The Terminator Review
October 26, 1984
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Different idea about Arnold’s Character
Arnold Schwarzenegger originally wanted to play Kyle Reese. But James Cameron had a different idea and saw Schwarzenegger in the title role of The Terminator and Cameron said to Schwarzenegger “This movie is not about the hero. It’s about The Terminator”.
The Terminator is the only character..
..to be listed in the American Film Institute’s 100 Heroes and Villains as both a villain (for The Terminator (1984) and a hero (for Terminator (1991))
“Guerilla Film Making”
While shooting this film, James Cameron often resorted to what he called “Guerilla Film Making” as a way of getting around acquiring permits needed to film certain scenes. This involved the production crew and actors quickly arriving at a specified location, shooting the scene and leaving before the police arrived. As a result, some of the people seen in a few shots are actual everyday citizens completely unaware they’re in a movie. This was also used for reshoots with Cameron even calling and waking Arnold Schwarzenegger once at 3am to meet him at a location already in full costume to quickly reshoot a scene. This explains why most of the film occurs at night. Cameron also used this tactic to film the very last scene where Sarah drives off into the desert. This almost backfired however when the police came sniffing around
“The Electronic Murderer”.
The movie was released in the late 1980s in Poland under the title “The Electronic Murderer”. The title was changed because there is a Polish word ‘terminator’, meaning roughly ‘an apprentice’, and so the title was changed to something more catchy and interesting to audience. By the time Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) was released, the original movie was widely available on pirate copies under its original title, and because of it in the early 90s in Poland the word ‘terminator’ was widely recognized as the character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger instead of its original meaning, so all the sequels had their titles unaltered.
Influences behind “The Terminator”.
James Cameron cited Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) as one of his influences behind “The Terminator”.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic catchphrase almost became “I will be back” because he thought it sounded more machine-like without a contraction; he also felt “I’ll” sounded too feminine. It was the one major disagreement between Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, and all Cameron had to say to that was “I don’t tell you how to act, so don’t tell me how to write”.
There was minimal interference…
…from the film’s financial backer, Orion, partly due to the budget offered. However, they suggested two things. The first was a cyborg canine that accompanies Reese – an idea turned down by James Cameron; the second was strengthening the relationship between Kyle and Sarah, which Cameron decided to accept.
In the film, the name of the night club where the Terminator first targets Sarah was named Tech Noir after a film genre which James Cameron coined himself in describing what category this film falls under after dismissing the notions that it was a mere horror or slasher film. Tech Noir films like Blade Runner (1982) and The Terminator (1984) combine the old style grittiness of noir films with the futuristic elements of a sci-fi thriller. Cameron himself had the club built specifically for the film and had to turn away local club goers who thought Tech Noir was a real night club. The building still exists but is now a jewelry store.
The Terminator’s motorcycle….
was later displayed in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s restaurant Planet Hollywood.
Though it is now considered a Sci-fi classic, this film was originally conceived and written as a horror movie.
If you strip away the robots and time travel plot, it is very similar to a Slasher picture, and borrows many of the genre’s tropes. The Terminator is the movie’s “Unstoppable Killer,” who stalks an innocent woman, killing all of her loved ones until he is in turn killed off in a creative way. Sarah Connor is the movie’s “Final Girl,” who is strong enough to outsmart the killer and the only one to make it out alive. The end of the film also employs many of the Slasher genre’s techniques and scare tactics. A final showdown in an isolated place where no one can help, crawling through tight, cramped, and dangerous spaces to escape, and the killer comes back for a “final scare” multiple times. That being said, in following these Slasher movie tropes, that makes the Terminator one of the few “Unstoppable Killers” of the genre to use firearms as his main weapon, and makes Sarah Connor one of the few “Final Girls” of the genre to have sex in the picture and make it out alive.
When Reese saves Sarah at the nightclub shootout, he says, “Come with me if you want to live.”
Use of Hand-held camera
Hand-held cameras were used for much of the action. This helped give “an energy to the scene that you can’t get any other way”, said cinematographer Adam Greenberg.
“I’ll be back.”
The movie’s line “I’ll be back.” was voted as the #37 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100), and as #95 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
Dark Horror Film
The film was not intended to be a sci-fi action film, but a dark horror film. Many fans however felt the film was an action movie when they first saw it in theaters. James Cameron was so surprised that he decided to make action movies after this. Months before the release, Cameron did not expect any sort of success in the box office or reviews by critics to come from this film.
..worn by the Terminator were Gargoyles. Although the Gargoyles sunglasses seen in the film are erroneously connotated with the first Terminator film (known in the sunglass world as Terminator sunglasses aka the Gargoyles 85), they were previously seen in Sudden Impact (1983) which were worn by Clint Eastwood in a few scenes – they were later used in The Dead Pool (1988). Gargoyles still manufactures the sunglasses now sold as the Gargoyles Classic.
According to Arnold Schwarzenegger (on James Cameron)
James Cameron did an extraordinary job creating that character (The Terminator) and whole phenomenon. “I never thought we would do a sequel, catchphrases like “I’ll be back” or “Hasta la vista, baby” would catch on and be repeated or think that 30yrs later I would be asked to come back to a franchise like this playing The Terminator, unlike Batman or James Bond.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger allegedly suggested that the advertising campaign play up the romantic subplot between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese in order to appeal to a wider audience but his advice was ignored. The film proved surprisingly popular with women anyway.
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
According to Arnold Schwarzenegger (on Movie)
Arnold Schwarzenegger said The Terminator “was a small movie. We really had to cut costs all the time. We shot it very quickly. We felt we had a good story and it would be successful. But we thought it would be for certain audiences only. No-one suspected it would be in Time magazine’s top 10 movies of the year and that successful at the box-office and that people demanded a sequel that would be the highest grossing movie of that year.”
James Cameron described his creative process…
as “What I’m good at is working with actors to create scenes and then editing their performances to get the absolute best vibrating version of that scene and then share that with the audience. It’s an amazing process to go through. Sometimes you think it’s not going to work when you get started and then the characters come to life.”
‘time travel’ aspect
James Cameron got the idea for The Terminator (1984) while shooting another film in Europe. His vision was of a metal endoskeleton emerging from flames and most of the script was written backwards from there. The endoskeleton would have to be futuristic, and Cameron couldn’t afford to set the film in the future. The solution was to bring the future to the present, hence the ‘time travel’ aspect of the script was written in.
RT/Meta Critic Review
Damn close to perfect.(Click here to see)