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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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.
Watching the film, it's no surprise why "The Terminator" is a classic amongst action lovers. However, what did surprise me is how well-crafted it is. It has a smart script by Cameron and Hurd, and they create such a vivid universe and strong characters (especially its "Halloween"-level sculpting of the titular villain). It's a film that fully deserves the designation "often imitated, never duplicated."