I'm grateful to Cameron for keeping the first twenty-five minutes mostly dialogue free. If a character opened their mouth to do something other than shout for help I was either holding back laughter, failing to hold back my laughter and chuckling audibly or staring at the screen hoping I could rewrite the speech as it exited their waste holes. Those lines I've been unable to avoid since childhood were nothing like I expected them to be. "I'll be back" and "come with me if you want to live" have the ring of memorable lines when everyone goes around adding their own clever spin, but in the movie they were kinda just there. "Come with me..." was especially poorly delivered, half-squawked and all embarrassing. I assumed people quoted these lines to honor the movie. I forgot people quote for all sorts of irreverent reasons. I wish people would say "I was dreaming about dogs" more often. That one's a winner.
For every last practical reason I would label The Terminator as an action film. There are explosions, guns and chases. All three can be immensely thrilling. I could watch people shooting at an exploding chase all day long and never get bored. I could not watch the way Cameron employs them for more than a few minutes without rolling my terrible eyes and yawning my terrible yawns. Innocent people getting mowed down by a terminator was barely cool the first time it happens, yet it happens over and over. Unstoppable forces aren't exciting unless they have something deeper backing them up, or something that may impossibly stop them to counter. Car chases can be thrilling, too, if people aren't constantly spinning out or slowly scraping against the opposition. That's all that happens, with plenty of exposition on top. And if there are going to be explosions how about showing some damage? I want to know what's at stake when a pipe bomb bursts in a busy tunnel. A frame of reference would be nice.
Linda Hamilton's Sarah Conner was so much the victim in a slasher movie I couldn't agree with her more through all her many, many complaints and cries that she couldn't be the mother of a powerful future rebel leader. Michael Biehn's Kyle Reese was a poor warrior, and a huge creep for falling madly in love with a photograph of a woman living 40 years in his past. The police force had a few interesting characters, and are shot dead, because The Terminator doesn't deal with likability, it deals with mind-numbing line after blah-level action scene.
How The Terminator ranks in as one of anybody's favorite films is a question that makes me verbally angry. I'm verbalizing my anger at this. It doesn't hold up at all if it was even worth watching for effects back in 1984. It's a movie like this that causes me to make sweeping generalizations directed at 80s cinema. What a waste of everyone involved's time, and I hope they all used the money it made to wash away their memories connected to the project. Ugh. Ugh minus.
- Eric T. Voigt, "We use them to spot Terminators/Your world is pretty terrifying." ~ Kyle and Sarah, The Terminator