Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Terminator (1984)

I’ve been a fan of this movie since I was a kid while being particularly frightened of the terminator’s relentlessness.  I held it high in comparison to all the movies I’ve watched in my life.  Upon recently viewing it its clear I was mistaken, somewhat.  The endless spray of bullets and seemingly endless car chases combined with moments of poor dialogue sequences pop into my mind as downers for me now.  I still enjoy the movie as the idea still resonates deep within me.  The story is interesting for a science fiction type of person like me but I shudder at the action or conversations from time to time.  Let’s pick apart this terminator a bit shall we?

Naked Arnold vs. Punker Bill Paxton
                In 1984 two beings have arrived from 2029.  A war between machines and humans has resulted in a cyborg and a human to come to the past to protect or destroy history.  The terminator (Arnold Schwartzenegger) arrives near some punks lead by our old pal Bill Paxton!  It’s already worth watching for this alone I tell you.  Out of all the places he could land it’s an undeniable treat that it’s in the immediate vicinity of the great Bill Paxton.  His time is short lived though as the terminator kills his friend by punching inside his chest area then disposing of Paxton quickly after, goodbye buddy.  The final punk remaining begins to undress at the request of the terminator, sounds kinky doesn’t it?  I’m glad because I didn’t want to stare at a naked Arnold any longer, it’s so distracting.  That’s right he’s naked didn’t I mention this yet?  The human sent back is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), also naked, and let me tell you he’s outmatched in every way.  He starts off by stealing a hobo’s pants and the police really chase him down for it.  Nobody steals a homeless man’s pants and gets away with it in L.A.!  Seriously that’s what happens I can’t believe it either.

Caught with pants up?
                Reese eludes the police by ducking in alleys and breaking into a department store.  He finds shoes and a trench coat but fails to complete the ensemble with a hat.  What is he thinking?  A trench coat without a hat is a difficult fashion to pull off!  The police catch up to him again and there is a moment he confronts one of them.  He demands the date and year.  The policeman looks at him like he’s nuts as Reese aims the policeman’s gun at him.  He abruptly runs away and steals a shotgun straight out of the police car, so careless are these police.  Reese gets away free in the night.  Don’t fret though as the L.A.P.D aren’t going to give up on a man who steals cloths from a homeless man!  I’m never going to forget this now it’s so hilarious.

Why did I skip college?
                Enter Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) she is a waitress at a local restaurant.  She is late for work but that’s just the start of it.  She doesn’t seem to be very good at waitressing as she messes up her first table’s order then gets a scoop of ice cream in her apron.  I’d smack that little brat for doing that to me.  That’s right a poorly raised child tossed it right into her pocket.  I might get fired for rubbing said ice cream into the face of the little turd but I’m not doing well at the job anyway so why not.  Meanwhile the terminator has stolen a car and hot-wired it.  When I was a boy I thought this scene was so hardcore.  He smashes a car window with his fist, rips off the steering column and takes off.  It shows how to steal a vehicle but I never thought I’d be able to; breaking a window with your fist seems too painful!  The terminator heads directly to a gun store and cleans the place out, including the poor sap behind the counter, man did he get blasted.  That’s my buddy (Dick Miller) from Gremlins, you’ll pay for that!  On second thought I’d rather remain “un-terminated”.  I love the terminator loading the shotgun right at the front desk as Dick Miller says, “You can’t do that.”  A bland expressionless terminator aims directly at him then says, “Wrong.”  It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie to be honest.

Didn't this big goon look a tad shady, I mean come on.
                The terminator continues its straight forward robotic mission to kill Sarah Conner.  It pulls up to a phone booth and hurls a man from it.  Luckily for that guy, he’s still alive.  Terminate him too come on!  The terminator locates the targets via phone book; you’ll have to wait for the internet, sorry.  It immediately goes to the first house with Sarah Conner listed as a resident and brutally kills her with its firearm in broad daylight.  It’s obviously programmed to kill anybody with said name as it also kills another Sarah Conner before getting to the waitress Sarah Conner.  Are you following so far?  Arnold’s terminator movements aren’t quite perfected yet so it gets funny at times.

WALL-E's father was more of a destroyer.
                Reese is out and about with his newly sawed off shotgun while Sarah is at her job scoping out all the Sarah Conner deaths on the TV.  Her insensitive co-worker says, “You’re dead honey” What the?  Why would you say that?  Reese now is in a stolen car, I doubt he was able to get a loan, and parked next to a construction site still working after hours.  In 1984 they worked a lot harder I guess.  In my neighborhood it takes a construction outfit years to finish a pavement job.  He dozes off and has dreams of his old life back in the future.  It’s an action romp through desolated ruins.  It’s neat you get to see glimpses of the battles but it’s not as great as I remembered.  I do enjoy the 80’s style of special effects though in the scene.  Reese eventually wakes up and drives off.

