Miller having a brief appearance as the gun shop owner who ends up getting blown away by the Terminator after giving him his weapons. Even though his roles are often little more than cameos, particularly in this movie and others like Night of the Creeps, The Howling, and Gremlins, his fast-talking, street smart way of acting always makes it nice to see Miller and this is no exception. He doesn't get to do much other than to provide the Terminator with his weapons and give him some info on them before getting blasted by him but, again, he's one of those guys I always enjoy seeing. Finally, I have to mention Bill Paxton's early appearance as one of those punks that the Terminator after arriving from the future. It's so weird seeing him with that crazy, blue, spiked hairdo and that tattoo across his face and he doesn't even get the worst death amongst his friends but it's still interesting to see him here and note how far he's come since then. Yet again, I have to comment on the stupidity of some of these characters when they come across the Terminator. It's understandable why they're so surprised and amused when they suddenly see a naked guy walking around but, still, shouldn't they take one look at how he's built and realize that, somewhat out of it or not, that this is not someone you want to mess with? He may have eventually demanded that they give him their clothes but still, Arnold is not someone I would say, "Fuck you, asshole!" to.

Out of all of James Cameron's films, this is by far the darkest and most bleak when it comes to the world that it creates. For that matter, it gives us a look at the same world in two different periods of time, both of which are drenched in a feeling of sheer hopelessness. The glimpses of Los Angeles in the year 2029 where the machines rule the world, one of which opens the film, speak for themselves: it's nothing less than a hellhole. The city is in ruins, thousands of skulls litter the landscape, and the machines are on constant patrol, with automated tanks driving over and crushing the skulls and what's left of the buildings while Hunter-Killer planes zoom through the sky, searching for any survivors to eliminate. Meanwhile, what's left of humanity either fights a losing battle against the machines that often ends in some of them getting blown away or must live in complete squalor in crowded bunkers, stricken with disease, starving and forced to eat whatever they can (you see one guy chase and catch a rat in order to eat it in the scene of the shelter), and simply existing with no hope that things will ever get better. The look of exhaustion and defeat on Reese's face when he returns from a patrol in one scene says it all. As nightmarish as these glimpses of the future are, 1984 Los Angeles isn't portrayed as being much better and, while advanced artificial intelligence doesn't exist yet, it still feels like the place is heading in that direction. While it looks benign enough in the daytime, especially the scenes in the suburbs, the city comes across as a dark and dangerous place at night. You have these filthy streets and backalleys littered with garbage and rats that are eerily similar to the living conditions of the civilians in the future, punks like Bill Paxton and his gang that you can tell are troublemakers just by looking at how they look and act, criminals like the big, foul-mouthed guy screaming at the policemen trying to restrain him at the station, and the rundown motel that the Terminator takes refuge in. While not exactly menacing or corrupt, the nightclub doesn't feel all that inviting with the blaring music (although I do like the songs you hear playing in there), the chain-link grating that you see when you walk, the way the ticket-lady and the bouncer look, and the red, flashing neon lights above the dance floor. Even the relatively clean-looking, shiny sections of the city still have something of a menacing aura about them due to how they're lit with that blue-white, metallic light. That's another thing about this film: it's lit in a very dark, film noir style with lots of deep shadows, areas of blackness, and that blue light providing one of the few sources of illumination. There's a reason why Cameron and company put in that in-joke of calling the nightclub Tech-Noir: it's an apt description for the film's visual style and mood and paints a disturbing picture of a place that, as James Rolfe eloquently described in his review of the film, is going down the shitter.

