The Terminator is a classic sci-fi action film from 1984, directed by celebrated filmmaker James Cameron (director of Titanic, Avatar, and more). The movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg on a rampage, doing everything in his power to take a specific human life.
Packed with intrigue, violence, and a gritty tone, this quintessential 80s flick started a massive sci-fi film franchise that continues to this day. Regardless of its merits as a fun action film, does The Terminator still hold up? Let’s find out if this futuristic adventure, complete with time travel, is still as awesome as it was when it released.
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The Film Review
In comparison to other sci-fi flicks, The Terminator offers a mostly straightforward story and doesn’t bombard the viewer with excessive information. After a brief glimpse at a war between man and machines in the year 2029, the story picks up in present-day Los Angeles. A string of grizzly shootings has been occurring in the city, with the killer targeting women named Sarah Connor.
This causes concern for protagonist Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), as she quickly believes she is being followed. What was meant to be a care-free Friday night transforms into a fight for her life, as Sarah seeks help against the deadly Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
The mystery of The Terminator revolves around the motivation and intention of both the Terminator and another stranger named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). As Sarah fights to survive, both she and police attempt to uncover why women named Sarah Connor are being targeted. The movie smartly combines this core mystery with some awesome action scenes, most of which expertly show off the power of the Terminator.
Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a commanding performance as the killer, offering a level of intimidation and pure strength that other movie villains lack. Not only is the Terminator a killing machine, but he’s also highly skilled and unafraid to use any means necessary to reach Sarah.
Despite being produced in the mid-80s, the special effects in The Terminator mostly remain effective and impressive. Although there are some painfully dated CGI and green-screen effects, the majority of the action is performed with practical effects. The use of practical effects heightens the intensity of fight scenes and bodily violence, especially when concerning the Terminator itself.
The movie occasionally toes the line between sci-fi and horror, with some exceptionally gross moments that will stick in your memory.
The Bottom Line
Overall, The Terminator still stands strong as an inventive sci-fi flick with a sufficient amount of action and attitude. The special effects can get a bit rocky from time to time, but luckily the great script and quality performances make up for these visual hiccups. The storytelling remains interesting throughout the movie, keeping you invested in the story when the action slows down.
A decent amount of world-building provides plenty of fuel for a few more movies, ensuring the action continues. If you’re looking for a classic 80s flick that provides some mindless action without sacrificing an interesting story, The Terminator is a great choice.
- Awesome performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Inventive story with a good chunk of mystery
- Great use of practical effects
- Some CGI is painfully dated
- Ends on a sequel-driving cliffhanger