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The Test of Time: The Terminator (1984)

Feb. 8, 2013by: Ryan Doom

 Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn

We all have movies we love and respect without question out of either tradition, childhood love, or because we’ve always been told that said movie was some fancy pants classic. However, as time keeps ticking and Hollywood continues to pump out new and three-time-over recycled material, do those classics still hold up? Do they still deliver the same impact as they once did X amount of years ago? As technology changes, hell as society and issues evolve in general, many movies are locked in an airtight, suffocating time capsule.

So…the point of this here column is whether of not a film stands the test of time. I’m not gonna question whether it’s still a good flick, but if the thing holds up for a modern audience.

Under the examination: The Terminator.

Now, James Cameron is basically a god. I’m sure somewhere in the world, there’s a golden man/cow statue of him where worshipers bow down to his ability to create films that earn billions of dollars despite reusing the same basic plot. Hell, I’m thinking of starting a church now. But revisiting his breakthrough film in 1984 is interesting. I remember some scenes so vividly. The shootout in Tech-Noir. The skull crushing of the Terminator foot. The “how to build a pipe bomb safely” scene. Sarah Conner getting’ all nude. However, it’s a movie I haven’t revisited for a long time, and when I did I realized certain things. While the movie still holds up as far as action and on sci-fi merit, it’s forever time-stamped. Dated. For better or for worse. But I’ll get to that.

Robots hate techno.

THE STORY: In case some how you’re either 11 or somehow missed one of the biggest sci-fi franchises out there, The Terminator is a bit complicated but I’ll simplify. Sarah Conner is the mother of the unborn John Conner, a dude who in the future robots hate because he’s the leader of the human resistance. And since robots are dicks, they send a killer machine back in time to, well, kill her before he’s born. The only thing standing in his way is a common future human fighter, techno music, and a pair of Gargoyle shades.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Arnold. As his first movie in decade (The Last Stand) hits theaters, he looks damn amazing at his peak. He’s a bit stiff, can’t speak, can’t act, yet the camera loves the guy like no one else. And when he does speak, he delivers a career one-liner that probably all actors and writers dream of creating. In fact, that moment is perhaps the best tension-filled scene on film. Going from “I’ll be back" to the massacre of cops is both frightening and thrilling, but under current social conditions watching it today its strangely difficult. Nevertheless, it's a powerful, unrelenting moment. Psychically, Arnold is obviously massive, but his “unique” looks created a superstar. His limitations made the character. And damn, it still holds up, and even having him dress in a punk outfit still works, but it rings 1984 and dangles the line of looking menacing and just silly.

The acting all around is top notch. Hamilton (besides Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley) is perhaps one of the finest female characters. Her journey from scooter loving, lizard hating every girl to the destroyer of cyborgs is quite an acting job. Her transformation is much deeper than say Michael Biehn's, but his acting equally impresses. Actually, I’m always surprised his career never fully took off. Dude looks and acts like a desperate man with a single mission. In fact, part of The Terminator’s classic status comes because every involved DID take the movie seriously. This is sci-fi drama at its finest and should never be removed from its perch atop of whatever sci-fi fans look up to. And while the franchise continues to pump out movies, it’ll never diminish what Cameron delivered. Despite what I may bitch about below, The Terminator still has a raw power that’s nearly impossible to duplicate.

Maybe not the best close-up.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Firstly, the Terminator suffers from a few things that don’t age well. Some things small, some things big. The introduction of Sarah Conner arriving on a scooter with some awful elevator music speaks of stupidity. I never understood her introduction. It’s such a light moment with her enjoying a sunny day on her scooter, heading to a shit job where a brat dumps ice cream in her apron. I understand its purpose to set up her character and where she’s headed, but still it stinks of four month old cheese. From here, the music never really improves. Oh sure, the “dun dun dun da-dun” score is amazingly perfect, but overall, the soundtrack plays dreadfully dated. While other movies from that time like early John Carpenter stuff also suffers from synthesizer overload, Carpenter’s material feels more like another character, not just part of the material, not just added annoyance...especially during the slow-mo parts. Those parts play painfully dated, and not surprisingly, Cameron avoided most of that in T2. If only John Woo learned...

Listen, we all know what Cameron became. Dude’s a master filmmaker, and while no one will confuse him as an artistic director, he creates event movies that have as much heart and as action. With that said, he was definitely still cutting his teeth here. Some moments play a little forced if not downright stupid. I won’t knock the effects (because they’re still pretty damn good and done on a zero budget), but I can knock the pacing as Cameron has a way of dragging things out. He gave The Terminator heart despite the painfully high death count and the thing wouldn't work without the love of Reese/Conner but...Jesus, at times this movie drags on forever. It never really finds a good momentum. When the action hits it slaps the audience stupid, but the down time between shootouts feels the most dated of all. We needed the character development, but perhaps we could have learned so things in a different manner (I’m looking at you under-the-bridge-scene). I guess it could’ve been worse. Maybe he could have had the Terminator fall in love? He was a cyborg…with a heart?

