Cinema Saturday, 2/27/21 : Terminator Edition

The Terminator

Year: 1984
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: R

Director: James Cameron

Writers: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, William Wisher

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn

“Hey, buddy. You got a dead cat in there, or what?”


Initial: This is one of those movies that my parents owned on Beta video tape. I’ve probably seen it around a dozen times.

What Did I Think:
There are particularly two things that Cameron and Hurd do really well writing-wise in The Terminator that cause it to hold up pretty well in my opinion. (And maybe it’s mostly Cameron, because I see these things in Strange Days as well.)

First, expositional info dumps happen after the audience has been shown action. The audience is actually asking, “What is going on?!” before the movie tells us what is going on. And it seems to me, that if you need to info dump, that’s how you do it.

Second, character information is conveyed through the look of the character. Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese is a beat up dude. He’s got scars. We’ve seen Schwarzenegger get chronoported and walk away like it’s nothing. Reese is a huddled mass, post-chronoport. We know immediately who is the more squishy of the two.

Aside from those things, the film is also really well-paced and the effects aren’t half bad. I mean, this is 1984…

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Year: 1991
Runtime: 2h 17m
Rated: R

Director: James Cameron

Writers: James Cameron, William Wisher

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong

“We’ve got company.”
“How many?”
“All of ’em, I think.”

Initial: I do believe I first saw this movie in the theater with my sister for her birthday. Later, it became one of the first DVDs I owned.

Production Notes: Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton had a minor roles in The Terminator. Jenette Goldstein had a minor role in T2. All three were in Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987).

What Did I Think:
I didn’t like it as much as I remembered liking it. I’d say it is at it’s best in two instances. First, when it’s playing with audience expectations. The trailer pretty much lays out the “twist” of the movie, but it still plays coy when showing us the T-1000’s chrono-portation and it’s still pretty chilling in both scenes when John and Sarah see the original Terminator for the first time. We have enough empathy for these characters to know a little of their fear and the movie plays these scenes straight. Maybe, we think for a moment, he isn’t the good guy.

Second, the semi chase scene in the culvert is really good. Later action scenes run long and are maybe superfluous, but this one works really well. It has narrative, it’s exciting, and you know what’s going on the whole time.

Otherwise, the pacing of T2 is a little off. It kind of drags here and there. But it does do a decent job of being the sequel to a very popular, quite good original. And the effects were a massive improvement.

Terminator: Dark Fate

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2h 8m
Rated: R

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray, James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, Gale Anne Hurd

Stars: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis

“What are you doing?”
“Future shit.”

Initial: I’ve seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) (I think…), but never got into The Sarah Connor Chronicles and skipped Terminator Genisys (2015). I really hadn’t intended to watch Dark Fate, but I saw a Tumblr gif set of a scene that seemed interesting, and it’s on Hulu, so… what the heck, I thought.

What Did I Think:
I’d heard that is was an okay movie, and that’s pretty much what it is: okay. Dark Fate ignores anything past T2, so it’s set up to be a more direct sequel to that.

I like how they decided to “level up” our combatants: a composite Terminator and an altered human, even if I found Grace’s necessary-for-the-plot weakness pretty dumb. The young cast of Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta bring the feel of young Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn to the movie, which is needed. Unfortunately, the story of Dani Ramos kind of gets subsumed by the Sarah Connor/Terminator story. There is a criticism that this movie feels like Terminator fan fiction, and it sort of does. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s probably not what you want to base your blockbuster on.

You might think that 28 years would reap better special effects, but not really. The Terminator effects are fine, but the Rev-9 is only slightly better rendered than the T-1000. The action scenes were decidedly worse. I’m sure the whole sequence on the crashing plane could have been very cool, but I couldn’t keep up with who was doing what where.

3 thoughts on “Cinema Saturday, 2/27/21 : Terminator Edition

    1. Katherine Nabity Post author

      I should probably give Salvation another chance. I don’t remember it well and much of the current criticism gives it credit for at least trying to be something different.

      To be fair, my expectations for Dark Fate were pretty low; it was an easy bar to clear… 😉


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