The Terminator is low budget film making at its absolute best, now that might seem like hyperbole to some of you, but I honestly believe it. Despite The Terminator being a low budget movie, it's absolutely incredible how James Cameron crafted this impeccable gem out of so very little. Freshly fired from his first directing job, which he didn't complete, James Cameron scraped some money together and set about bringing his passion project to life. James cast the bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was considered a joke as an actor at the time as the killer cyborg. Then James Cameron filled out the rest of the cast with who were largely unknowns. Linda Hamilton who? Michael Biehn who? Yet The Terminator has an undeniably cinematic quality and scope to it.
The acting was perfect, Arnold was perfectly in his element as the emotionless and remorseless cyborg, but that's not to say that he wasn't acting, he most definitely was and he was chilling as the villain. It's sad that he's never been able to be the villain in another Terminator movie again. Michael Biehn brought an earnest intensity, sincerity and vulnerability to his role as Kyle Reese. Linda Hamilton was believable as a woman who inadvertently found herself thrust into a battle for the future of the planet. The cinematography is more on point than I think a lot of people realize, just watch some of the long tracking shots and the framing of shots, it's terrific work. The score is unforgettable, everyone knows it, it's infamous at this point. The special effects are incredible, Stan Winston was a visual genius. The horror I felt watching the terminator rise up out of the flames and chase Kyle and Sarah down that corridor is still as strong as it was over thirty years ago.
Yet holding all these elements together flawlessly is James Cameron's script. It's a deceptively simple, yet mind-boggling complex tale. It never gets convoluted, or overly simplistic. It's perfectly stimulating sci-fi entertainment that's challenging, yet never frustrating. In a last ditch effort to win the war against the resistance, Skynet sends a terminator back in time to retroactively kill the leader of the resistance before he was ever born, John Connor. To counter Skynet's gamble, the resistance sends back one soldier to protect Sarah Connor, and so the battle for the future, rages on in the past. It's great stuff.
The Terminator was originally conceived by James Cameron after a terrifying nightmare he once had, and he then proceeded to inflict his nightmare on people around the world, but The Terminator is so much more than just a sci-fi horror movie as well. The Terminator really played on the public's concerns regarding the rapid strides that technology was making at the time and the fears that that technology could potentially overtake us all one day, the very ones who created it in the first place. Yet among all the terror and dread, there beats a romance that never overtakes the plot or slows down the action, but is as strong and as passionate as any other romance I've seen in a sci-fi horror movie.
The Terminator still stands as a testament to the advantages of low budget film making and the freedom that comes with it to do something truly special. It's a thrilling, thought-provoking and exceptionally well made movie that kicked off an entire franchise. I think, perhaps the greatest compliment I could give The Terminator is that I've seen thousands of shitty looking expensive movies, but rarely have I ever seen a low budget movie that looks as impressive and as expensive as The Terminator did.
Written by - The Sentry - 25/06/2015