What's most unsettling about the world The Terminator shows us, though, is that it's not as far-fetched as it might initially seem. For one, look at the portrayal of 1984 Los Angeles, with its crime, poverty, and pollution problems and look at the state of things right now. Not much of a difference, is there? Pollution is a major problem, there's an awful lot of poverty, even in America, and, worst of all, violent crime is at an all-time high. As James Cameron himself said in a documentary on the making of the film, you almost can't yell at a person on the freeway or anything else as mundane as that without them pulling some sort of weapon on you. More to the point, you hear about all sorts of horrific crimes involving guns and other such weapons on an almost weekly basis, which is to say nothing about the tension amongst countries nowadays and the threat of nuclear war. We're now at the point where we could very easily destroy ourselves and turn Los Angeles and other cities into burnt-out husks as the one depicted here. The fact that the Terminator, as enormously built as the human flesh his endoskeleton is encased in, can pass for human and walk amongst the populace here is a comment in and of itself about how de-humanized society has become at this point. Remember that I mentioned how some of the people who run into him foolishly threaten and hassle him, thinking they can take him. Even though nobody knows what he really is, it still says something that few bat an eyelash at somebody who looks and acts the way he does, save for when he pulls his weapons out: we've become so dehumanized that a machine can pass for an everyday human being. Speaking of which, the idea of machines taking over the world and exterminating humanity raises some disturbing questions about artificial intelligence, a concept that I've always found to be a bit disquieting. Just think about that: machines and computers that can think in some ways? Isn't that a frightening idea? It's such a common thing nowadays that we don't even think twice about it but, as technology advances and machines and computers more intricate, the idea of them eventually becoming self-aware and deciding that they don't need humans starts to feel less and less like science fiction. In fact, the week before I did this review, I came across a news story about a robot in a car plant in Germany killing a man, a headline that especially gave me pause since I was thinking about this film at the time. Now, I'm not saying at all that this was the start of some robot uprising and, when I read the article, I learned that it was, in all probability, a matter of human error rather than something to do with the robot, but that was still a frightening thing to see with this movie on my mind. Back in my review of RoboCop, I commented on how that film's social satire about the media and corporate America has ended up being rather accurate in recent years; let's just pray that the same thing doesn't come to pass with the vision of the world and the future in The Terminator.

In addition to the darkness, this could probably be the most graphically violent film Cameron has ever made. Other movies of his like Aliens and Terminator 2 definitely don't skimp on the violence either but none of them have as many gruesome and hard to watch gore effects as this one, which, coupled with the tone and the suspenseful stalking scenes with the Terminator, also help to make this the closest Cameron has ever come to making an out-and-out horror film. When the Terminator attacks those punks for their clothes shortly after arriving from the future, he kills one by ripping his arm directly into his torso, lifting him up, and then yanking his arm back out with his fist and arm covered in blood. I've heard that he tore the guy's heart out but I've never been able to tell if there's anything in his hand because there's so much blood. Most of the violence for the rest of the film is mostly due to the shooting but you still have some other gruesome makeup effects like during that glimpse into the future where you see a soldier get blown to its by an HK laser and when, after being injured in a car crash, the Terminator retreats to this rundown motel and does some maintenance by opening his arm up to check his mechanics and cutting his damaged left eye out. You hear the sounds of him cutting his flesh more than you actually see it but you do see enough to make cringe (oddly enough, though, I've never cringed when he cuts his eyeball out because, as I'll get to in a minute, the quality of the animatronic heads of Arnold used for these scenes is a little shaky). What grosses me out even more than that, though, is the idea that, in that scene later on when he's looking through Sarah's address book in the motel room, because it's been damaged, the Terminator's flesh is now diseased and is starting to rot, as you can see by the ugly pale-color of it, the way his lips and remaining human eye look, and the flies buzzing around him. It's small wonder why that custodian asks him if he has a dead cat in there or something of the like. Those shots of the side of his damaged face where you can see the mechanisms behind the ripped open flesh after he's been hit by the tanker truck are also pretty nasty and those close-ups of his face burning after he stumbles out of the burning truck near the end are downright nightmarish. But, the part of the movie that's always made me wince more than anything else is something not even the gory. After the Terminator gets blown in half, Sarah tries to move out from underneath the scaffolding she took cover under when she's suddenly hit by a sharp pain in her leg, which you can see has a bloody wound on its underside. After moving it over with her hands, she slowly tears out a piece of shrapnel while squealing and gasping in pain. Once again, you hear more than you see but regardless, the sounds and the idea alone make it really painful to watch.

Although he'd worked on some notable films before like The WizHeartbeeps, for which he received his first Oscar nomination, and John Carpenter's The Thing where he helped take some of the workload off of Rob Bottin by creating the incredible effects in the kennel scene, it was Stan Winston's work on this film that sent his career into overdrive and made him and his studio into the special effects legends that they became. That said, though, while there are indeed some impressive makeup and animatronic effects to be seen here, like some of the gory ones I described up above, there are also a couple that don't hold up that well for me. On the plus side, the makeup that they use on Arnold near the end of the film to show the damage that he had suffered after being hit by the tanker truck is very impressive and looks positively real in its detail, with his robotic eye exposed and his left cheek and brow so badly torn that you can see the mechanisms underneath. It's so amazing, in fact, that when he was first shown the designs for it, Arnold didn't think it was possible to do that. Just as impressive are the puppet effects used to bring the Terminator endoskeleton to life during the climax at the factory. While Winston and his team were limited to what they could do and had to rely mostly on just builting the upper torso for the puppets and having somebody walk around with them on his shoulders, as well as dragging the torso from beneath the floor after the Terminator has been blown in half, it works just well enough to get the idea across that this thing just won't quit. When he enters the factory and is searching for them, I thought the effects guys did a good job in making the robot look like he's doing so, especially in the close-ups of his face when he looks from left to right and the way his eyes move and iris whenever he zeros in on something (you can just imagine that going on behind Arnold's face earlier in the film whenever he focused on a target). I also like that they put in some shots of his dragging left foot to emphasize why he's not moving as fast as he was earlier. And even the shots where the torso is simply being dragged across the floor do their job well in getting across that he's pulling himself along in one last ditch effort to kill Sarah. Plus, I just have to mention the actual design of the endoskeleton, which is nothing less than classic. It's simple, nothing more than a chrome-colored, robotic skeleton with an evil, grinning face, but effective (I know it freaked me out when I first saw it, which was when I unknowingly rented the Super NES game of Terminator 2 when I was a kid and it had a little animatic of the endoskeleton's face engulfed in flames).

