“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / To Be Announced / Director: James Cameron / Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Earl Boen ... / Blu-ray released 2012-09-03 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment „
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If I was ever requested to put together a list of top 50 films of personal favourites then James Cameron's The Terminator would be high on that list. A film that could of been laughed and snarled at through it's mere concept, Cameron managed to set a tone and craft that many film makers today struggle to achieve.
First released in 1984, The Terminator made Arnold Schwarzenegger a huge star and gave the world a mythology that many still hold dear to their hearts today. Those many will want to know if the release on Blu Ray has been worth it and the short answer is...Yes! The long answer? Well, we will get to that but let's talk about the actual film itself first.
The story is pretty easy to follow, in the distant future mankind has faced it's greatest fear, almost total wipeout from a race of machines created by a computer system called SkyNet, which became self aware to cause a nuclear war with the remaining survivors managing to stay alive long enough to build an army to fight back organised by a man known as John Connor. SkyNet hatches a plan to send a Terminator , a human form template containing a tough machine structure underneath, back in time to 1984 to eradicate John Connor's mother therefore wiping out his existence and winning the war against the human fight back. Connor gets wind of this plan and sends his own time traveller to protect his mother, Kyle Reese, who must do what it takes to destroy the Terminator and save Connors life.
As a plot, it would of been easy to dismiss it as average B movie style material but what director and series creator James Cameron did was create a film with a wonderful dark tone, excellent pacing and some highly competent performances from the main cast. For a film that is meant to be a chase, Cameron knows the right time to stop the intense action, take a breath then pick up again. It is one of the best paced action films I have seen in my many years of movie watching and it still stands up today.
As mentioned previously, the Terminator made Arnold Schwarzenegger a huge star and whilst the Austrian born body builder lacks high competence in the acting stakes, here he gives a real presence to the role of the killing machine set out to kill without fear or remorse. He has hardly any dialogue but his body movements and his sense of timing are excellent and it would be very difficult to think of any other actor improving what should be a basic role should a remake be ever be brought to the big screen. He is backed up by Linda Hamilton's performance as Sarah Connor (the future mother of John) who starts out vulnerable but as the realisation of her nightmare continues, starts to become tougher and strikes up an interesting relationship with Kyle Reese (played by the excellent Michael Biehn).
The Terminator is a film that shines as an example of everything being at the right time along with the right people. Granted the special effects look very outdated but it never fails to disrupt the charm, tone or talent on show here. Everything clicks into place and it's easy to see why the film is still so cherished by millions of film fans today.
The positivity goes further with this Blu Ray release, seeing the film in High Definition is a real surprise, seeing many 1980s movies in the HD format have been obvious half hearted efforts but this is not the case here, much love and care has been given to The Terminator Blu Ray. Colours stand out night or day, close ups provide vast detail into the dirt and roughness the characters go through and the excellent soundtrack by Brad Fiedel has never sounded so good.
The only negative aspect to this release is lack of commentary by James Cameron and the lack of HD polish to the special features which include deleted scenes, a retrospective look at the film by Schwarzenegger and Cameron and a short look at how the special effects were created. The special features look washed on a HD screen and it's disappointing to see this release not add anything more to what were already released on the previous DVD release.
Despite the disappointment in the special features, I gladly recommend this release to any fan of the series or new comer of action films. It is stylish, well directed and acted plus it never feels stale or mundane, something you cannot say about a lot of Hollywood blockbusters today.
I won't go into details about the film itself as I'm sure most fans of this will have seen it many times already, so I'm going to review the disk itself.
This title has been available on import for a while in Blu-Ray format but wasn't an especially good release. Fortunately, this UK title has been given a proper HD upgrade and looks better than it ever has. It was given a full remaster and it looks like a lot of dust and scratches have been removed. There is still a level of grain which reflects the look of the film when it first came out and the effects look pretty much as they always have. I will say that the final appearance of the endoskeleton is very impressive, the chrome really stands out. For it's time, the stop-motion is very well done but by today's standards, it's showing it's age a little bit. Overall, this is the best looking version of the film you can get for now.
The soundtrack is still the same 5.1 remaster produced for the collectors edition of the DVD. I'd have liked the choice of the original mono but it's not available here. This is a shame as the newer soundtrack is a bit quieter than I would have liked, also the gunshots have been changed for different sounds which is a bit distracting if you've seen the film a few times as they don't really fit. However, the overall score works well with a surround sound setup and again, is the best around at the moment.
