In a post-apocalyptic future, a killer cyborg, encased in human flesh, is sent into the past to to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of a future rebel chief who will lead insurgents against 21st century mechanical hegemony.
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Box office smash that launched the careers of both Cameron and Schwarzenegger. Working from a B-movie template Cameron's well written film flipped the sci-fi genre making the villain the character the audience enjoyed more ('I'll be back'). The mythology was sound and expanded in the much bigger sequel that would come 7 years later.
I do not get the cult around terminator. Did watch it, then, when it came out, with boredom. And the sequels, with some interest, to see how the story would end. But it doesn't work for me. The theme (the singularity) is interesting, but there are better movies about. Even recent ones. Maybe the credit should be given for bringing the human/machine war theme to mainsstream, for that pioneering. But it's still boring.
"The Terminator" has possibly the greatest delivery of exposition in any genre movie. Michael Biehn is spouting off about cyborgs and a future war but, first of all, you don't know if he's crazy or not; he's explaining all this while being hounded by the police AND the Terminator, and he's in the process of stealing a car; but Biehn's performance is so full of conviction, you're taken in by every word he says.
The dated effects only make this film more poignant. The obvious animatronics and stop motion animation act as a check point and a sort of barometer for actual robotics technology. To know how far that technology has advanced in the relatively short time since this film's release makes the premise all the more horrific.
Reese is the unsung hero of the film... but the physicality, charisma and one-liners of the Terminator inevitably made Schwarzenegger the big star of the film (and whole franchise, eventually). 34 years later this is still enjoyable to watch, a straightforward action flick that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Well, it's no Terminator 2, but... Gah! The opening credits, the low-angle shots, that moment of intimacy when the Terminator is tending its wounds and our empathy is raised only to be skewered, like its eyeball on that scalpel, by its complete lack of humanity. That relentless robot torso... And watching Sarah Connor grow into the badass role model she'd soon become for little-girl me. 3.5. Fair and square.