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My Friend Kyle Watches the First Two TERMINATORS

September 26, 2011

One of my favorite things to do is share my favorite movies with someone who hasn’t seen them before. It may sound creepy, but I like to watch their reactions as much as I like to watch the movie itself.

I’ve recently been given the golden opportunity to watch the Terminator franchise with one of my roommates, Kyle. Here’s the rundown on Kyle:

  • 21-year-old male
  • Hasn’t seen many films from the genre, particularly from the 80s and earlier
  • However; enjoys Star Wars
  • Prefers comedies and dramas
  • Cites lack of relatable stories as a general issue for sci-fi

So far we’ve made it through the first two films, and you can read Kyle’s comments after the following synopses:

The Terminator (1984) was the breakthrough project for writer/director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar). It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular villain, a cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton); humanity’s only hope in the future war between man and machine. Kyle Reese, a human protector (Michael Biehn) is also sent back to prevent the Terminator from completing his mission. All manner of mayhem and time-travel paradoxes ensue in this seminal classic.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) continues the story with John Connor (Edward Furlong), Sarah’s son, now ten years old. Schwarzenegger reprises his role, this time being tasked with protecting young Connor from an advanced model of terminator (Robert Patrick). The action is ramped up dramatically and the paradoxes become even more paradoxical in this highly successful sequel. Whether it’s better than the original is debatable, but T2 has undoubtedly achieved action movie pantheon status.

Kyle is a sci-fi newbie, but this makes him oddly qualified to comment on such supposed classics. How do they hold up? Here’s a summary of Kyle’s comments on The Terminator:

  • + Simple and original story, enjoyed the humans-against-machines plot
  • + Very engaging; you care about Kyle and Sarah, fear the Terminator
  • + Sci-fi elements are not too overbearing
  • + Relatively believable, not as “out there” as other sci-fi films
  • – Cheesy special effects occasionally take you out of story
  • – Cheesy 80s synthesizer music
  • – Brief pseudo-nudity featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger (though it was story-driven nudity)
  • – Quotes such as, “I’ll be back,” weren’t delivered as expected

Kyle’s Conclusion: Out-dated effects aside, The Terminator lives up to its lofty reputation. Has since seen it again and confirms that it has definite replay value.

And for Terminator 2:

  • + Even by today’s standards, the effects were pretty sweet
  • + Nice story transition from the first movie
  • + This is what you think of when you think “Terminator”
  • – Edward Furlong overacted to an annoying degree
  • – Never developed much hatred for the new terminator
  • – Climax didn’t pack the same punch as the original

Kyle’s Conclusion: Great sequel that is a worthy addition to the franchise. The special effects were much improved but on the whole, but this one was, surprisingly, not quite as exciting as the original.

Alright, Kyle’s part in this story is over for now. I have to say that he made some pretty astute observations. The Terminator is one of my all-time favorites and I’m glad that Kyle appreciated the tense and streamlined story-telling. I’m also glad he didn’t think the film was too implausible to enjoy. Between the two of us, there was a lot of laughter at the expense of the John Carpenter-esque synth-tones, the clunky stop-motion animation and the unrealistic rubber mask that occasionally doubled as Arnold’s face.

The music and effects are out-dated to be sure, but for me, that’s part of The Terminator’s charm. Having heard Kyle’s opinion, I’m now taking into account that bad effects can actually turn someone off to a film. However, the effects in The Terminator weren’t bad enough to derail its’ first-rate story, so I’m happy to say that it passes the “Sci-fi Outsider Test.”

As for T2, it was interesting to take in the story without the baggage of having seen it so many times before. Cameron really made some ballsy decisions regarding the new direction of the story. When experiencing these films with someone who has never seen them before, the radical transformation of Sarah Connor and the decision to turn Arnold’s character into the hero seemed like risky moves. They definitely paid off, but when giving the film a fresh reassessment, the degree of difficulty for this sequel was definitely higher than I once thought.

While Kyle seemed to have more associations with T2, he ended up praising the original as the slightly stronger movie. What it lacked in modern effects, it more than made up for with its taut narrative and thrills. Kyle liked T2 as well, but when it came to splitting hairs, the sequel was a tad bloated and not as personal as the original.

Watching these movies with Kyle has been a lot of fun and even illuminating. I hope to be able to make this type of post a regular thing. Based on Kyle’s comments, would you ever see these films? What do you think?

From → Film Reviews

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