Summer of Schwarzenegger - "The Terminator" (1984)

Pretty much every big Arnold quote comes from a few select movies, and ignore a huge part of his oeuvre. But there's a series of movies that are the most notorious offenders with this, and one that ironically starts with him being a remorseless killing machine. Yep, it's time we talk about The Terminator, which completely cemented Schwarzenegger as a star, and established what I consider to be one of the best science-fiction narratives ever committed to film. Not kidding, actually, sci-fi films don't get much better than this series. Well, the series as a whole, that is.

As for the first one? It's, uh... it's okay. Read on before you decide to crucify me.

I really like The Terminator, okay? I'm not saying it's a bad movie. It's far from it. It's probably one of the most important and influential movies of the 80's, in terms of what it did for the cinematic landscape at large. In the middle of horrible slasher movies and beefy action flicks, James Cameron showed that something could be both scary and exciting without being overwrought and hammy. We got to see time travel done right, setting the stage for later movies to capitalize on the concept. There were cool special effects and some really great scenes that still creep me out just thinking about them. For all intents and purposes, this is a really important, groundbreaking film.

But, uh, is it good by today's standards? I mean, yes, it's still a good movie and all, but is it fun to watch? Honestly? I would say not as much as it used to be for me. See, The Terminator crawls along at a very molasses pace, and while some might call that a slow burn, I call it dull. There are some parts of this movie that kind of bore me out of my skull today, and even though I would still defend it as a really great movie, I wouldn't defend it as a fun watch. It honestly takes about half-way through to get good, and even then, it has some serious rough patches after that point. Like, if I were to think of a movie to sit around for fun and rewatch, this would probably be at the very bottom of the list. Which is, uh, why I didn't rewatch it considering I did so less than a year ago and didn't want to do it again. My blog, my rules.

Deal with it.
So, yes, I would argue that this is a really dated movie, what with the odd pacing and soundtrack that is really, really cheesy by today's standards. But despite that, there's no doubt that Arnold provides an incredible air of menace to the titular murder machine. This is a dude who gets shot, stabbed, blown up, skinned and burned to a crisp, but doesn't fucking let up on account of him being a cyborg and everything. Jason and Freddy and Michael? They were all human at some point. They had feelings and psychoses and other varying shit that led to them being homicidal maniacs. Not the T-1000, though. He was created with the sole purpose of murdering the living shit out of Sarah Connor, and gave fuck-all about anybody who dared to stand in the way of that. There's no rhyme or reason other than his programming, which is set firmly to "kill anything."

What makes him truly terrifying, though, are his attempts at replicating human behavior. He copies and pastes basic phrases, the terror lying in the innocuousness of his speech. This is epitomized when he asks an old woman her name, only to gun her down when she reveals herself to be another Sarah Connor, or when he promises to return to the police station, only to fucking crash through the wall and murder the attendant at the front desk. He has the speech and understanding of a small child, but the destructive capabilities of a small army. Honestly, I chalk it up to luck that Sarah Connor managed to survive one-on-one against this thing, as she doesn't really go full-on badass until the sequel.

Speaking of which, I think that's what makes The Terminator so hard to watch today without getting bored. I've seen the sequel, which is... ugh. It's fucking amazing, okay? Terminator 2 is one of the best movies to ever be released, and it forever changed the standards by which I judge movies, and that unfortunately includes all of the others in this series. The thing is, you can't skip this one. You need to watch it to understand and enjoy the follow-up, so... yeah. Tough luck.

Again, this isn't a bad movie. I still like it. I just don't love it, not like I used to, anyway. This is one of my shorter write-ups, but I don't really have much to say about this one. it's a fine movie, and it's worth watching at least once to see where the whole "Ah'll be bahck" schtick came from. Moving right along...


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