The Terminator (1984) (R)

Not only the movie that launched James Cameron's name into superstardom but also confirmed Arnold Schwarzenegger as a hugely successful actor, "The Terminator" combines all the tryings of fellow directors to make an effortlessly entertaining sensation and it blows them all out of the water.
Owing a lot of its success to "Alien"—Cameron would later direct a sequel—"The Terminator" reminds us that people were always concerned about the ramifications of the digital age. How far is going too far? Apparently, "The Terminator" thinks that any technology is bad; then again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Beginning in 2029 in an apocalyptic world where machines seem to dominate the entire world, we are thrown back in time to a night in 1984. Lighting sparks from the sky and a naked Arnold lands next to a surprised garbage man who promptly runs off.
Still spewing a few sparks, the nude body builder runs off into the night and comes across three good-for-nothing teenagers. This is typical. The first person that the uber-bad guy will kill is someone who may deserve it; but it proves that he is committed to killing. Then we can be afraid of him.
Sure enough, he rips one of the guys' hearts out with his bare hands and then demands clothing.
On the same night, another lightning storm occurs and another naked guy drops from the sky. This one seems less *ahem* intimidating than the first; but he seems more agile. The cops spy him just putting on clothes and they chase him; but he gets away. Then he finds a phone book and looks up the name Sarah Connor and then stalks off in the night.
First naked dude, who now is clothed, is also looking for Sarah Connor so naturally Sarah is the next character that we visit.
A plucky and energetic, easily disturbed young waitress, Sarah Connor is a hipster in training. She's the girl that's easy to cheer for. Sarah doesn't realize that she has two post-naked men looking for her, both armed with guns—ignorance is bliss.
A woman named Sarah Connor is killed, not our Sarah Connor. Our leading lady hears of this and shrugs it off as a freak coincidence but the audience knows better.
Becoming aware that people are hunting her down, Sarah has to survive and hopefully save humanity.
"The Terminator" is not a great movie, it takes too long to establish all of its emotions and it tries too hard to be the most of itself. It tries to bring tears, chills, laughter, is mostly successful in some of these; but definitely not all of them.
James Cameron always has been one to indulge himself so its no surprise that we see a lot of it here; but that doesn't make the film bad...on the contrary. "The Terminator" is actually a very smart movie, the thought behind it appearing to be very far ahead of its time. Technology will kill us, at least in the world the film creates, and it's not hard to see the science fiction that spawned from this. From "I, Robot" to some of the "Star Trek" spin-off series, the movie is certainly influential.
What I didn't appreciate about the film was how often the action gets truncated for the sappy, "Top Gun" style of nonsense...another movie that tried to ride of the success of the action movie, defined and redefined by Cameron.
Birthing its own series, "The Terminator" is a movie that you should see at least once, just to say you have. It's so entertaining, I don't think you'll regret it.

Score: ★★★½

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