Where Stan Winston's effects kind of falter, though, is mainly in the area of the puppet heads they made of Arnold to sell the idea early on that there's a robot within. Sometimes they look nice, like in those scenes where they're used when the Terminator is driving the truck (I'm still not sure if those shots of the Terminator from straight across the wheel are the fake heads or Arnold in makeup), and believe me, I'll take less than stellar practical effects over crappy CGI any day, but the shots of the heads in the motel room are really fake-looking to me. I know they couldn't help it due to budget constraints and whatnot but the way those heads look and move make it easy to tell when they cut from them to real shots of Arnold and vice versa (the close-ups of the robotic eye do look eerie, though). Even in that bit I talked about earlier where you can see that the Terminator's flesh is starting to rot, I can tell that it's fake. I think some have said they feel it helps with the illusion that this character is really a machine but I think it would have been better if they had used more shots of Arnold in the makeup since, when you see behind-the-scenes photos of it, you can tell that it stands up to scrutiny. Other than those shots, the only other nitpicks I have with Winston's work is that there are moments with the endoskeleton where I can tell that it's a puppet being moved around, particularly when the Terminator rams his shoulder against the main door to the factory that Sarah and Reese lock behind them, when he gets it open and walks in, and a bit of an awkward shot of him walking down an aisle towards the camera, as well as a couple of other shots here and there. In addition, when Reese whacks his head with that metal rod, it looks a little too flimsy for me with how it easily rolls back and forth. But now, I'm just grasping at straws so we'd best move on.

The miniature effects in this film by Fantasy II and Gene Warren Jr. are, to this day, some of the most convincing I've ever seen in a movie. Those scenes of the human resistance battling the machines in the burnt out ruins of Los Angeles in the future look absolutely legitimate thanks to a combination of well-designed miniatures, great lighting, and a skillful use of forced perspective. When you see those close-up shots of those tank-like machines rolling over human skulls and what's left of the buildings, it's done so well that it's ridiculous to think those tanks are like three-feet tall, the skulls are very, very tiny, about the size of marbles, and that it was all shot on a bunch of tabletops. Even more impressive is how, in that shot at the beginning where that text comes up to tell a brief synopsis of the war against the machines, they put a life-sized skull right in front of the camera and a bunch of little ones only a foot or two away to create a feeling of distance and it's absolutely convincing. The Hunter-Killer tanks and planes themselves are simple in their design but they get the job done: the tanks are these big, imposing machines that roll over everything in their path and blow up any life-forms they come across with their laser cannons, while the flying machines are sleek and agile creations that soar across the sky, hunting anything on the ground with their own lasers. There is a moment at the very beginning where a flying HK goes across the camera and then banks in a rather jerky motion before going on, hinting that it is just a model on cables, but I've always liked that ever since I first saw the film for some reason. However, as good as these miniatures are, none of them compared to the amazing tanker truck explosion near the end. That shot is so well-filmed and that model is so nicely designed that, to this day, even after seeing behind-the-scenes footage of the filming, it's hard for me to believe that wasn't a real tuck blowing up. I really wish filmmakers nowadays would look at stuff like that and understand that there are some techniques that might take more time but, if done right, look much more convincing than CGI ever would.

