Sunday, June 19, 2011

The T E R M I N A T O R

It's Father's Day today, and more than any other film, this is the one that makes me think of my Dad.

Why, Arthur(as if anyone cares)?

Because I watched it with him first. Simple.
Had never seen it before and do believe Dad suggested it when it debuted on TV late one friday night. We'd often end up quietly "watching"* a movie together in those days ...pre-girlfriends and booze, but post-toys(mostly).

*Watching - I don't think my Father knew how The Terminator, First Blood, or Jaws actually end..
I was his second favorite movie-watching-companion - the first being a good nap.

The Film:
Terminator is up on Artie's ol' shortlist of SUPER*WATCHED*FILMS.
And having mulled on why I like this specific movie so much, I've come to an interesting point with it.

I think it's an expanded CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER...
James Cameron's interpretation of Harlan Ellison's work, or rather the heart of it.
"You're crazy" I can hear my half dozen followers saying...

Hear me out: Are they both not stories of people from different time periods falling in love, not being able to be together, and doing the "right" thing in a somewhat sad nihilistic ending?
No coincidence that Ellison is mentioned in the Terminator credits - But it's not so much the mechanized antagonists Cameron borrowed, as the tone ...I truly believe the place both stories came from is one in the same.
Ellison claims his story "Soldier" was the inspiration, but that concept seems more to have informed T2. Some claim "Demon with a Glass Hand" but I suspect it's City on the Edge of Forever that was actually Cameron's biggest influence, along with a perhaps subconscious desire to tell an Ellison-esque tale. Who could blame him? Ellison is apparently an asshole, but a brilliant one, with an extraordinary grasp of truly human storytelling. Undeniable.

"That's a good question, Mr.Spock - how much Ellison is in The Terminator?"
They say a film is only as good as it's villain - well, this one is named for the bad guy, and quite the bad guy he is. Schwarzenegger's weird intensity and extremely limited dialogue make every second of screentime count - he's fantastic, and it'll always be my favorite Arnie role. He has a physical impatience built into the efficiency of the character that seems to disappear in the sequels. It's his coolest performance - he "feels" unstoppable ..inhuman ...frightening, and that cyborg chase scene - I was mad at my father for falling asleep before that sequence - I was 14 ..maybe 15, and it scared me shitless.

And then there's that "classic" phrase... you know the one.
Who hasn't said those three words? Only Mr. Burns' "Exxxxcellent" might be better known in pop-language, but who can really say?

...and what a way to get that audience association - This robot is has been built by someone specifically to kill you, and you are noone special..
..Or are you? Maybe your the future president, or maybe his mother - endless possibilities, and very clever storytelling, especially in the paradoxical "Father" equation of the film. Is fatherhood and it's importance not a central theme here? Is Skynet not the child of a "father-based society" having outgrown it's own father? ...not unlike Roy Batty in Blade Runner.

Opening this apocalyptic tale far in the future, then telling it one single night in our time - ONE NIGHT - that's the whole film.. Brilliant.

The Terminator is one of the purest narratives I've ever seen. From first frame to last, it never stops moving - I love that.
Shot in 1984, I'm still hard pressed to find films now that move the camera nearly as much. I don't think Spielberg used a dolly once in Indy 4. Facts being facts, James Cameron was a genius at this point, and only Aliens could challenge Terminator for the best thing he's ever done ...and being a sequel I guess it really can't. Ha haa..

For what it is, it's perfect.
Rare thing...

...I'll be back.


TristJoseph said...

Nice tribute in a lot of ways.

ArthurMacarthur said...


Patrick said...

Cool, so true - I had never noticed before that physical impatience you mention, but it's true - he wants to get to her and kill her, and now... brilliant. It's those kind of subtleties that make a film great.

ArthurMacarthur said...

The STAR WARS trilogy gets an honourable mention - how many kids can say they're Dad took 'em to all three?
But there's too much SW talk online...