Released by: MGM/Fox Released on: 5/10/2011 Director: James Cameron Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Micheal Biehn Year: 1984 Purchase From Amazon
The film that made James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger into superstars follows a single mother named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) who is doing her best to raise her young son John. Sarah becomes concerned when another woman with the same name in the same city is killed and soon learns that pretty much everyone named Sarah Connor in the area is being murdered. She figures someone is following her, heads into a bar to hide, and then realizes that a big man in dark sunglasses (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is trying to kill her. Thankfully another man, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), has shown up to save her. It turns out that both of these men are from the future, sent by her son John who will turn out to be the man who leads the humans against a race of mechanical beings who would exterminate all humans from the face of the Earth – the big guy in the sunglasses is one of these mechanical beings, a ‘terminator’ made to look human so that he can blend in but actually a complex cyborg. The race is on as Sarah and Michael try to get rid of the Terminator before it can kill John and stop the human rebel forces from forming in the future.
Made on a fairly modest budget but still packed full of some great effects work courtesy of Stan Winston, The Terminator may be permanently stuck in the eighties with its music and its fashions but it’s still a pretty entertaining movie. Schwarzenegger, never one to handle dialogue all that well, is the perfect bad guy here, a relentless and emotionless killing machine bent on only one thing, while Michael Biehn makes for a fairly noble time travelling hero. Linda Hamilton is also good here, playing her protective mother well and puts enough panic and confusion into the character that she makes it work.
This is first and foremost an action movie, however, and it’s here that the movie really excels. The man versus machine concept is done really well here and it allows Arnold’s character to come off as a completely ferocious single minded entity bent on the death and destruction of its target with no regard for bystanders or damage of any kind. This gives the film some unpredictability, at least the first time around, where you really don’t know who is going to come out on top and how it’s all going to end.
Of course the film proved to be popular enough that it’s gone on to become a part of pop culture in general. Three sequels and a TV show later, the Terminator has been spun off into comic books, video games, action figures, sticker albums, model kits and pretty much anything else you can think of. This has taken some of the film’s ‘cool factor’ away but just try not to geek out a bit when you watch that awesome opening sequence where the Skynet ships fly by and try not to feel just a little bit more macho than you were before when Arnold’s character toughs up the tough guys for their clothes. There’s enough genuinely awesome material and worthy R-rated violence in the film that it holds up well enough despite the fact that it’s now become a dated cliché in many ways. Part action movie, part eighties time capsule, this one stands the test of time and continues to impress.
The Terminator looks okay in this 1.85.1 1080p AVC encoded high definition widescreen presentation but it sure seems like it could and should have looked a whole lot better than it does. There’s a fair bit of visible print damage in the form of scratches and nicks all throughout the movie while grain looks chunky and blocky. Some obvious edge enhancement is also present throughout the movie. The plus side is that there is quite a bit more detail evident here than on standard definition, as there should be, and that there are no compression artifacts to complain about. Colors look good, black levels are reasonably strong though not always perfect, and contrast is fine. As far as the clarity of the high definition presentation is concerned, however, this is far from amazing.
The best audio option for the movie is an English language LPCM 5.1 Surround Sound track that generally does sound very good. The uncompressed audio gives more weight to the gunshots and really helps to deliver a more natural and epic sounding score. Sound effects hit with some nice punch while dialogue stays clean and clear. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and overall the movie sounds great and the Blu-ray provides a pretty immersive surround sound experience. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are provided in English and Spanish with optional subtitles provided in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Korean and Chinese.
As far as the extras on the disc are concerned, this is once again the same old same old – we get a thirteen minute featurette on the effects work entitled Creating The Terminator, which is pretty interesting, and a twenty minute featurette entitled Terminator: A Retrospective which gathers up some input from Cameron and Schwarzenegger and lets them discuss working together on the seminal picture. Seven quick deleted scenes, running under ten minutes in total, are also included as is the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. All of the extras are presented in standard definition, though some high definition trailers are included for XXX, S.W.A.T., and Underworld: Evolution. Why more effort hasn’t been put into creating a true special edition for this movie is puzzling, considering how huge its fan base is.
The only thing new about this May 2011 release is the packaging, but it’s worth mentioning. The disc comes housed inside a sturdy cardboard hardcover book which contains full color pages with essays on the cast and on the film’s director as well as a bit about the history of the film itself. It’s not enough to warrant ditching the old Blu-ray if you already have it, but if you haven’t picked up The Terminator yet and want to, the improved packaging on this release does give it a slight edge over the previous one. One issue with the packaging is this – on the back under the wrapper there is a picture showing the disc and the open book and the disc shown is different than the actual disc included. The disc shown has different artwork on it than the one included, which is identical to the previous Blu-ray release. If this was intentional deception on the part of MGM, that’s lame. Let’s assume it was an honest mistake.
The Final Word:
It’s puzzling that MGM keeps mistreating this title and not bothering to give it the true special edition treatment that it completely deserves. The disc that sits inside this admittedly nice packaging is identical to the previous Blu-ray release and the book isn’t reason enough to double dip but for those who don’t already have it, the slight upgrade in transfer quality and more noticeable lossless audio upgrade should be reason enough to snag this if you can get it at a fair price.