Where the film's visuals suffer the most, though, are the optical effects like the matting and rearscreen projection and the stop-motion used for the endoskeleton at the end. Even though they're not the most realistic, I like the classic 80's opticals used for the laser guns that the HKs and the future Terminator use and for the sparking electricity for the time portal and when the Terminator is destroyed at the end. Those kinds of effects always make me smile when I see them; however, the matting and rear-projection in this movie often makes me cringe. Some of it looks nice, like the big wide shot of human resistance soldiers running in the foreground while a big HK-tank is mopping up in the background, but other shots like the close-ups of Reese and that woman soldier hiding beneath something as that tank approaches and the compositing of Sarah running away from the miniature tanker explosion and her and Reese with the stop-motion endoskeleton are among the film's wonkiest effects. Speaking of the stop-motion, you can't say much else about it other than it is what it is and it doesn't fit with the overall realistic feel of the film. The shot of the Terminator walking down the hallway after Sarah and Reese looks especially off with how slowly the background is moving behind him. Again, many have said that the use of stop-motion makes it feel more like a robot but for me, it doesn't fit well with the smoother movements of the endoskeleton's torso that it's intermixed with. It's interesting how most of the really dated effects come right at the end, making for an odd viewing experience when you watch the film and its visuals are very convincing and realistic until the climax. I'm not trying to pick on these effects and the people behind them because they did what they could and it doesn't at all detract from the film's impact but they're still its weakest moments by far.

Aside from some wonky effects here and there, the only other major complaint I have about The Terminator have to do with the issues I have with time-travel stories in general. In case you haven't read my thoughts on this before, stories about traveling back into time and changing history in some way almost always drive me nuts with how confusing and often contradictory their logistics can be. Science fiction or not, some of the problems that come up with this material make my brain hurt when I try to think about them for too long and it makes me wonder how the writers didn't drive themselves crazy trying to think about it. For instance, the very plot of the film doesn't make much sense when you really think about it. SkyNet sent the Terminator back in time in a last ditch effort to win the war against humanity by wiping out John Connor's entire existence because, according to Reese when Dr. Silberman asks him this, they had practically won and that killing Connor right then would have made no difference. Well then, my question is, what difference would this elaborate plot even make? If the Terminator had succeeded in killing Sarah Connor in the past, would the adult John Connor in the future just suddenly drop dead or disappear out of existence? And, again, if humanity had practically won the war, what difference would it make if that did happen to the adult Connor? Was SkyNet hoping that eliminating him in an alternate timeline mean that, at least in that world, the machines would rule the world? Doesn't make sense to me that a computer would give that much of a crap about what transpires in another timeline. And then there's the deal with Kyle Reese, whom John sent back in time to protect Sarah, turning out to be his very father. Good God, does that make my brain hurt! It's a nice idea to have Reese be more vital in ensuring the future of humanity than he thinks he is but the logistics of a guy who wasn't born until years later being sent back to 1984 to not only protect his commander's existence but ensure that his existence comes to pass because he's actually his father, which, we learn in later films, is another reason why John sent him back in the first place and gave him that old picture of Sarah so he would fall in love with her and volunteer to be sent back... oh, God. I'm going to stop this right now. Time travel may be a staple of science fiction and this is one of my favorite stories involving it but fewer things drive me as crazy.

While he may put a lot of high artistic aspirations and deep philosophies into his films, one skill that Cameron has in spades is that he knows how to make a damn good action movie. Despite its limited resources, this film nonetheless proves to be one of the most tightly-paced, exciting, and thrilling movies ever, barely stopping to catch a breath once it really gets going, which is fairly early on (not that it hadn't been entertaining before then). Even though it has a lot of exposition to go through in terms of what the Terminator is and why he's here, it doesn't stop dead in its tracks to do so like most movies do but rather incorporates it into the action, with Reese explaining everything to Sarah while they're in the middle of a car chase where they're wipping around corners and trying to evade the police or when they're hiding from both them and the Terminator. Even when Reese is taken in by the police and is talking to Dr. Silberman about what's going on, Cameron sees to it that the audience is kept interested by only hearing stuff that they haven't heard already, by keeping it moving, and by focusing on something else while stuff that's not necessary to know is being said. It's really good filmmaking and makes for a very fast-paced, entertaining sci-fi/thriller.