Whack that guy in the face with the broken phone!
                Sarah and Ginger, her head-set wearing friend, are getting ready for dates.  Sarah’s date bails on her so she goes out alone while Ginger’s muscle head boyfriend comes over.  The guy tries to sneak a kiss on Sarah as she leaves what a guy!  Reese follows Sarah on her little dinky motor bike.   Later, she is eating her dinner for one at a restaurant when the news on a TV talks about the Sarah Conner killings again.  She begins to worry for obvious reasons.  Who wouldn’t though, a creep out there is killing victims of the exact same name.  She heads to a pay phone to call the police about it while this pervert guy is staring at her in a creepy way.  He’s of no relevance, it’s just weird.  The pay phone is dead though so she must go somewhere else to make a call.  Wouldn’t a cell phone be nice right about now?  Sarah heads out but notices Reese stalking her.  She thinks he’s the killer since he is clearly fitting the description by the way he looks at her so she ducks into a club to hide.  She tries to contact the police but is having a problem getting through.  You can never get a hold of them when you need them.

                The terminator heads to Sarah’s apartment to finish the mission.  If it succeeds does it get to go into retirement?  According to Reese, as he explains later, there is no way back for either of them.  The terminator kills Ginger and her boyfriend easily enough when Sarah calls and leaves a message on the answering machine, remember that cool gadget?  The terminator heads to the club since Sarah just gave away her position.  What a break for the machine on that one, its vacation almost got delayed.  It also finds a photo of her to I.D. her easier.  Without any delay the terminator continues its death march toward Sarah Conner.

The man loves his work!
                Sarah finally gets through to the police in this dreadful 80’s club.  It’s very funny to see the people dancing and the clothes they wear; alas I hope they all get terminated.  She informs them where she is and the policeman knows right away where it is, almost as if he frequents said club, ha-ha!  The terminator and Reese go at it in the club as a few by standers catch the flurry of bullets discharged.  Reese and Sarah naturally evade all of it.  The terminator gets pummeled with infinite firepower from Reese’s pieces (I had to sneak that one in) shotgun until it gets blasted out a window.  It’s a decent action scene I suppose.  The best part of it all is that the club scene is over.  The terminator quickly chases them and clings to the front of the car Reese and Sarah try to escape in.  It’s not a bad extended action sequence until, well let’s let the next paragraph explain it. 

                The car chase follows and boy is it nigh unbearable.  I don’t know how many times a machine built for destruction can miss its targets so much.  It’s the curse of the bad guy I guess, shoot the freaking tires out terminator!  Is that programmed into your wiring?  It’s a drive here, gunfire there, then some screeching tire action kind of scene that I tired of.  The story fill in by an erratic Reese was informative though.  Sarah who accompanied him, in favor of the nutcase with a gun that didn’t seem hostile toward her, listened but could clearly be seen not believing what this guy was jawing about.  He rambles on about a future war between man and machine, where does this guy come up with it?  She can’t grasp how the terminator exists but Reese tells all about it, where it comes from and why it’s here.

                Sarah slowly comes to terms that the terminator is out to kill her.  She believes it because of the evidence before her eyes not so much the lecture Reese is going on about.  The instance she saw the terminator rise to its feet after all that shotgun fire probably had something to do with believing this nonsense as well.  She knows this man Reese is helping so she confides in him.  Reese explains his story as they find a safe area in a parking garage momentarily.  The human race nearly died out but John Conner (Sarah’s son) saved them.  It’s possibly the most interesting part of the movie for me as you finally get the story on why everything’s happening.  I’ve always liked the terminator storyline even though the time travel seems sketchy but it’s made up so it’s all for debate.

I think Arnold's RAM lagged a second here.
                The terminator locates them after acquiring a police car which it uses to track the location of its target.  The car chase continues with all the spray of bullets included that seem to never hit Reese and Sarah time and time again.  They swerve there, gunfire there and finally come to a halt as the police also catch up to them.  The terminator after getting a solid blast of bullets to the head is forced to mysteriously flee the scene after it crashed straight into a concrete wall.  At least the terminator takes abuse since it’s designed to be able to withstand so much.  Where did he go though?  The police were there right away but somehow nobody caught sight of the terminator, how can that be?  It’s a mystery, I guess it turned invisible and took off.  The terminator limits are shown here as it’s forced to retreat for once.  The police take Reese and Sarah into custody not of Reese’s desire however. 