Nothing says 1984 like a punk wearing a leather tie.

Other stuff that doesn't stand the test of the time is mostly minor. I like how Reese -- after a busy day of time traveling, evading the cops, stealing the pants off a homeless dude-- hotwires a car, passes out, and dreams of an elaborate action sequence where he burns to death. What’s this trying to tell of us? He’s afraid of fire? The scene, while still badass, plays forced in order to show us his world. But whatever. Without him passing out we would have never seen the future…which would have sucked. Something else that doesn’t make much since comes during Arnold’s gun shopping. Why is he inspecting the weapons, like holding them up to check the sight? He’s a Terminator. Wouldn’t he know immediately? Does he actually look down the barrel of the gun? I'm pretty sure that infrared-mode works just dandy.

THE VERDICT: I’ve always loved the Terminator franchise. When done right, it's dark, brooding, and badass. While 1991’s T2 (which obviously had the advantage of a budget) barely feels dated, I can’t say the same for the original. It will always be a classic, but it won’t age well with time.

GET THE TERMINATOR DVD HERE

GET THE TERMINATOR BLU RAY HERE

Still on hold for another sequel.

Extra Tidbit: How do you think The Terminator holds up?

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12:43AM on 02/10/2013

This piece is click baiting.

Of course this fine film stands the test of time. It has nostalgia status, cult status, and technical status that surpass time. Conversely, of course there are points that show this film is dated, but they're easily overshadowed by the positive sides. Don't nitpick these kind of films, please.... You're attempt to develop what can be a reasonable series of articles off of a TIME, trued film has failed.

My suggestions:
1. Lethal Weapon
2. Top Gun
3. The Thing (just cause it deserves the
Of course this fine film stands the test of time. It has nostalgia status, cult status, and technical status that surpass time. Conversely, of course there are points that show this film is dated, but they're easily overshadowed by the positive sides. Don't nitpick these kind of films, please.... You're attempt to develop what can be a reasonable series of articles off of a TIME, trued film has failed.

My suggestions:
1. Lethal Weapon
2. Top Gun
3. The Thing (just cause it deserves the praise of being THE MOST TIMELESS FILM EVER)
Your Reply:



7:01PM on 02/09/2013
Even if it's only as a prequel, The Terminator will hold up. Because, simply put, there's a lot of stuff in T2, like why is Sarah Connors in an institution, that doesn't make sense without the first one. I actually prefer The Terminator, in part because I think Arnold makes a far more compelling bad guy (at least, you know, as a cyborg).

If I have a complaint about this movie (actually, I have a few, but most were covered above) it's the plot device of Sarah and Reese's romance. It's a
Even if it's only as a prequel, The Terminator will hold up. Because, simply put, there's a lot of stuff in T2, like why is Sarah Connors in an institution, that doesn't make sense without the first one. I actually prefer The Terminator, in part because I think Arnold makes a far more compelling bad guy (at least, you know, as a cyborg).

If I have a complaint about this movie (actually, I have a few, but most were covered above) it's the plot device of Sarah and Reese's romance. It's a paradox that makes no sense to me. If Kyle Reese is the father, and he wasn't even alive yet, how did John Connors ever get to be? At least Cameron eluded to the absurdity of it when Sarah's documenting her story for John.
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1:49PM on 02/09/2013
"While other movies from that time like early John Carpenter stuff also suffers from synthesizer overload,"

Of all the composers to single out for "synthesizer overload", Carpenter is about as minimalist as you can get. And complaining that a synth score suffers from "synthesizer overload" is a bit like complaining that a drum solo has too much percussion in it.

I'd argue that Carpenter's scores have, by and large, stood the test of time because they don't sound like "typical" 80s
"While other movies from that time like early John Carpenter stuff also suffers from synthesizer overload,"

Of all the composers to single out for "synthesizer overload", Carpenter is about as minimalist as you can get. And complaining that a synth score suffers from "synthesizer overload" is a bit like complaining that a drum solo has too much percussion in it.

