'The Terminator' Movie Review – Cameron’s Stubbornness

Updated on June 27, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction, but I love classics and various cult pieces also.

Cameron's Fight For Creative Freedom

The Terminator is the embodiment of James Cameron’s stubbornness and self-confidence. His written treatment of a cyborg who travels back in time to assassinate the mother of his most feared human enemy raised all possible eyebrows at that moment. Even his own agent immediately dismissed the idea.

But Cameron couldn’t shake the nightmare that inspired his film idea: a metallic torso with knives in its hand, slowly crawling from an explosion. It was an image too iconic and too terrifying. He had to fight for it.

What did Cameron do? He fired his agent and went ahead with his idea. Slowly and progressively, he got people on board with the project. In a reunion with producer Gale Anne Hurd, Cameron enlisted the help of his friend actor Lance Henriksen, who disguised himself as the Terminator, kicked the office door open and quietly sat down while listening to Cameron’s pitch. Cameron was that committed to his idea.

Schwarzenegger, a Cyborg Match Made In Heaven

After selling the rights to The Terminator’s script for a dollar with the promise of having the film directed by him, Cameron remained firm, gradually and progressively convincing those involved. It wasn’t easy: Mel Gibson and Sylvester Stallone rejected the call while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Biehn accepted with strong reservations.

Even after the shooting was finished and the directorial talent of Cameron was confirmed, Orion Pictures executives were convinced that the movie was going to be a flop. They ended up releasing the film after the blockbuster summer season.

Of course, The Terminator was a box office hit, received critical acclaim and ended up leaving its indelible stamp on pop culture.

Other factors played in its favor, like its incredible pacing and groundbreaking special effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger was reaffirming his movie star status, and this stoic, powerful and intimidating role was perfect for him. The empathy achieved by the characters of Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn was, on the other hand, the perfect emotional counterpart to the Terminator.

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Tech Noir And The Future Of Science Fiction

But above everything, Cameron showed that there was a future in this thing he called Tech Noir, a hybrid of genres between futuristic sci-fi and film noir that had clear precedents in movies like Soylent Green and Blader Runner. With a clean battlefield after the end of the so-called “New Hollywood era,” Cameron’s storytelling inspired and opened the door to future projects such as Dark City, Brazil, The City of Lost Children, Gattaca, 12 Monkeys, Ghost in the Shell and most importantly for me Terminator 2.

The legacy of The Terminator goes well beyond its four sequels. The themes about technophobia, the role of the human being in the construction of his own future, in addition to the eternal debate between predetermined destiny vs. free will, all in sci-fi/action pop corn fashion, ceased to be B-movies plots and started to have a significant role in pop culture. Thanks to The Terminator, we have movies like Back to the Future, The Matrix, Donnie Darko, Ghost in the Shell and most recently Looper, Ex Machina, Edge of Tomorrow or Predestination.

Like John Connor in his universe, Cameron was adamant in his ideals. Imagine how different the view would be without the stubbornness of a single individual.

Movie Details

Title: The Terminator

Release Year: 1984

Director(s): James Cameron

Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, a.o.

4 stars for The Terminator 1984

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