Director: James Cameron

THE TERMINATOR (1984)Most action movies seem to just blend together. Gunshots, explosions, meathead heroes, and generic villains. But there's been one film that's stood out in both the action and sci-fi genres, withstanding the test of time as one of the most popular movies ever. You might have heard of it. It's a little flick called The Terminator.

The year is 1984. Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton) is an average girl in Los Angeles, with a crappy waitress job and a ditzy, man-crazy roommate. Sarah doesn't know it yet, but she's an important woman. Her yet-to-be-conceived son John will lead the human race to victory in a nuclear war against an artificial intelligence called "Skynet" in the year 2029. It's around that time that the machines devise a plan to win the war before it begins. They send a cyborg assassin called the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to kill Sarah before John is born, thus preventing him from leading the Human Resistance.

Luckily for her, the human army has discovered Skynet's scheme, sending their own soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), to the past to protect her. Will the Terminator accomplish its mission, or will Reese be successful and protect Sarah and the unborn John? (Since there's two more Terminator movies, I guess the answer is obvious. Work with me, people. I'm trying to establish some drama.)

So we've got all the elements of an action/sci-fi movie. A robot from the future that likes to shoot people and blow stuff up goes back in time to shoot women named Sarah Connor and blow up stuff in 1984. What's more action and sci-fi than that? It also made Arnold a bona fide superstar. Sure, there were those Conan movies and Pumping Iron and the Mr. Universe titles, but playing a machine made him famous. Maybe you could blame James Cameron for casting him in the role that made him famous, prompting him to make movies like Batman & Robin and Jingle All The Way before becoming the governor of California. And you thought you hated James Cameron for making Titanic. Now you can hate him for having a hand in making a Austrian bodybuilder the leader of the most important state in America. (I kid, Arnold. Please don't go back in time and kill my parents. I like my parents.) Regardless of all that, this movie's a classic for good reason. We've got a love story between Reese and Sarah, explosions, Arnold being the baddest mofo ever, explosions, time travel, a shootout in a nightclub, explosions, and the line "I'll be back." Oh, and explosions. Guns too. Lots of them. What's not to love?

First off, I think the casting was great. Arnold is perfect in his role, as the heartless killing machine. It's weird knowing that O.J. Simpson was once considered for such a recognizable character, but was turned down because nobody thought he could be believable in the role. And really, does O.J. Simpson look like a killer to you? O.J. aside, Arnold is extremely fitting for the role. Sure, he doesn't have a lot of lines, but he doesn't need to speak to be effective. He accomplishes that by having such a dominating screen presence. Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton are great as well. Biehn really works well as the soldier sacrificing everything to protect Sarah, while Hamilton gives off the "helpless damsel in distress" vibe that her character needed. It's unfortunate that Biehn's best scene (which is included on the DVD) was cut from the movie, because I think it could have given his character some depth. Eh, can't have everything, I guess. Brad Fiedel's score was also perfect. It sounds almost robotic, which I found to be extremely fitting. It made certain scenes (like the nightclub shootout, and the Terminator rising from the ashes of the destroyed tanker truck near the end of the movie) work extremely well, as did John Cameron's direction. His utilization of slow-motion in some scenes (like the aforementioned nightclub shootout) makes them much more effective.

Overall, I'll give the movie three-and-a-half stars out of five. It'd have been four or maybe even five, but there's just some stuff in the movie I didn't like. The movie's low budget really shows in some parts, especially the scene where the Terminator gives itself repairs, and a shot of the skinless Terminator chasing Sarah and Reese. Those things can be forgiven, but it's still distracting. But overall, I liked the movie. Recommended.

Final Rating: ***