I'd argue that Carpenter's scores have, by and large, stood the test of time because they don't sound like "typical" 80s synth-based movie scores.
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11:18AM on 02/09/2013
It definitely stands the test of time, It will always be a classic, I agree there are moments that make it dated but hey it was made in 1984, you have to expect that and respect it. I even like some of the scenes where Arnold repairs himself...but it shows you how far technology has come in almost 30 years.
It definitely stands the test of time, It will always be a classic, I agree there are moments that make it dated but hey it was made in 1984, you have to expect that and respect it. I even like some of the scenes where Arnold repairs himself...but it shows you how far technology has come in almost 30 years.
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5:59AM on 02/09/2013
Regardless of it stands or falls to time with everyone else it is eternally awesome with me. That's what's important.
Regardless of it stands or falls to time with everyone else it is eternally awesome with me. That's what's important.
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1:28AM on 02/09/2013
Lets not kid ourselves the FX are totally dated and just like JAWS and I suspect, you haven't seen the movie recently. That screen grab up there of the terminator missing an 'eye' says alot.
Cameron obviously saw this didn't make the same mistake twice because I still think the [link] in T2 (essentially a remake of the 1st one) looked much better. But one has to appreciate the effort made by T1 which was quite daring at the time and possibly the reason it still receives praise.

In terms of
Lets not kid ourselves the FX are totally dated and just like JAWS and I suspect, you haven't seen the movie recently. That screen grab up there of the terminator missing an 'eye' says alot.
Cameron obviously saw this didn't make the same mistake twice because I still think the [link] in T2 (essentially a remake of the 1st one) looked much better. But one has to appreciate the effort made by T1 which was quite daring at the time and possibly the reason it still receives praise.

In terms of plot, as with most time travel movies, it doesnt hold up to well. Long story short; how does Kyle Reese become John's father BEFORE going to the past? Was he alive too in 1984? If so shouldn't he be an old guy in the future? I dunno maybe Kyle took over the father 'duties' before Sara was to meet her (pun unintended) future hubby when the terminator showed up? If so, John should be lucky he didn't become Jane Connor in the future.

Overall its still a good movie.
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2:54AM on 02/09/2013
btw what did you/do you mean by "psychically"? Is that even a word?
btw what did you/do you mean by "psychically"? Is that even a word?
3:46AM on 02/09/2013
It¬īs sort of weird time travel logic, John Connor had to send Kyle Reese back to the past not just because of saving his mother from the terminator but Kyle is the reason he even existed in the first place. Guess he was kind of aware of that.
It¬īs sort of weird time travel logic, John Connor had to send Kyle Reese back to the past not just because of saving his mother from the terminator but Kyle is the reason he even existed in the first place. Guess he was kind of aware of that.
3:30PM on 02/09/2013
Lots of Time travel films deal with this sort of goofy plot line. In T2 they go all the teck from the T1 arm and chip. The film Looper deals with the same logic. this tends to be a form of logic that time travel films all like to use.

I agree with you 100% about T2 being basically a remake of T1 only not nearly as good.

And yes the effects are dated but they don't ruin the film.
Lots of Time travel films deal with this sort of goofy plot line. In T2 they go all the teck from the T1 arm and chip. The film Looper deals with the same logic. this tends to be a form of logic that time travel films all like to use.

I agree with you 100% about T2 being basically a remake of T1 only not nearly as good.

And yes the effects are dated but they don't ruin the film.
4:12PM on 02/09/2013
+10
10:24PM on 02/08/2013

Did you rewatch the film???

You said about Sarah "Her journey from scooter loving, lizard hating every girl" Um dude Sarah Loves Lizards. It's her Lizard that she Kisses. Also you said you remember the Terminator crushing the skull. Well In T2 you remember that but it never happened in T1. I wonder if you rewatched the film for this article or if you just went on memory.

As far as your opinion on the score. Well as synth scores Terminator is up there with the best. T2 had the same composer but to less effect. The
You said about Sarah "Her journey from scooter loving, lizard hating every girl" Um dude Sarah Loves Lizards. It's her Lizard that she Kisses. Also you said you remember the Terminator crushing the skull. Well In T2 you remember that but it never happened in T1. I wonder if you rewatched the film for this article or if you just went on memory.

As far as your opinion on the score. Well as synth scores Terminator is up there with the best. T2 had the same composer but to less effect. The music is still there it's just not much of a score. T1 has many highlights. The Terminator "heart beat" whenever he is on screen. The main theme. The attack on the police station. Sure there are some dated synth moments but nothing that detracts from the film like some other 80's tracks do. As far as Sarah into. What do you want?? It is showing her as the everyday girl. Nothing more. It makes her transformation to female bad ass that much better.

All that being said I think T1 holds up better then T2. Mostly because it is the better film. Your complaints about T1 dragging. T1 has nothing on T2 in that department.

