This- is-Dystopia!! The Terminator (1984)

"The 1980's, the worst fucking
Decade in Human history! Preppies and hair clubs, Keyboards, Jazzercise and "Just say no" all fucking sucked"!

-Nikki Sixx

Now there's a contradictory quote if I ever heard especially when the former bassist of Motley Crue was living it up during that decade. Booze, Babes and wild parties while being adored by the pubic I meant public, says different!

Say what you will about the neon colored Eighties, but if there's one thing that is certainly true, is when it came to nuanced pop culture and high concepts, this was the decade that owned it!

Whether its Miami Vice, Transformers, Rambo, Hellraiser, Public Enemy, Corrosion  of Conformity, Nightmare on Elm street or Robotech, Predator and Robocop, there is so much to love about that decade.

Well, aside from those annoying, overrated Hair Metal bands..

Why else would there be an abundance of sequels reboots and retcons based on the intellectual properties that was spawned from that time period?

Because the 80's Fucking ruled!

Another prime example, goes to this little low budgeted Science Fiction slash Horror film, which debuted during October 26, 1984 only to amass both critical and commercial acclaim.

That film in question, was called, The Terminator, light on being a cautionary tale, but heavy when it came to action, tone of and most of all, substance!

Set sometime in May of 1984, a  Cyborg from a dystopian future, where machines are now the dominant "species" while the remains of humanity, is fighting for their lives, has been dispatched into the present day, with one kill the mother of the resistance; Sarah Connor!

Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! 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!

According to Writer, Director and creator of Terminator James Cameron, this idea had appeared to him via a fever dream, while visiting Italy. However, major influences can be attributed from various sources within media. Such as an episode from The Outer Limits, ("Soldier") Anime series such as Tatsunoko's Casshan or how about Comicbooks? e.g. X-Men Days of Future Past and Deathlok.
The latter bearing way too many similarities, to be just a mere coincidence.

The OG of "Terminators"-Deathlok!

Don't believe me? For the uninitiated, Deathlok premiered in Astonishing Tales #25 (1974) where the namesake hero or rather, Antihero is a Cyborg assassin within a semi post-apocalyptic setting.

From the very start of the comic, you see Deathlok targeting his prey...under the guidance of an onboard computer.  The similarities somewhat end there as Deathok talks and acts like a regular person, while the T 800 is rather stoic, lacking any emotion whatsoever.

“Deathlok was the first of his kind in terms of concept and appearance. All the other cyborg super-soldier characters that have come after him seem to be patterned after [him],” said Buckler. “[Robocop is an] extremely close imitation… And a whole lot of comics fan out there agree with me. ‘Terminator’ owes a lot to my original concept. So does ‘Universal Soldier’ and a bunch of other ‘descendants.’”
With that being said, the rest of Terminator's worldbuilding is very original within its context.

And now, back to the story!

Following the Cyborg is Kyle Reese, a soldier of the resistance led by John Conner, Sarah's only son.
Kyle has been sent by Conner in order to prevent the leader's death as well as his mother's.
Can he reach Sarah in time, or will the T 800 commit a "retroactive abortion "?

The Terminator is an exciting  watch, from start to finish.
As soon as the titular character appears, violent situations occur, starting with gathering knowledge and resources (Accosting some punks for their clothing in order to blend in, or going through a "shopping spree" at a Gun store.) when carrying out his objective.

The story and pacing flows well without any lags or fillers as you are engaged in what happens in  Sarah's world which starts off as your average day, waiting tables at a restaurant, only to morph into a hellish nightmare as she is running for her life!

While many see this movie from Sarah's point of view, the narrative is equally shared by Kyle's perspective as told via horrific flashbacks brought on by Post traumatic stress disorder or his experiences during a dismal future.

Terminator has a few comedic breaks to balance out all the dramatic moments.  The banter between Lt. Traxxler (Paul Winfield of Gordon's War, Damnation Alley & Star Trek: Wrath of Khan) and Hal Vukovich played by veteran actor Lance Henriksen was great for laughs, albeit temporarily and of course, there’s that scene where Termy is given multiple choices when responding to a janitor.

