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Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Terminator (1984): An incredible action movie

Movies that are based on science are sometimes successful (take Spielberg's movies - Close Encounters.., ET, Back to the Future, etc), but many more are unsuccessful. All of these movies portray science as not very hostile, and then came in the hard science fiction movies, with Aliens and The Terminator being movies that were more action oriented, less warm and fuzzy, and very successful. For example, The Terminator cost around $6.5 million to make, and earned around $78 million worldwide. It was a critical success as well, and set the stage for sequels to be made. The movie also played a big part in making Arnold Schwarzenegger that super-star that he became.

The Terminator (1984)

The irony around this is that Schwarzenegger was not the first choice for the role, the role of the terminator was initially envisaged to be a small person, not particularly unremarkable. Schwarzenegger was first offered the role of the human from the future, but there was a realization that Schwarzenegger was better suited for the role of the terminator, and that automatically made the role of the terminator to be a big muscular man.
The movie is based on the concept of a future where the machines rule and the humans are fighting back, led by a brave and great hero, John Connor. The machines are able to plan a great deal, including creating robots with living tissue over a metal skeleton (cyborg) in order to better infiltrate the rebel humans, but are unable to score a clear victory. And then the machine leader, the intelligent network Skynet, thinks of a diabolical plan (although would be apparent to anybody in the age of time travel). A cyborg is sent back to 1984 to kill the mother of the rebel leader, Sarah Connor (based in Los Angeles). The humans are able to also send back a rebel soldier, Kyle Reese, to try and protect her.
And thus start the action. The cyborg is a robot, it cannot be reasoned with, it cannot be destroyed with small arms fire, and is ruthless. The robot starts with the phone book, where 3 Sarah Connors are listed. It kills the first 2, and is hunting for the third. When he is trying to kill the third, she is protected by Kyle, who explains his mission and who the cyborg actually is. He can only use current machinery since time travel did not allow him to get back superior weapons, a handicap against the cyborg, aka the Terminator.
When the terminator attacks again, there is a chase, where they are arrested. Typically, the police see a number of weirdos every day, and if you start to spin a story about a robot from the future trying to kill, then it is unlikely that you will be believed, especially if being examined by a shrink. And so their story is not believed. The terminator arrives at the police station and asks for Sarah and Kyle, but is thwarted. Then comes an epic one liner, "I'll be back !", and so he does, attaching the police station with a powerful vehicle.
A full scale attack on a police station ? The police fight back, but against a terminator incapable of being killed by their weapons, useless. The terminator kills 17 policeman, but Reese manages to escape with Sarah. They try to hide at a motel where Reese shows Sarah how to make pipe bombs. The scene turns a bit romantic, no doubt furthered by the close escape from the terminator, and they make love (ending up conceiving the future leader, John).
The Terminator manages to track them down, and the situation is now near the end-game. Reese is wounded in the attack, but are able to attack the terminator with a bomb, causing extensive damage to its metal skeleton. However, even the remaining shell of the skeleton is after them, and they escape into a factory. Reese manages to destroy the legs of the Terminator, but at the cost of his own life. It is Sarah who finally destroys the upper part of the skeleton in a machine press, where finally the terminator is killed / terminated / made inactive.
The movie ends with scenes showing Sarah preparing for the future, pregnant with Reese's son (who will become John), traveling in Mexico, staring into an uncertain future.
The movie has a big cycle around time that could confuse you if you started thinking around it. The man who will save the rebel humans is John Connor, son of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. Reese in turn is a man from the future, who only came into Sarah's life because he was sent back by John. This is a cycle, with no start and end.

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