Directed By: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, and William Wisher
This was one of the most successful films of the year in 1984 when I was born. I don’t remember specifically when I saw it for the first time. I have a deep memory of watching it with my Aunt and Uncle at a young age, and of course when I was older it was a staple in the household I became part of and then throughout life with my brother. There are few movies more beloved in the home I grew up in than The Terminator, and its sequel Judgement Day. This was a groundbreaking film that studios have always been determined to turn into a franchise with one desperate attempt after another. This movie undoubtedly left room to grow, but for whatever reason there is just no way to recreate the success of these movies with James Cameron behind camera.
James Cameron may be an asshole and notoriously hard to work with, but he is a God at filmmaking. I would literally put him on par with the likes of Stanley Kubrick and early Steven Spielberg. I think he is one of the most inventive and industry changing men alive today and I think the Avatar sequels will surprise us all in new and exciting groundbreaking ways. He took science fiction to new heights with films like this one, Aliens, and The Abyss. He stole the hearts of women all over the world with Titanic, making it one of the most successful box office films at all. Making that accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that Titanic has a three hour run time that limits how many tickets can be sold in a day. He broke all the records again when he revolutionized 3D films with Avatar. I saw it in the theater four times and it was worth every penny because it was a truly exceptional experience. You can never watch the movie today and get that same effect that the 3D created in the movie theater, if you missed it back in 09 you made a grave mistake. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit theaters again before it’s long awaited sequels are released so if you didn’t see it in the theater hold out hope for another chance. I think it’s easy to forget that there are more Avatar movies coming because it has been so long but when they come out James Cameron will again prove to be one of the most capable and revolutionizing filmmakers there is.
I don’t think one paragraph can accurately cover how much of a badass James Cameron is. I often joke that after Titanic and Avatar that James Cameron could make a movie about anything and studios would fall all over themselves for the rights to fund it. He could literally pitch a biographical feature about his old German Sheppard Wolfie and they’d give him a 250 million dollar budget for the film. This wasn’t always the case though as prior to this film he was actually living in his car. In fact his vision for this movie was so much grander than the budget allowed he had to cut many corners. In an effort to save money Cameron created what he called “guerrilla film making” where he would film on location without the proper permits. A lot of the movie is shot at night because Cameron and crew would show up, set up, and film as quickly as possible before the cops showed up to shut them down. The man may be hard to work with, he may be demanding and even occassionally bring his stars to tears, but the man is a badass and nobody can deny that.
Sometimes is takes a badass to make a badass and that is certainly the case when it comes to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who knows where Schwarzenegger would be today without landing the role in this film. Like Kanye and Taylor Swift, Cameron made that bitch famous. Sure his career had already started with the Conan movies but does anybody really think those parts were going to help him ascend to the next level? Would he have ever reached the heights that he has without these 17 lines of dialogue that gave him the opportunity to get better before his next role? Schwarzenegger could barely speak English back in the day and his accent has never really faded but he was able to overcome that due to the iconic part that made him famous.
When you look at Arnold Schwarzenegger you have to marvel at what the man has accomplished. Here is an immigrant body builder who has risen to the heights of the acting world, married into one of America’s most famous families, successfully entered and exited politics, and maintains his fame even now. I think he is a true example of how anybody is capable of anything in this country. It truly is the land of opportunity for certain people and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a prime example. At one point Schwarzenegger was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, he was elected to not one but two terms as The Govenator, and now he is slowly becoming Donald Trump 2.0. It’s an interesting story and I’m sure there are so many untold stories behind the man that only deepen the intrigue. There are probably already several books written about him but I’d really like to read the one that covers the whole life. There is still an uncertain future that lies ahead and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man who can reach out and grab it for himself.