Linda Hamilton gives a variety of performances, whether it’s her vulnerability in the first quarter of the film, doubt, accountability and acceptance during the latter stages.

What's defining about actor Michael Biehn's portrayal of Kyle Reese, is how he became Sarah's protector, shutting off any emotions as this coping mechanism but after spending more time, with Sarah, confessed his true motivation for going back in time to save her.

Underneath The Terminator's bleak setting, there lies an unforeseen love story, which implementation brings about an intriguing plot twist, and a very clever one.

Of course, I can't neglect to mention Arnold Schwarzenegger's role as the indestructible automaton. His deliveries were credible, regardless if it's due to his accent or not being seasoned as an Actor. The lack of emotional connection is obviously a trait from a cyborg killing machine however, he displays devilish acumen, when impersonating Police officers or Sarah's mother after disposing of them.
It's "That guy, Dick Miller"! R.I.P.

Arnold's ad lib "I'll be back" became such a huge catchphrase that is still to this very day, repeated. And of course, his physical stature was very intimidating. There's one scene, where the T-800 mistakes Sarah's friend, Ginger as his target which resulted in a jump scare when her now deceased lover is sent crashing through the door, with the Terminator menacingly looking at a horrified Ginger.
Alas, Ginger went out with a bang both figuratively and literally!

It's moments like these, that demonstrates why The Terminator isn't your average Science fiction film and most of this, would not have been achieved without the talents of Stan Winston's practical effects much prior to the advent of CGI. Sure, it may seem dated nowadays, however still appreciated for what little Stan and co. had to work within the confines of a low budgeted Movie. The HK models, futuristic weaponry and makeshift vehicles, broaden Kyle's dystopic view.

Composer Brad Fidel gives a memorable soundtrack. Of course, his signature theme stands out as the more favorable, along with the sobering score regarding Kyle's future as the remnants of the resistance are forced to hide from the Terminators.

Now if you ask me what my personal favorite from the entire soundtrack, well it sure as hell ain't crap like "Photoplay" "Burning" or "Intimacy "! No, fuck no.
 My vote goes to the bridge chase sequence. I love the menacing fast paced tone from this score that sits proudly among my top 10 or even 5 tracks!(I need to do a write up on that topic someday.)

The chase also serves as another great Terminator moment because there's a few scenes where Termy bears some resemblance to the aforementioned Deathlok- his right eye having this glowing hue of red, with decaying flesh as the overlay, and prior to the exploding truck, where we take one final glimpse at "Humanoid Terminator ", I couldn't help but think how this was inspired by the late Rich Buckler's creation.

The transition of Sarah, from being this  fragile, helpless woman, to this fierce warrior is a testament to Jim's ability to foreshadow the strong female archetype in cinema and pop culture, post 1979's Alien, a few Blaxploitation and Grindhouse films.

But it doesn't end there, this movie is so influential, that it spawned so many ripoffs and pop cultural references, be it films, Television, toys or videogames! Terminator is more than just a movie, but a phenomenon!!

It helped to springboard the careers of many involved, especially Schwarzenegger who then went on to make films like Commando, Running Man, Predator and so forth. All which cemented his status as a Hollywood icon and the same can be said for visionary Director, James Cameron.

So Stalks, we know how much you praise this Movie, but where's the relevance to what's happening in the real world?

Cameron's classic thriller is somewhat of a cautionary tale as with much of meta found in Science Fiction. Man's dependence on technology, can potentially cause adverse consequences.  Skynet was a NORAD defense grid whose artificial intelligence made itself aware to the extent of prejudging humanity, thus setting off a nuclear holocaust. Not that we'll be blown back to the dark ages with plasma rifle wielding endoskeletons hunting us down, however, there's that possibility that something may go wrong if left unchecked.

Automation is killing more jobs than expected, so being displaced and homeless, is the first sign of things to come, unless there's some turnaround which I don't see happening anytime soon.

Anyway, happy 35th, Terminator!

"You'll be back" in the upcoming Dark Fate. Nov. 1