Fun fact: when I was a kid (like many at that age) I could not pronounce the name of The Terminator (1984) antagonist and title character Arnold Schwarzenegger. My dad, noticing my struggles, decided to refer to him as Schnooferdoofer. Thus, in the Vogt household, he became Arnold Schnooferdoofer. Fast forward roughly thirty years and whatever name you want to give him, Arnold is still making Terminator movies. While Terminator 2: Judgment Day is pretty good, it does not compare to the sheer terror of the first iteration of the series, and all others are pale comparisons thereof.
We open The Terminator with two naked men emerging from a ball of electricity in 1984 Los Angeles. The first is the Terminator, a killer robot bedecked with human skin making him unrecognizable from any other person walking the streets, enormous muscle mass excepting. The other is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a completely human soldier. Both are sent from the year 2029, and both are there to find Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). The Terminator is there to assassinate her, while Reese is there to prevent her death. Her importance to each has to do with her future son who is destined to lead to victory the resistance over their machine overlords. Hence you can understand why the machines would go through the trouble of coming up with a time machine and sending a Terminator through it, or why the humans would send Reese after it to protect Connor. That really is the basic plot. There is not much to it. And after a series of violent escapades, Reese dies in his mission, but not before becoming the father of his future commander. As for the Terminator, it comes within metallic fingertips of succeeding in its own mission before Connor smashes it in an industrial press.
What makes The Terminator so good is the built up tension and the unrelenting nature of the title character. As a robot, it does not feel pain and can clearly take a number of bullets without slowing down. This is driven home at first when all three meet for the first time in a night club (which is so totally eighties, by the way). Just when you think that the Terminator is about to murder Connor, Reese intervenes and pumps a number of shotgun shells into the cyborg, knocking it down. The utter horror on the face of Connor as it gets back up and keeps coming after her and Reese says all you need to know about how difficult it is going to be to survive this implacable foe. The last half hour of the film is the most exciting part of the plot. Fleeing once more, Reese and Connor manage to knock the Terminator off its motorcycle, and then it is ran over by a large semi towing a fuel tanker. You might think, okay, job done, everyone can now relax. But no, it gets back up, commandeers the truck, and recommences its pursuit. Now on foot, Reese manages to get some explosives into the fuel container, the whole rig goes up in a massive fireball, and the Terminator falls out incinerated. Finally, the jerk is “dead.” Nope. Now shorn of its living skin exterior, the robot gets back up and starts lurching towards them. It chases them into a nearby factory where Reese crams one last stick of dynamite into the metallic skeleton, and the resulting blast rips apart the Terminator and finally finishes off the soldier. Surely that is it, right? Unfortunately for Connor, as she looks over the body of her fallen lover, the Terminator’s torso reanimates and starts coming after her. It is only by crushing it as mentioned above does the grim cycle come to its conclusion.
Reese’s behavior in The Terminator is heroic in both a lay and Christian sense. As has been mentioned in other reviews on The Legionnaire, Jesus told His disciples that there is no greater act one can do for a friend that to lay down one’s life for that person. Reese is perfectly willing to do that for Connor, but it is not just because he is a soldier with a mission to accomplish. To be sure, duty and faith, particularly in a Catholic sense, go hand-in-hand. But he is not there simply because he had been ordered to do so. He is fulfilling his destiny, yes, but he is also there because he had become enamored of Connor from a picture his son had given him. Because he loves her, he is willing to give his life for her. The future of humanity being assured is just icing on the cake.
If you have not seen The Terminator, first, sorry for spoiling the whole thing. But secondly, know that it is extremely violent and bloody, there is nudity in it, and it is all befitting of its R rating. The Terminator is a merciless killing machine, and there are several innocent people who are gunned down throughout its runtime. Thus I would keep this one away from children. But it has action throughout, so if you are in the mood for a breathless thriller, then check it out. I have seen it a few times now and it is exciting every time.