The Terminator

on October 26, 1984 by BOXOFFICE Staff
This rip-roaring action adventure has already carved out its niche as one of the major hits of the pre-Christmas season. And with good reason. Fast paced and cleverly conceived, "The Terminator" is welcomed proof that a well-made sci-fi thriller can deliver the goods without encumbering itself with an outsized budget.
   Although he was originally slated to play the role of the hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to have made a wise decision when he opted to portray the villainous Terminator, a futuristic cyborg who journeys back in time.
   The picture begins with a vision of a post-holocaust future in which sophisticated machines have managed to subjugate the last remaining remnants of humanity. Before long, Schwarzenegger is sent back to present-day Los Angeles to terminate a young woman named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). The "whys" and "wherefores" for the Terminator's mission are duly supplied by Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a post-holocaust survivor who follows Arnold and attempts to save Sarah.
   A good deal of "The Terminator's" success is due to the filmmaker's ingeniously humorous approach to their subject. For example, because they have established the fact that their time-travellers must negotiate their journey without clothes, we are made privy to the sight (at least a rear view) of Arnold in the buff, as he begins to make his way through L.A.'s darkened streets. Moreover, because the first people he encounters are a trio of young punks, Arnold's subsequent wardrobe is wonderfully new-wave.
   Since the Terminator only knows his quarry's name (but not what she looks like), he rips out a page from the phone book and proceeds to knock-off all the Sarah Connors, one by one. Meanwhile, Reese, who is armed with a polaroid of Sarah, locates her in a high-tech bar and wisks her off just as Schwarzenegger arrives.
   While the Terminator pursues them in a high-speed chase, Reese explains that the creature's a non-human cyborg who's been sent to kill Sarah because she will soon be giving birth to the eventual leader of the resistance movement of the future. Ergo, if Sarah is terminated before her son is born, the human race will have no future.
   After the couple is captured by the police, Arnold bursts into the precinct house and blows away its entire staff before Sarah and Reese finally manage to escape. Taking refuge in a motel, the twosome make love, but are forced to beat a hasty retreat when the Terminator discovers their whereabouts.
   Following several unsuccessful attempts to terminate the Terminator, Sarah and Reese are able to reduce him to his skeletal frame (which is reminiscent of the work of Ray Harryhausen), but Reese is killed in the process. Finally, Sarah crushes all that's left of the cyborg in an industrial compactor, and when last seen, is driving south through Mexico, obviously pregnant.
   Despite its strange premise and cartoonish (but competent) special effects, "The Terminator" is a humorously suspenseful thriller, which makes the most of what it's got. And what it's got, in Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a thoroughly enjoyable presence, who lights up the screen whenever he appears. Co-stars Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton are also quite good, as are a number of the supporting players.
   Besides its visual crispness, another thing that "The Terminator" has going for it is the ability to keep the action fast-paced and furious, without an excess of gratuitous gore. So, even though the film deserves its R-rating (for harsh language, violence and nudity), it also deserves a great deal of credit for a job well done.
Alan Karp Orion Pictures 108 mins.
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