The movie starts off in a captivating way with a glimpse at the ongoing war between humanity and the machines in the year 2029, with HK-planes and tanks patrolling and blasting the countryside while human soldiers run for cover. After the credits and the arrival of the Terminator and Reese into 1984, we get a nicely stylish chase sequence where Reese catches the attention of the police when he takes a homeless man's pants and, after subduing one of the cops and taking his gun, he's chased into a department store where he gets himself a coat and some shoes while evading the police and slipping out via some exterior stairwells (the cold, blue-white lighting adds gobs of atmosphere to this sequence). After taking one of the cops' rifles from their parked patrol car, Reese slips off into the night to search for Sarah Connor. Following a section of the movie where the Terminator gets his guns and brutally shoots the "wrong" Sarah Connor after tracking her down to her suburban home, we get another look at the future from Reese's point of view, where he dreams about being caught up in a battle where, after running alongside one of the HK-tanks, the female soldier that's with him gets blasted into pieces by the tank's laser cannon after throwing a grenade at it. The one that Reese threw before, however, manages to destroy the tank and afterward, he rushes to a truck with a laser turret in the back that takes off while shooting at a pursuing HK-plane, which manages to flip the truck over and trap Reese in the burning cab. As he screams, Reese snaps back to reality, turns off the radio of the car he's taken, and drives down the road. Later on, while Sarah, upon learning that a second woman with her name has been found murdered, feels that she's being stalked by Reese and ducks into the Tech-Noir club to lose him, the Terminator arrives at her apartment and sneaks in through the outside patio. He brutally attacks Ginger's boyfriend Matt, throwing him around the room as the guy tries to defend himself as best as he can, while Ginger is obliviously listening to her headphones while getting herself some food. When she walks to the bedroom, Matt gets thrown the door, beaten to death, prompting Ginger to drop the food and scream when the Terminator emerges from the room. Ginger tries to run but the Terminator shoots her in the back and, as she tries to crawl away, slowly walks over to her and shoots her several more times. Immediately afterward, Sarah calls and unknowingly tells her intended assassin where she is, prompting him to search through desk the phone is sitting on, where he finds her address book and her license, which gives him a picture of his target.

Right after Sarah finally manages to contact the police and get a car sent down to pick her up, the Terminator arrives at Tech-Noir and, after crushing the hand of a bouncer who tries to stop him when he walks in without paying, he begins stalking through the hordes of dancing kids, searching for Sarah. There's a nice moment of suspense when Sarah accidentally knocks something off the table she's sitting at and bends down to pick it up, unknowingly saving herself from being spotted by the Terminator. Things then subtly shift to slow-motion as Sarah sits back up and spots Reese nearby, causing her to become even more frightened. She doesn't realize, though, that the one she should really be afraid of has finally seen her and begins slowly closing in for the kill. The film cuts back and forth between Reese realizing what's about to happen and taking out his rifle while the Terminator walks up to Sarah, who looks up at him, takes out his laser-scope pistol, cocks it, and aims the laser right at her forehead, with Sarah being too shocked at what's happening to move. Right when her head's about to get blown off, Reese shoots the Terminator several times from behind, knocking him to the floor and causing a panic as everyone, including Sarah, tries to run out the door. The Terminator quickly gets back up, pulls out his Uzi 9mm, and gets into a gunfight with Reese, who takes cover behind the bar. Seeing that Sarah is about to escape, the Terminator tries to shoot her but kills a woman who's running directly behind her instead, with the body falling on her and pinning her to the floor. After attempting to shoot Reese again, who manages to dodge the gunfire by jumping to cover nearby, the Terminator once again homes in on Sarah and, after reloading, attempts to kill her but is once again shot from behind by Reese until he's sent crashing out through the window. As Reese tells Sarah, "Come with me if you wanna live," the Terminator slowly gets back up, horrifying Sarah and giving her the incentive to go with Reese. The two of them run out back and down an alley, with the Terminator in hot pursuit. When they reach two parked cars, Reese shoots the exhaust pipe of one of them, creating a wall of fire to slow the Terminator down while the two of them comandeer the other one. Just as they get inside and Reese puts it in reverse, the Terminator comes flying out of the fire, lands on the hood, smashes his arm through the windshield, and tries to pull Sarah through. Reese tries to make him let go but he's only successful when he manages to knock him off with some quick maneuvering. The two of them peel off down the street and a nearby police officer who saw the whole thing calls it in to get some backup, not seeing the Terminator getting back up and approaching him. Before he can do anything, the Terminator grabs him, bashes his head against the car, tosses him aside, and takes the car to chase after them.