Either way it was a good read. Perhaps I feel so strongly against your point because I just watched the new remastered version on Blu ray and it was amazing. Still is and always will be the best of the series!!!
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+10
10:22PM on 02/08/2013

Did you rewatch the film???

You said about Sarah "Her journey from scooter loving, lizard hating every girl" Um dude Sarah Loves Lizards. It's her Lizard that she Kisses. Also you said you remember the Terminator crushing the skull. Well In T2 you remember that but it never happened in T1. I wonder if you rewatched the film for this article or if you just went on memory.

As far as your opinion on the score. Well as synth scores Terminator is up there with the best. T2 had the same composer but to less effect. The
You said about Sarah "Her journey from scooter loving, lizard hating every girl" Um dude Sarah Loves Lizards. It's her Lizard that she Kisses. Also you said you remember the Terminator crushing the skull. Well In T2 you remember that but it never happened in T1. I wonder if you rewatched the film for this article or if you just went on memory.

As far as your opinion on the score. Well as synth scores Terminator is up there with the best. T2 had the same composer but to less effect. The music is still there it's just not much of a score. T1 has many highlights. The Terminator "heart beat" whenever he is on screen. The main theme. The attack on the police station. Sure there are some dated synth moments but nothing that detracts from the film like some other 80's tracks do. As far as Sarah into. What do you want?? It is showing her as the everyday girl. Nothing more. It makes her transformation to female bad ass that much better.

All that being said I think T1 holds up better then T2. Mostly because it is the better film. Your complaints about T1 dragging. T1 has nothing on T2 in that department.

Either way it was a good read. Perhaps I feel so strongly against your point because I just watched the new remastered version on Blu ray and it was amazing. Still is and always will be the best of the series!!!
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9:25PM on 02/08/2013

Terminator is suppose to be dated it's SET IN 1984!

It's kind of genius if you think about it. If you remade this film you would not be able to represent the authenticity of actually shooting i 1984 on film and representing the feel of 1984!
The film is PERFECT shot for shot and the pacing! The score is unreal, it's depressing that films don't continue this trend, though some stuff still keeps the vibe alive! (Drive I'm looking at you!)
Possibly the greatest film ever made in my opinion!
The second best film ever made is Aliens: Director's
It's kind of genius if you think about it. If you remade this film you would not be able to represent the authenticity of actually shooting i 1984 on film and representing the feel of 1984!
The film is PERFECT shot for shot and the pacing! The score is unreal, it's depressing that films don't continue this trend, though some stuff still keeps the vibe alive! (Drive I'm looking at you!)
Possibly the greatest film ever made in my opinion!
The second best film ever made is Aliens: Director's Cut.
End of Story, end of History
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8:15PM on 02/08/2013

Yeah, Dude. Shut up, It will Always Be The Shit

First of all, I know I am in the minority, but the original Terminator is the best in the series, the second actually mirrors the first scene for scene, it is remarkable when you look at them, they are the same film, and for that reason the first is a more perfect, less compromised story. Also, the minority opinion can be the more right opinion, I mean most of today's truth's were once the minority opinion,
First of all, I know I am in the minority, but the original Terminator is the best in the series, the second actually mirrors the first scene for scene, it is remarkable when you look at them, they are the same film, and for that reason the first is a more perfect, less compromised story. Also, the minority opinion can be the more right opinion, I mean most of today's truth's were once the minority opinion,
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+3
7:39PM on 02/08/2013
Do WarGames next! =D
Do WarGames next! =D
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7:38PM on 02/08/2013
Love this idea for an article, but disagree on the verdict. I think that The Terminator holds up really well still. I've shown it to people for the first time as recently as a year ago and they loved it.

Personally, I even like the score (though I know a lot of people think that synth scores are lame and dated, I've always thought it was a shame that they went out of style).
Love this idea for an article, but disagree on the verdict. I think that The Terminator holds up really well still. I've shown it to people for the first time as recently as a year ago and they loved it.

Personally, I even like the score (though I know a lot of people think that synth scores are lame and dated, I've always thought it was a shame that they went out of style).
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5:42PM on 02/08/2013

It was the 80's

I kinda understand what you said about the punk clothes being dated but he had to wear clothes from the 80s, cause it was the 80s...What?! Was the terminator suppose to stop in 2005, grab some skinny jeans and a Maroon 5 T-shirt, then travel back to the 80s so the clothes he was wearing would hold up over time?
I kinda understand what you said about the punk clothes being dated but he had to wear clothes from the 80s, cause it was the 80s...What?! Was the terminator suppose to stop in 2005, grab some skinny jeans and a Maroon 5 T-shirt, then travel back to the 80s so the clothes he was wearing would hold up over time?
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2:20PM on 02/08/2013
Disagree with your cons, a lot of them don't make sense to me.

