Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Cinema: The Terminator

After watching Yul Brynner relentlessly stalk Peter Martin in Westworld, I was raring to go for one of my favorite films to screen, James Cameron's The Terminator.  Famous for their vault of trailers, the New Bev staff played a few appropriate "killer robot" pieces like Demon Seed and Blade Runner beforehand.

This would be the third time I've seen Terminator on the big screen in three years.  The first was at the Egyptian in Hollywood for the 25th Anniversary; cinematographer Adam Greenberg and some of the special f/x crew were in attendance.  The second time would be paired with the sequel, Terminator 2:  Judgement Day, also at the Egyptian, as part of their Mayan Calendar Countdown series.

But tonight's viewing as part of Edgar Wright's The World's End Is Nigh curating was probably the most enjoyable.  I came to the realization that the film, along with titles like The Great Escape, Big Trouble In Little China, Masters of the Universe and Gunfight at the OK Corral had firmly become one of my favorites of all time.  The acting, actors, characters, story, action; it's all there bundled up in a kinetic, exciting, emotional, scary and romantic tale of science fiction time travel consequence.

If you haven't seen this movie but still read my blog I applaud you because I'm a non-sequitur mother fucker with a mind for movie details and healthy obsession with few subjects.  Anyways, The Terminator is about an assassin and a protector sent back from a nuclear war torn, post-apocalyptic future.  Their target is a young woman whose son will grow up and lead the human resistance against the controlling body of self aware computers.  The assassin, a cybernetic organism covered in human flesh, is played by none other than the King of Kings, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Protector/soldier/father of the future Kyle Reese is played by soon to be Cameron alum Michael Biehn while mother of the resistance Sarah Connor is portrayed by future ex-Mrs. James Cameron Linda Hamilton.

Some viewers might contend that T2:  Judgement Day is the better film but I strongly disagree.  Sure T2 is great with fine production values, a wonderful cast, pulse pounding action and groundbreaking f/x but Terminator's down and dirty, shot on the streets, guerrilla style "B-movie" quality makes it one of and the first of it's kind.  From Bill Paxton's small role as a blue haired, tire tread marked punk to Arnold's accented cold blooded killer to the poodle hairdo's to Rick Rossovich's "Don't make me bust you up man!" to Reese's sawed off shotgun and sweet Nike Vandals with Velcro straps to shootouts, shotgun blasts, Uzi sprays, alley running, corner screeching car pursuits and plastic explosive dinner recipes; I fucking love this movie.

The film's ingenuity comes from it's simple storyline that deals with immediate threats (That Terminator is out there!) and long term ramifications (John Connor brings humanity back from the brink of extinction).  As co-star Lance Henriksen (originally slated to play the title role but ended up as a cop along with Paul Winfield) once said, the real star of The Terminator is Michael Biehn, whose character Reese is tasked with filling in the story for Sarah and the audience but it's cleverly placed between and during action sequences so it never gets stale.  Bishop is right as the film hinges on Reese's character and Biehn gives a phenomenal performance that is both physical and vulnerable.

For a movie that was only supposed to play for a few weeks like an 80's Charles Bronson vehicle, The Terminator has certainly stood the test of time since it's release 30 years ago.  A new trilogy is in the works (sans Cameron but that's another rant, I mean post) following 2 sequels, a prequel and a television series.  In a strange bit of coincidence, today is James Cameron's birthday.  I hope he continues to create and innovate for another 30 years.

A nice vintage making of:

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