The next section of the sequence involves Reese traveling down the streets of Los Angeles like a madman, trying to avoid the cops while also trying to get the hysterical Sarah under control and explain to her what's going on. He peels down the road, drives on the sidewalk at one point, heads up a ridge, and eventually gets into a little battle with a police car before backending it in an alley, with the Terminator all the while searching for them in the squad car he took, mimicking the voice of the police officer to throw the other cops off his trail. Needing to find a better car, Reese drives into a large parking garage and he and Sarah abandon their car and slip into another one nearby. After Reese tells her why the Terminator is targeting her while trying to get their new car started, the Terminator enters the garage upon having heard about their first one being found abandoned there over the police car's radio. He drives around slowly, circling the area like a shark hunting its prey while scanning his surroundings with his eyes, and eventually finds them just as Reese turns the car's engine over. The Terminator takes a shot and the chase is on again, with the two cars driving parallel to each other while Reese and the Terminator exchange rifle-shots, which become so loud that the sound almost becomes like thunder, with the shattering windows only adding to it. As the two of them head for the entrance to the garage, the Terminator drives his car straight at them but Reese manages to force him into the side of a parked truck, temporarily slowing him down. He chases after them back onto the street, with Reese trying his best to outrun but the Terminator manages to keep up with them, swerving around cars and begins firing at them again from behind. The chase continues under an overpass, with the Terminator doing whatever he can to stay with them, even driving on the sidewalk while continuing to shoot at them. Reese has Sarah take the wheel while he leans out the window and exchanges shots with the Terminator over the roof of the car, managing to score a hit at one point when Sarah realizes that they're heading for a dead-end. She slams on the brakes while the Terminator crashes right into the wall. Their car swerves around and Reese tries to get it back in gear as the police show up. Sarah has to talk him down from firing on them and the two of them are taken into custody, with Sarah seeing that the Terminator is nowhere to be seen.

Upon going to that motel and repairing the damage done to him, the Terminator tracks Sarah and Reese to the police station and after the cop at the front desk refuses to let him in, he tells him, "I'll be back," and heads back out. Only a few seconds later, he comes crashing through the front door in a car and demolishes the front desk, crushing the officer against the wall. The crash wakes up Sarah in a nearby room and as she ponders whether or not to try to go back to sleep, the Terminator gets out of the car, enters the precinct and begins mowing down everyone he comes across. He shoots two poor officers who stumble into the main hall and another at the end barely manages to dodge a shot from his rifle, which is more than can be said for three others who get blown away in their offices before they can do anything. As Sarah realizes what's happening and the rest of the cops mobilize, Traxler enters the room and tells her to stay where she is as he heads to join the others. The Terminator kicks down a door and one cop shoots at him from across the room before ducking behind the wall, which doesn't matter since the android's AR-15 automatic rifle goes right through it and kills him. The Terminator then rounds a corner and blasts a cop that was shooting at him before walking up to the nearby fusebox, tears the live wire out, and shoves it into the box, causing a power surge that blows out all of the lights and giving him an advantage over the cops. In the chaos, Reese is able to knock out the cop in the room with him and grab his keys to unlock his handcuffs while Sarah takes cover under the desk in Traxler's office as he, Vulkovich, and everyone else load up. The Terminator, meanwhile, mows down everyone in the main office area, shrugging off the shots fired at him and leaving one cop moaning agony off-camera. He heads on down another hall, shooting at another cop who fires at him from up ahead and killing both Traxler and Vulkovich when the two of them shoot him from behind. Sarah, who's still cowering in Traxler's office, sees someone standing outside the door and after he's unable to open it, he smashes through the window and opens it from the other side. She prepares for the worst when she realizes that it's Reese and after getting back together with him, the two of them scramble through the destroyed precinct while the Terminator continues searching for his target. He hears them screeching away in a car in the parking lot and heads outside and fires at them in a last ditch effort to kill them. They manage to get away, though, and the Terminator walks off into the night.