Reese is from a war torn future, of course he will have nightmares about it. This shows us what kind of person he is, pure warrior with dreams of destruction. The opening shot of Connor shows us how mundane her life is that she enjoys the small things in life like riding a scooter to a shitty job. The music? Any music from the 80'srocks and as another poster said, is a product of their time, like movies.

I won't argue with
Disagree with your cons, a lot of them don't make sense to me.

Reese is from a war torn future, of course he will have nightmares about it. This shows us what kind of person he is, pure warrior with dreams of destruction. The opening shot of Connor shows us how mundane her life is that she enjoys the small things in life like riding a scooter to a shitty job. The music? Any music from the 80'srocks and as another poster said, is a product of their time, like movies.

I won't argue with pacing, as it is usually to each their own, but for the next article I hope you dive into the film with greater detail and pick things that actually count as cons.
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12:31AM on 02/10/2013
I agree. I don'tnotice any pacing issues and the "under the bridge" sequence was very relevant AND important. That scene alone inspired, IMO, a lot of the imagery for the franchise.
I agree. I don'tnotice any pacing issues and the "under the bridge" sequence was very relevant AND important. That scene alone inspired, IMO, a lot of the imagery for the franchise.
+16
2:40AM on 02/08/2013
Sorry. What a fucking stupid column and article. Movies are products of their time. They donīt have to "age well"! If you want a classic movie feeling contemporary (with music, clothes and whatever), youīve got tho remake it every 10 years or so. Which ruins the basic premise and the very core of the movie that turned it into a classic after all.
Sorry. What a fucking stupid column and article. Movies are products of their time. They donīt have to "age well"! If you want a classic movie feeling contemporary (with music, clothes and whatever), youīve got tho remake it every 10 years or so. Which ruins the basic premise and the very core of the movie that turned it into a classic after all.
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+10
3:53PM on 02/07/2013
While I just can't grumble with your pro's of the movie when it comes to your cons for me it kinda loses it (for me)and some point feel a little nit picky but to each their own. I'll hold my hands up and admit I'm biased - this is my all time favourite movie but please note I am not a rabid fanboy trying to take away your opinion. Keep it dude it's yours.

I know it has flaws and there's bigger more impressive looking movies but this is a down and dirty action movie. I wouldn't change a
While I just can't grumble with your pro's of the movie when it comes to your cons for me it kinda loses it (for me)and some point feel a little nit picky but to each their own. I'll hold my hands up and admit I'm biased - this is my all time favourite movie but please note I am not a rabid fanboy trying to take away your opinion. Keep it dude it's yours.

I know it has flaws and there's bigger more impressive looking movies but this is a down and dirty action movie. I wouldn't change a minute of it. Not when you see a dodgy effect, the wire pulling the truck at the end before it explodes or when you can spot the rubber faced fake Arnie or even a poodle perm. It's part of it's charm and while that may not be acceptable by todays standards if it were made, as you say it's still impressive for what it was. Probably even for it's time the action scenes were nothing new but for me it still runs rings round most modern movies as it's so well made. It;s funny you think T1 drags a bit and T2 is the better movie as for me I think it it never meanders and whips along at fair pace, while T2 (again a close 2nd which is also a classic) has more sagging moments. While the score its also a favourite of mine I still listen to. And sorry but I see the punk and 80's fashion back everywhere I go these days. Thankfully sans poodle perms and hobo pants!

I think any movie at some point will have something that will date it even just a little. Even T2 to me feels like it has a 90's time stamp at some points so for me I'd prefer these articles to focus on more is whether a movie was a product of it's time rather than time stamped by fashion or effects, which are easy targets. If they were remade today would they be made the same way or not? Some of the tropes you mention like Reese's nightmare or the exposition scenes are still standard today.

But seriously great idea for a column. Can't wait to see what else will be revisited.
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10:23PM on 02/08/2013
Hell I would say this is not a down and dirty action film but a dirty and mean Horror movie. :)
Hell I would say this is not a down and dirty action film but a dirty and mean Horror movie. :)
11:31AM on 02/07/2013
If you cut out all the 80s' cheesy music, clothes and hairstyle, The Terminator is a great action, time-travelling science fiction movie. It's probably the best.
If you cut out all the 80s' cheesy music, clothes and hairstyle, The Terminator is a great action, time-travelling science fiction movie. It's probably the best.
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