With Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the big screen in The Last Stand, the Flickering Myth writing team look back at their favourite Arnie movies. First up, Rohan Morbey with 1984’s The Terminator…
Before he sold out with family films like Junior, Twins and Jingle All the Way, or sub-par action films such as The 6th Day or Collateral Damage, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the real deal in terms of Hollywood action. This was the film that started it all.
The role of The Terminator will forever be Schwarzenegger’s best because it plays to his non-existent acting skills but his undeniable screen presence, not to mention his physical presence which was unlike anyone else in Hollywood at the time. Even Sylvester Stallone, who was already a huge star by 1984, was puny in comparison. Although he only utters 58 words in the film, thanks to James Cameron’s vision and Brad Fiedel’s haunting score, Schwarzenegger is commanding in every scene. Unlike later Terminator films, he doesn’t need to smile, deliver one-liners, or live up to audience expectations; in The Terminator he is at his most simplistic and his best.
Despite launching Schwarzenegger into mega stardom, the real credit goes to James Cameron, without whom the film would not exist. Back in 1984, it’s important to remember that James Cameron was a relative nobody in Hollywood, but he had this vision of the future which would forever change the way Hollywood thinks about sci-fi and time travel. The beauty of his story is in the back story and future implications which are paramount to believing the events of what we’re watching; without the audience fully buying into his idea of world where computers have wiped out humanity, the film doesn’t have the same impact. Cameron’s script is both complex and straightforward when it needs to be and is of a level that recent films like Looper could only dream of.
Cameron also used The Terminator as a platform for his subsequent career-long role as a pioneer for special effects. Working with Stan Winston, the pair created some of the most iconic effects and character creations in all of cinema, and all in-camera and practical effects. The scene where the endoskeleton rises from the burning rubble is still chill-inducing 30 years and countless re-watches later.
Comparison with the 1991 sequel will always be made, but The Terminator is the perfect balance between originality and personality of two soon-to-be Hollywood heavyweights.