Save for a nightmare that Sarah has about the future of a Terminator (Franco Columbu, a bodybuilding buddy of Arnold's who, when I first saw the film, I actually thought was Sylvester Stallone) infiltrating a bunker of refugees and killing everyone in sight, including the dogs that figured out what he was, there's a lull in the action until the Terminator tracks Sarah and Reese down to the motel they've been staying at. He kicks the door in and starts shooting, only to find an empty room. While he searches it thoroughly, kicking down another door, Sarah and Reese, who managed to slip out, possibly through an unseen window, take a truck in the parking lot from its owner. The Terminator hears the truck starting up and runs back outside, only to be rammed into and momentarily incapacitated. As they drive off, he gets back up, picks up his weapon, and gets onto his motorcycle to continue the chase. Reese and Sarah peel down the street and immediately see that the Terminator is on their tail and catching up fast. When they come up on a tunnel, he begins firing at them with his automatic rifle, hitting the back of the truck. Reese and Sarah trade places, with her driving while he leans out the passenger window to chuck pipe bombs they made earlier at the Terminator. Sarah has to swerve around vehicles in both lanes in the tunnel while Reese throws the bombs, which prove to be completely useless as they don't even slow the Terminator down and he continues firing at them. After exiting the tunnel, Reese prepares to throw another bomb but the Terminator shoots through the truck's back window and hits him, causing him to drop the bomb and it explodes right alongside them. Sarah realizes that Reese has been hit as the Terminator realizes he's out of ammunition and tosses his automatic rifle aside for his laser-guided .45. He catches right up to Sarah in order to get a clear shot, which allows her to swerve into him and make him hit the curb, knocking him off his bike. Sarah, however, doesn't fare much better when she hits the curb at top speed and the truck gets flung over to the other side of the road, landing upside down, while the Terminator skids along the road with his bike. Things get calm for a second as the Terminator regains consciousness, only for him to get plowed over by a big tanker truck, which severely damages him, especially his leg, and he grabs onto the back of the truck to save himself. When the truck comes to a stop, he kills the driver when he comes outside to check for damage and commandeers the truck, forcing the passenger to get out. He engages the truck and begins driving it around to the side of the road where Sarah crashed, as she, who saw the whole thing, frantically tries to pull herself and Reese out of the flipped over truck. They barely manage to avoid being run over with the truck and run off down the road, with the Terminator right behind them. As they come to a street corner, Reese falls to the ground and tells Sarah to keep running, who is able to keep ahead of the truck by only a few feet, with the Terminator going as far as driving on the sidewalk to try to run her down. Reese lights another pipe bomb and throws it into the truck's tail-pipe as it passes by him before taking cover in a dumpster. Sarah continues evading the truck until the bomb explodes and turns the entire thing into a huge fireball, with her taking cover around the side of a building while Reese stumbles out of that dumpster. Sarah watches the Terminator stumble out of the truck and fall down as he's engulfed in flames, breathing a sigh of relief when he finally stops moving.

Sarah and Reese reunite amongst the flaming remains of the diesel truck and it seems like it's over... when the Terminator, his metal endoskeleton emerges from the wreckage and looks at them menacingly. Reese sees him first and gets up to run as Sarah then spots him and joins her lover as the Terminator begins the chase again, despite having a damaged left foot that he's dragging. Reese and Sarah duck into a nearby building and run down a darkened hallway, trying to find a place to take cover, as the Terminator slowly follows them. They manage to make it through one door into an automated factory and slam it shut and put the locking bolt down behind them as the Terminator begins ramming his shoulder into it. Reese and Sarah head on into the factory, with Reese activating the surrounding machines in order to make it harder for the Terminator to track them. After doing so, Reese nearly collapses from his injuries and tries to make Sarah leave him behind but Sarah, seeing that the Terminator is on the verge of getting through the door, makes Reese get back on his feet and helps him along. The Terminator manages to slip his arm through a massive hole he's torn in the door and lift up the bolt, allowing him to get inside. While Sarah and Reese slip through the factory, using whatever cover they can, the Terminator finds it hard to get a lock on their position due to the running machines around him but is undeterred and begins searching for them manually, looking under bits of machinery and such. Eventually, Reese and Sarah run into a dead-end but when they try to go back, they come face-to-face with the Terminator, who locks in on them and follows them up some stairs onto a railing. Reese forces Sarah to run off down another path while he deals with the robot himself, smacking his head several times with a metal pipe he picked up earlier. The Terminator, however, manages to get the upper hand, knocking the pipe out of his hands and then smacking him across the face, sending him falling onto the walkway. The Terminator then closes in for the kill but Reese lights one last pipe bomb and shoves it into the robot's torso before tumbling down some stairs as the Terminator blows up. Once the explosion has passed, Sarah, after painfully pulling out a piece of shrapnel from the side of her left leg, crawls over to where Reese lies next to the Terminator's severed torso and turns him over to discover that he's dead. She doesn't have time to mourn, though, as the torso springs to life and begins crawling after her. With her legs injured, she's barely able to move herself by crawling across the walkways and machinery, with the Terminator keeping pace with her despite his similar condition and coming close to grabbing her at points. Unknowingly or not, Sarah leads the Terminator into a hydraulic press, crawls out of the opening, and slams the grating down, trapping him. He manages to get his hand through the grating in an attempt to strangle Sarah but she turns the tables and activates the press with the controls behind her, telling the Terminator, "You're terminated, fucker." She then watches as the Terminator is slowly crushed flat in the press until his red eye goes out, signifying that he's finally been destroyed. Sarah crawls out from underneath the arm and tries to compose herself as the police arrive.