Cleary, CLEARLY Arnold!
                Afterwards the terminator has a gory scene fixing its wounds.  It cuts open its forearm and rips out its eye in repair.  It’s one of the best moments of the movie without a doubt; I still get grossed out when the eyeball pops out.  Apparently it’s used a hotel room of sorts as its base.  It takes some weapons concealed under the mattress and heads straight back out, sporting sunglasses this time though to cover that unsightly missing eyeball.  It must be nice to avoid common setbacks like sleep or eating when you’re a terminator.  Meanwhile the police are finding Reese’s story all too amusing and labeling him a crazy man for all of it.  Reese explains how he was sent back and that destroying the terminator is vital to save mankind but they just assume he’s nuts.  How could you not?  He even thought of elaborate background stories and explained his inability to travel back to the future.  The police will know the truth soon enough, when it comes as an executioner into their police station.  The terminator arrives and does get off the “I’ll be back” line that’s so famous.  It destroys everyone in the place except Reese and Sarah of course.  The terminator does remember the target right?  It kills everyone else as they dodge all the mayhem miraculously as the others perish in a blazing inferno.

The usual pre-terminated atmoshere in 1984.
                Reese and Sarah drive off as the terminator merely walks after them?  Why not give chase and kill them?  Why are you strutting?  Has it malfunctioned a bit from the car wreck?  That’s all I can think of, so we get long awkward dialogue as Reese and Sarah get to know one another.  They talk about John Conner, about being cold; how it feels to time travel you know the usual stuff nowadays.  Eventually they bunk up at a hotel while Reese makes some pipe bombs.  I bet those will come in handy soon!  There also is another future battle scene thrown in here somewhere but it’s kind of the same as before, you know action, explosions and things of that nature.  It’s decent and helps you get another peek at what Reese’s time is like.  I don’t mind a steer away from action in a movie but the dialogue scenes need to be more interesting.  Let’s just say it was bland in feel which tends to be considered boring.

Arnold actually did this on his way to the set, oops!
                Sarah calls her mother from the hotel but she’s dead already and the terminator is pretending to be her.  How you ask?  He’s imitating her voice perfectly so as to learn the location of Sarah.  It’s not a bad trick and it’s funny to see Arnold have a female’s voice come out of his mouth.  Congratulations Sarah you’ve once again ruined your chance at hiding over the phone again.  What is it about women and phones?  Did I cross a line not to be crossed on that one, I hope not!  After Reese and Sarah make John Conner in their hotel bed (why isn’t it John Reese?), the terminator shows up to spoil the party.  The final car chase is now underway.  It’s no different from the other ones except Reese gets shot for a change and the terminator gets ran over by a semi-truck!  I rather enjoyed that scene.  The terminator takes the truck and tells the passenger to “Get out” Arnold is always, always at his best when his dialogue is at a minimum.  The chase ensues as Reese and Sarah somehow outrun the truck until Reese throws his make shift bomb into the rear of the truck.  It explodes big-time of course and melts the terminator’s skin off.  I still don’t understand how they didn’t get run down by the truck.

At least it doesn't randomly explode at the end.
                Sarah and Reese must now flee a slowly moving robotic skeleton.  They decide to go into a manufacturing building to do so.  Reese was about to die, so running outside in the open might not have worked as much as it seemed it would.  I want to recall the previous event in the movie where the terminator crashed and retreated to fix its broken body at the hotel.  It’s in a much more injured state at this point but decides to push on instead of repairing itself to come back at full strength?  Do we chalk it up to a malfunction at this point that it decided against repairs?  Honestly its better it didn’t repair itself but I enjoy poking at that kind of stuff.  I really like the 1980’s stop motion animation action in the finale.  It’s creepy although “not real looking” but it pleases my tastes.  Eventually Reese, using his last bomb, stuffs it inside the robot.  Reese dies in the explosion while the torso of the robot still pursues Sarah.  Does it ever quit?  It drags itself along tediously and the injured Sarah practically does the same.  She crushes it in a machine compressor to finish it, finally!

                In closing Sarah is driving a jeep somewhere in Mexico constantly on the run from fear that at any moment another terminator could show up.  She is shown pregnant with her son, John Conner.  I would have liked to see Sarah as a tough person before Reese shows up and tells her she’s going to be teaching her son how to be a leader fighting robots.  She is nothing like that and the question remains would she ever have been had Reese not shown up?  Probably not since he got her pregnant!  It’s that impracticality that makes you at last say, “Well it’s just a movie.”  When I catch myself saying that then I know the movie is lacking enough to make me try to smooth it over with such a phrase.  Overall I still like the movie but couldn’t Bill Paxton of had a bigger role?  It’s probably just me, ha-ha!

                Rating: 7.5 of 10

I’ve used my own images for this review and hope you find them suitable.
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  1. Great review buddy! BTW in the Naked Arnold vs Bill Paxton pic, the guy to the right of Bill Paxton is Brian Thompson aka Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat Annihilation. 8-P

  2. Hey Scott. Terrific review! I was the creepy guy next to the pay phone with Sarah. Too much fun. I am still acting and now directing and making my own films too. Thanks, Darrell