Every year on my birthday, in lieu of venturing out into the real world where you run the risk of encountering a wasp, I force my wife to stay in with me all day while we watch films and eat cake. As hostage situations go, it’s not all bad. After tackling the first four Rocky films a couple of years ago, 2019 was the year of the Terminator. Here is what I learnt…
- While you will never see any Terminator movie included on a list of the greatest ever horror films, both these movies are shot and lit like a horror film. The Terminator particularly uses well established horror tropes like fake outs and jump scares in order to make Arnie as imposing as possible in the titular role. Whether you like it or not, these movies are horror movies.
- As a kid, I always saw The Terminator as a mere stepping stone to the far superior Terminator 2: Judgement Day. While the sequel is undoubtedly better, the source material is still a classic in it’s own right. Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton share a wonderful chemistry and the plot is both mind bending and compelling. They also share a massive haircut.
- Just as Keanu Reeves was born to employ his one facial expression in the portrayal of Neo in the Matrix movies, Arnie fits the role of The Terminator like the man himself fits a brightly coloured, tight leotard (because the ’80s). Arnie isn’t required to do much acting but he makes the role of the Terminator his own.
- While T2 is the best Terminator movie, the addition of humour in that movie takes away from the sheer visceral power of what made The Terminator so frightening. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. It also enjoys leather.
- While the special effects throughout The Terminator do feel a tad dated, most of it holds up remarkably well to say that this movie is nearly 35 years old. The bit at the end when the metal skeleton is jerkily moving around is perhaps the only moment that is noticeably a bit rubbish.
- And so… on to Terminator 2. During the start of the film, my wife (who inexplicably had never seen either movie before this very viewing) made two predictions. Firstly, that the T-1000 would touch Arnie and then there would be two Arnold Schwarzenegger’s running around the place (something that, to be fair, does happen but with Sarah Connor) and secondly, and much more hilariously, her second prediction was that that douche with the mullet at the start who is hanging around with John Connor would end up being Kyle Reese, in what would have been possibly the worst plot twist ever. God bless her for trying though aye.
- I do like those early parts of the movie however. Seeing John Connor (memorably portrayed by Edward Furlong) dicking around in an arcade with his massive fringe took me back to a more innocent time. A time when teenagers in movies all talked like Bart Simpson. A time when it was socially acceptable to walk around with a massive ghetto blaster smashing out Guns ‘n’ Roses. A time when killing machines were sent hurtling through time, space and an electrical storm to murder innocent people…
- Judgement Day‘s ace in the hole is the decision to turn Arnie from a heel to a face. This transition from baddy to goody adds a new dimension to what could have been a stale sequel. It also allows for Robert Patrick’s genuinely unsettling T-1000 to take centre stage. Patrick brings a disconnected coldness to his portrayal here that fits perfectly with the character’s robotic persona. I’m still a little frightened of the T-1000 to this day.
- The other big transition is Sarah Connor who goes from fun loving waitress to action movie icon. The fact that Linda Hamilton is comfortable playing both sides of the Sarah Connor coin speaks as a testament to her acting ability. She really is excellent throughout Judgement Day and these first two Terminator movies are Sarah Connor’s story more than anyone’s.
- Finally, a word for the special effects. Director James Cameron is obviously a legend when it comes to effects but I would argue that he has never surpassed what he achieved here. T2 doesn’t just hold up, it still looks extraordinary. Seeing the T-1000 morph back into itself after being repeatedly blown up is still a sight to behold.
And there we have it, on a glorious April day bathed in sunshine, there was nothing I would rather do than spend four hours in the company of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arms, Linda Hamilton’s vest and Edward Furlong’s non-existent eyebrows. Happy birthday to me.