"In the Year of Darkness, 2029, the rulers of this planet devised the ultimate plan. They would reshape the Future by changing the Past. The plan required something that felt no pity. No pain. No fear. Something unstoppable. They created 'THE TERMINATOR.'"
Probably one of the longest taglines in movie history, but this movie deserves it. Back in 1984, no one knew what to expect from this film. Before The Terminator, unknown Canadian director James Cameron had only done two films - Xenogenesis and Piranha: Part Two. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I haven't seen either film, so I cannot comment on the overall quality of his work leading up to The Terminator.
So technically speaking, The Terminator was Cameron's coming out party so to speak as he propelled the cult and commercial success of this film into exclusive directing responsibilities on the Aliens sequel in 1986 and in the writing the screenplay for Rambo: First Blood in 1985.
Everyone knows Cameron's biggest success... blah blah blah, sinking ship... blah blah blah, Leonardo DiCaprio, blah blah blah, 'I'm the king of the world.' However, with Cameron, his body of work is quite strong with The Abyss, True Lies, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and of course, bringing us Dark Angel on television.
As for Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was coming off minor roles in B-rated films and television appearances, but was best known for his dubbed roles in the Conan franchise. He was considered a no-name at the time, more brute than acting ability. Although The Terminator didn't change people into moving away from that label, it did allow him to propel his acting career into more commercial roles.
At the time of its release, the premise of The Terminator was actually quite scary and the casting of Arnold as the menacing machine out to kill Sarah Connor was a perfect match as he was quite a large specimen at the time of production. Although not much "acting" was required of Arnold, the persona he brought onto the screen was enough to convince the audience that he was in fact, a killing machine.
The concept of the film was quite good too... unless you live in a hole somewhere, you'll know the premise of the franchise. Sarah Connor gives birth to the savior of mankind, the one responsible for the resistance in the war against the machines. Machines send a Terminator to kill Sarah Connor to prevent all this from happening, thus altering the timeline in the future. Great concept - wonderful science fiction.
For those that watched the short-lived Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles series on television, this is exactly what was the focus of the show. In this film, we see the early parts of Sarah's life and how the one night of horror changed her life and the lives of millions to follow forever.
Great casting by Cameron all around with Michael Biehn (Sigma Nu fraternity alumnus) as Kyle Reese and Linda Hamilton (Cameron's first wife) as Sarah Connor. Also included in the cast are Lance Henriksen, later cast as Bishop in Cameron's work on Aliens, who many know as the actor originally cast as the Terminator in pre-production. See if you can also find Bill Paxton in this one and even Brian Thompson, who many believe could now pass as a Terminator, as he was cast as one of the menacing forces in the X-Files series.
Although not one of the better films of the 80's, its definitely a must watch for the action movie fan and for fans of Arnold. I like watching this film every time its on television, however, its worth watching uncut if you can find it on a channel that allows violence and swearing. Reason being - if you watch Total Recall for example, you'll enjoy it more in its true form... censorship sucks when it comes to action movies... sometimes its funny, but mostly, it takes out all of the good parts. Enjoy!