This one movie whose soundtrack I have on CD because I enjoy it that much. The music by Brad Fiedel, which was created almost exclusively with the use of synthesizers performed live, perfectly accencuates the mood that James Cameron is going for in the film and it remains my favorite score of the franchise. I love the way the main Terminator theme sounds here the most, coming across as very somber and apocalyptic, like it truly is the end of the world, especially when you hear the full extent of it over the ending credits after Sarah drives off to face the future. You hear the theme in various incarnations throughout the film, most notably in the form of a romantic piano version when Sarah and Reese make love, a slower, more atmospheric one when the two of them are reunited after the tanker truck explodes, and low, sad version that's played when Sarah discovers that Reese is dead. Another recognizable theme is the threatening, constantly pounding motif that almost always accompanies the Terminator whenever he's around and adds to the feeling of menace that pervades him. Fiedel has described it as a means to get across the idea of the heartbeat of a mechanical man and often alters the intensity of the pounding, sometimes making it lower, like when the Terminator first arrives (which is accompanied by a very creepy, electronic atmospheric sound) and other times making it very loud and noticeable, like when the Terminator is going around, getting his weapons and such. Fiedel also uses the theme at a couple of points when Sarah feels like she's being stalked, like when she spots Reese in the Tech-Noir club while waiting for the police, reinforcing the idea that she's afraid of the wrong person. The electronic nature of the score is another thing that makes it feel like a horror film, even during the action scenes. Some may find it outdated in the way it sounds but I love the theme for the sequences where we see the war going on in 2029 and for the car chase scenes, particularly the one through the tunnel near the end: it's exciting and gets the adrenaline pumping but it also reminds you that this is a nightmarish scenario and that there's a lot at stake here. The theme that plays during the nightmare that Sarah has about the future gets across the feeling of hopelessness that humanity is living with and the music during the climactic factory chase sounds the most nightmarish, particularly when the Terminator's severed torso springs to life and chases after Sarah. The piece that plays when she destroys him in the press has a long, drawn-out sound that adds to the feeling of finality, that this evil thing that's been after her the entire film is finally dead.

I even like some of the songs on the film's soundtrack, especially the two by Tahnee Cain and Tryanglz that you hear during the scenes at Tech-Noir. My favorite is Burnin' in the Third Degree, which plays when the Terminator enters the club while Sarah is waiting for the police: it has a really cool sound and beat to it and it sounds even nicer when it goes into slow-motion when the Terminator zeros in on Sarah. I also like Photoplay, which you hear when Sarah first enters the club. Again, I just like the sound of it and think it has a catchy beat. I also don't mind their other song, You Can't Do That, which Ginger listens to while she and Sarah are getting ready for their dates. I've listened to the whole song on the CD and I don't think it's that bad of a song. I'm not a big fan of Intimacy by Lin Van Hek, which Ginger listens to when she goes to make herself a sandwich after having sex with Matt, and I don't even remember where Pictures of You by Jay Ferguson and 16mm was in the film (maybe it was what Ginger was listening to while having sex with Matt); otherwise, not a bad collection of songs.

Before we wrap things up, I'd like to comment on the new stereo audio track of the film, which I think was first put out on MGM's 2001 special edition of the film (the copy that I have). While the film does sound better there than it ever has before, I don't care for the new sound effects, some of which are from Terminator 2, that were added in and replaced some of the previous ones like the gunshots and laser blasts. Having watched the old Artisan VHS for most of my young adult life, I became accustomed to the old-fashioned, 80's sound effects there, particularly the sound that the Terminator's laser-guided .45 made whenever it fired (I love that classic gunshot sound in general), and so, whenever I watch the movie now, I always switch the audio to the original mono so I can hear those sounds. It's my preferred way of watching the movie, which is why I'm disappointed that the new audio track is always used now when the movie is played on TV, and I'd be interested to know if anyone else feels the same way too (I also remember the music sounding a bit different there too, which I wasn't thrilled about either).

If you want a nice mix of science fiction, action, film noir, and horror, all with a brain behind it, you'd be hard-pressed to find one better than The Terminator (I'm not sure if another movie with all of these attributes exists but that's beside the point). It has a great cast, solid performances, a threatening, unstoppable villain, a well-done mood and style to it, superior intelligence behind the script that actually brings up disturbing possibilities about what might happen in the real world in the near future, some jaw-dropping makeup, animatronic, and miniature effects, an exhilirating pace that makes the film a very easy sit, exciting, well-shot action sequences, and a music score that fits the visuals to a T. There are some wonky effects here and there and the time-travel concept does make for some lapses in the story if you think about it long enough but, other than that, this is truly one of the best science fiction films ever made (the best of the 80's, in my opinion) as well as my personal favorite James Cameron movie. He, as well as this series, may have gone on to much bigger and more polished movies but I don't think he ever created anything as special as this modest-budgeted, dark, and gritty sci-fi/thriller that he began his career with.

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