As for the extras, there's not a huge amount provided. The deleted scenes are probably of most interest as if these had been included, there probably wouldn't have been much scope for a Terminator 2. There's also a couple of featurettes (both in HD) which look at the special effects and a retrospective look back at the film with some interviews with cast and crew. These only run for around 30 mins altogether. It's not the definitive special edition that fans would like to see, there's no commentary from either Arnold or James Cameron and I'd like to have had the choice of the original soundtrack.
In summary, if you're a fan of the film and have an HD setup, then you should get this. It's not much more than a tenner on most sites which makes it a bargain.
When James Cameron started shopping around his Terminator script in the early 80s studio enthusiasm was, to put it mildly, muted. Why should it have been otherwise? Cameron, after all, was then a relatively unknown quantity whose first and only movie (Piranha II: Flying Killers) hardly ranked alongside Citizen Kane in the pantheon of great Hollywood debuts. Nor did the collective studio pulse quicken at the idea of D-list character actor Lance Henriksen playing the film's eponymous death machine.
Finally, Cameron decided that merely running through a bog standard pitch wasn't quite getting the message across and, before a meeting with the independent production company Hemdale, persuaded Henriksen that the executive responsible needed to be shown the power of what he intended. "I went in decked out like The Terminator," recalls the actor. "With gold foil from a cigarette packet over my teeth and a cut on my head. I kicked the door open and the poor secretary just about swallowed her typewriter. I sat in the room with (the executive) and wouldn't talk to him. I just kept looking at him. After a few minutes of that he was ready to jump out the window."
Hemdale agreed to back Cameron and, once Henriksen nobly stepped aside in favour of the then hot-ish Arnold Schwarzenegger, put up a sizeable chunk of the film's $6m budget. It proved to be an investment that would be paid back many times with The Terminator racking up a box office gross of around $60m. Indeed, Schwarzenegger's shades-sporting time-travelling cyborg would become nothing less than a cinematic icon as he laid waste to Los Angeles in an attempt to kill Linda Hamilton and hence irrevocably change the future to humanity's detriment.
Yet, even after being given the greenlight by Hemdale, there is no doubt that the fortunes of the film itself could have gone either way. Certainly, back in the mid-80s, having Arnold Schwarzenegger in your film was no guarantee of success. The Austrian Oak's previous movie, Conan The Destroyer, had performed disappointingly while his next, the Brigitte Nielsen-staring Red Sonja, would pretty much sink without trace. To mainstream cinemagoers Schwarzenegger was little more than a joke, a mumbling behemoth whose grasp of both acting and the English language, appeared minimal at best. Moreover, The Terminator's budget, while sizeable compared to Piranha II, appeared disastrously small given the amount of Stan Winston-assisted special effects that the director had in mind. Finally, there was the problem of how much of the film Cameron had half-inched from other sources. Certainly fans of Michael Crichton's Westworld couldn't help but notice the similarity between the Terminator and Yul Bryner's invincible robo-cowboy while the film's premise of a sentient all-controlling computer that would wage war against humanity was similar to a short story by sci-fi author Harlan Ellison.
"I loved the movie" says Ellison. "Was just blown away by it. I walked out of the cinema, went home and called my lawyer." (Ellison would eventually receive a credit after threatening legal action.) Indeed, the fact that Cameron's film would become one of cinema history's headline-grabbers rather than a shoddy footnote is largely due to the obsessive, if not downright maniacal, determination of its director. A college drop out, the Canadian-born Cameron honed his technical skills, like so many others, at Roger Corman's New World company before graduating to fully-fledged director on Piranha II. Unfortunately the filmmaker fell out with the movie's Italian producer who informed Cameron that the dailies were "shit" and locked him out of the editing room -- forcing the director to break in at night and secretly splice together his own movie.
On The Terminator, Cameron decided, the movie would be done his way or not at all. And if that meant personally demonstrating stunts or even having to tell Schwarzenegger exactly where to put each of his limbs at any given time then so be it. "Jim would say, 'I want you to lay there Arnold,'" recalls Henricksen who played LA cop Sergeant Vukovich. "'Then, when I tell you, I want you to start lifting up with your head. Then your shoulders, Then I want you to sit up. Then I want you to look straight up.' He had to give up any ego at all."
Schwarzenegger threw himself into the part, enduring hours in the make-up chair and training in the use of guns so as to demonstrate a robotic lack of emotion despite the mayhem going on around him. It was a commitment, like that of the financiers, which would be handsomely rewarded. Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn may have been the film's nominal heroes but it was Schwarzenegger who would indeed "be back". "No matter what I did after that," says Schwarzenegger. "People always come up to me and ask, 'When are you going to do another Terminator?'"
Cameron, meanwhile, would find himself back on the sequel treadmill for his next project, Aliens -- although this time no one would have the nerve to lock him out of anywhere.