One of the reasons this is one of my favorite Schwarzenegger roles is that he actually plays the bad guy in this movie. The cold hearted ruthless bad guy that doesn’t eat or sleep but simply kills and will never stop. I may give a lot of credit to Cameron for how things turned out for Schwarzenegger but he brought his own ability to this movie. It wasn’t enough to look the part so much, he had to be the part. Schwarzenegger didn’t want to act like a robot, he wanted to be a robot. He spent countless hours working with guns prior to shooting and got so good that he was literally criticized for being too good by gun enthusiasts. His presence looms over this movie so much that it’s a tribute to his own personal prowess as a man and person. He only has 17 lines in this movie and speaks less than Stallone did in Rocky when he specifically wrote the part with little dialogue to mask his difficulty speaking. Interesting the parallels of the once action kings right? Schwarzenegger and Stallone both had problems speaking and burst onto the scene with movies that had them speaking less.
Funny factoid, OJ Simpson was originally considered and desired for the role of the terminator but he was deemed too nice. It was thought that people would never be able to accept him as a cold blooded killer. You can twist your head around backwards trying to imagine how that decision may have changed the fate of the American timeline right there. Would OJ and not Arnold turned into America’s fan favorite action star? How different his life would have been…
James Cameron was fond of casting Michael Biehn and I’ve always liked that about him too. I don’t know the story behind Biehn and why he never quite made it to the next level of acting but I have always been a big fan of his work. I think one of the problems with all these new Terminator films is that they keep trying to recast Kyle Reese and they fail. You just can’t top Biehn in the part. I think this is where he was at his best with his role in Aliens a close second, his role in the Abyss certainly doesn’t win him any awards. When I was little and would play with my G.I. Joes there was always a character who would play out a Reese scenario and generally be molded after the character. One of my favorites would be the soldier lost in time and have to fight his way through all the others.
Don’t want to delve too far into Sarah Hamilton here because there is really more to be said of her in the sequel Terminator 2 when she goes full blown Ripley. In this movie she is the soft and delicate victim. In truth a very typical character that we usually see in slasher films, which as a matter of fact some actually consider The Terminator to be. However one difference being that she actually gets down and dirty yet still survives in the end. Sarah Conner isn’t some typical teen running from the killer though, she’s the adolescent badass of the future. Of course she has sex and still manages to survive. Plus she had to make Jon Connor, and become badass mother of the future.
This was one of the most popular movies I remember growing up. The 80s were a terrific time with many groundbreaking and legendary movies being made but this one sticks out as different. I do not know how old I was when I saw it for the first time but I remember where I was and who I was with. It was a movie that I never would have been allowed to watch at home but it was with my Aunt and Uncle that I saw it for the first time. I remember learning the word motherfucker and thinking it was just awesome. I generally credit Wesley Snipes and Passenger 57 for teaching me that beloved nomenclature but this actually preceded it by quite a while. My parents probably would have flipped had they known I had seen this movie but I had a cool uncle and he introduced me to a lot.
Eventually I would enter into a new family dynamic around the age of 10 or so and in that household the action movie was king. We would watch action movies all the time and over and over again. The Terminator and it’s sequel were some of the most popular and to this day the movies are regularly referenced in my household. In fact I think there is a specific corner of my brother’s brain where the movies just play on a loop non stop. I’ll get to more of that with Judgement Day, but the point being this was an influential movie not only in the movie industry but in the very household I grew up in and in my young life.
I have rambled on for a long time now and still have managed to say so little about something so big. There is so much more to this movie and I could never hope to cover it. I may know it like the back of my hand but there is still so much that I know nothing about. For example, there was probably a lot James Cameron’s wife, Gale Anne Hurd, had to do with it as she has gone on to have a really storied career herself. There is a lot to be said of Stan Winston and the special effects his company were able to create. With a movie so influential and groundbreaking there are plenty of people and things to cover but I think it’s time for this rambler to ramble on.
If you haven’t seen this movie then frankly I think there is something wrong with you. Maybe you’re a kid that doesn’t know any better and been blinded by all these new Terminator movies, I’ll get to that in the review for the third film. Point being any movie enthusiast has already seen this movie and they know. Not only is it worth your time but it’s worth your money, it’s worth your attention, and it’s worth that sponge inside of all of us that absorbs influence and binds to the fiber of our soul. This movie isn’t going to change your life or anything but it’s going to entertain the hell out of you. It’s going to raise the bar for what you expect of movies because it shows what a movie is capable of. Even after more than thirty years and multiple attempts to recreate they simply can’t do what this movie does.
NEXT MOVIE: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)