The Terminator (1984)
I have of course watched the hell out of this movie from high school onward, but I think it may have been over 10 years since I last watched it. Given how many of my memories of the Terminator are blurred by T2 and T3, I'm interested to see if this movie can hang with the current crop. Well, the effects are crap. Quite distractingly so, and I'm pretty tolerant on that score. But damn if the rest of the movie isn't still one hell of a masterclass on how to tell a story. A machine from the future is sent back in time to kill the mother of the future leader of the human resistance and a human is sent back in time to stop him. That's it. No wonder Cameron had such a rough time getting a studio to climb on board.
The dialogue is excellent and the characters very believable, which is impressive given the subject matter. We spend a good 10+ minutes of exposition while Biehn is telling Hamilton about the future and why he's here and who the Terminator is. Every single minute of it is completely gripping. Hats off to Cameron and the masterful tension and pacing that allow him to spend so much time on that and give the movie a brain to match the brawn. I may have to go through and watch all of Cameron's movies again after I finish this crusade. There's no more consistently excellent story teller this side of Spielberg than Cameron.
Once again, Arnold is his character. His accent is goofy for a cyborg, but really works here and comes off feeling oddly mechanical like they couldn't quite get a human voice right. His delivery is spot-on and the way he moves through a crowd or busts through a door with hardly a blink or reaction really sells you that he's a cold, unfeeling machine focused only on killing Sarah Connor. Here we see Arnold showing real style and flair in what should be a completely limited role. It's not like you're rooting for the Terminator or anything (that comes later), but he's utterly compelling in every scene he's in. Biehn's over-the-top delivery of the "That's what he does, that's ALL he does!" speech still puts a grin on my face and I can't think of a better way to sum up what the Terminator is. Thanks to Arnold for breathing such life into a 2-dimensional and unfeeling villain and giving yet another movie that entertains every bit as well as the first time I watched it nearly 30 years ago. Need to go watch this one again. Soon.
Ahnold Quotient - 7
While it's certainly an iconic role of his, we don't get a whole lot of personality out of him for obvious reasons, so takes us down a bit on the meter.
Rewatchability - Yes please
Could watch this anytime. I may actually want to come back to this more often than T2 and Biehn is a big part of that. We'll see if that thought holds after watching T2 again.
Next up chronologically should be Red Sonja. Sigh. Maybe now is a good time to catch up on one his older shows like Hercules in New York or Pumping Iron...