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  • Writer's pictureGuy Jeffries

The Terminator Rewind Review

Director: James Cameron.

The Terminator, is without doubt is a timeless classic that will forever sit among the top sci-fi actioners to have ever been produced, sitting right along side Predator and Aliens; Aliens actually being born whilst waiting for Arnie to finish Conan the Destroyer rather than recast him. Cameron preferred to classify his film as a tech-noir, sci-fi, horror, slasher movie that was inspired by Mad Max 2. It was his first blockbuster hit and only his second major feature after Piranha Part Two: The Spawning and when he noticed audiences were describing the film as Sci-Fi/action, it set him on a path to continue the trend.

Set in then, present day of 1984, a Terminator, not strictly a cyborg but a lethal killing machine covered in human flesh to help it infiltrate, is set back in time from 2029 to kill Sarah Connor, the future mother of the leader of the human resistance, thus resetting the time line and ending the war. Though, someone from the resistance is also sent back to both warn and protect Connor from the Terminator, ensuring her survival. How the story evolved was mostly as a result of a tight budget. Cameron couldn't set the entirely story in the future because of the hefty expense so, the time travel became an economic solution and actually added so much more possibility to the plot, enabling the audiences to relate to the film.

It was on such a restricted budget that it went over, often resulting in Cameron and crew to make do with what they could, sometimes Cameron even paying for shoots himself and he got cheeky with, or I should say without filming permits, basically doing hit-and-run shoots on location before authorities could turn up. This explains the majority of the film being shot at night. The sound was filmed in monophonic too and wasn't updated with a 5.1 stereo sound until 2001.

Other parts of the original script was greatly cut, but on top of budget it was also the lack of special effects that hindered the story which would eventually turn into the sequel. There was suppose to be two terminators sent back, one being the T-800 and the other being the T-1000 but it wasn't until Cameron made The Abyss in '89 that he knew they then had the computer technology to make the liquid Terminator work.

There was some controversy over the story with science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, who sued Orion Pictures over infringement, claiming the story was copied from a couple of episodes of The Outer Limits. Must to Cameron's disagreement and protest, Orion agreed to pay an out of court settlement and whilst there was a gag order in place, Cameron still denies any plagiarism quite openly.

What it gave birth to was one of the most iconic and influential sci-fi characters to ever be created. The creation and design of the Terminator is ingenius; a robot that's totally relentless, a programmed assassin, the ultimate killing machine that doesn't feel pain, remorse or fatigue, that will stop at nothing until it's task is complete. The late, legendary Stan Winston and team built the Terminator's endoskeleton out of real metal which gives it it's realistic look, however the negative side to the beautiful prop piece was that it was too heavy for the team to operate making it very impractical during shoots.

Schwarzenegger only did the movie for the money and initially wanted to play Kyle Reese, with Cameron actually against the idea of having a bodybuilder play the part of something that's suppose to blend in with other humans. But, putting logic aside, he went of the cinematic aspect of the film going with the notion that the audience wouldn't care much about the science behind it if they enjoyed what they saw.

Lance Henriksen had more than just a small part of Det. Vukovich in the film. He knew Cameron from the beginning and actually helped him pitch the script to producers by dressing up as the terminator, got into character and freaked the producer out, giving raise to the rumour that Henriksen was to play the T-800, but that was never the intention. Instead he does go on to play The android, Bishop in Cameron's following film, Aliens.

There were many actors considered for the role the T-800 prior to Schwarzenegger taking the role. Both Stallone and Mel Gibson declined. Tom Selleck, Randy Quaid, Michael Douglas, Jürgen Prochnow and Kevin Kline among many more were considered, even O.J. Simpson who was rejected on the grounds of not being convincing enough as a cold-blooded killing machine. Go figure. He was and still is, one of the greatest villains to stalk the screens and besides Darth Vader, probably one people wanted to be when they were younger making it fashionable to be the bad guy. Who didn't want to be the unstoppable, near indestructible Terminator at some point in their lives?

Schwarzenegger trained hard, learning not just how to use multiple firearms, but the strip, dismantle and reassemble pretty much blind-folded which added to illusion of how efficient the Terminator was; and it also earned him a commendation from Soldier of Fortune magazine, a publication that normally slates movies for their misuse and misrepresentation of shooting guns. He got some of his inspiration from watching Yul Brenner's performance in Westworld, suggesting to Cameron that his terminator should not act like a machine, but to be a machine. He kept his distant from his co-stars so to minimise any emotional exposure, creating possibly his greatest performance of his career. Not forgetting his iconic and now trademark line "I'll be back" which was one of the 14 lines he's say in the entire film, a line Schwarzenegger initially had trouble saying and requested to change the script to say "I will be back" then, you couldn't stop him from saying it in nearly every other movie.

There were plenty of actors considered for the role of Kyle Reese before it went to Biehn, who, after reading the script, wasn't impressed and thought it silly until he met with Cameron and saw his passion and commitment was real. But Bruce Willis, Sting and Mickey Rourke among many more were considered to play Reese. I think there was an even longer list for Sarah Connor, with the role initially going to Cameron's first choice, Debra Winger, but Geena Davis, Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Carrie Fisher were all considered with Sharon Stone, Lea Thompson and Kelly McGillis actually auditioning for the role.

It's ultimately Hamilton's defining role, and she's rarely remembered for playing anyone else, apart from maybe Catherine in the 80's TV series adaptation of Beauty and the Beast opposite Ron Perlman and maybe Dante's Peak. But, like the rest of the cast, it's impossible to see anyone else play those characters, with only Schwarzenegger returning to reprise his role three more times.

All the elements worked perfectly and while, yes, there could have always been improvements, it's still a prime example of what is achievable on such a tight budget. Even Brad Fiedel's score is iconic and globally recognised. It's probably the only thing he's ever remembered for but it's such a famous theme, created from an imaginary mechanical man's heart beat, the main theme is reworked throughout the film and really has the tone of 80's horror films.

Upon it's release, it remained at the top of the US box office for two weeks, surprisingly so for both crew and producers not realising what success this would spawn and blame was shouldered in Orion Pictures for its lack of advertising support. The teaser trailer above was voiced by Peter Cullen, who is best known for voicing Optimus Prime. The success of the film, which obviously kicked off a huge franchise secured both Arnie's and Cameron's career.

It's the perfect sci-fi, tech-noir, horror, action film that has spawned a huge franchise and dozens of carbon copies, being one of the most recognised characters in movie history and remains one of the greatest movies ever made.

Running Time: 10

The Cast: 9

Performance: 9

Direction: 9

Story: 9

Script: 9

Creativity: 10

Soundtrack: 10

Job Description: 10

The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being exactly what it is, a timeless, iconic great.

95% 10/10

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