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February 15, 2008

Terminator

It's strange, having seen a sequel but not the original movie. I do this sometimes, and then it's fun because the earlier films become total backstory for me. I just recently watched the 2nd season of Big Love, an excellent series on HBO. I was often confused. But then I watched Season 1 and there was a very satisfying feeling of learning a ton of secrets.

So yes, I saw Terminator 2, which I thought was an excellent film. Somehow though, I had missed out on the first Terminator. I think this was because somewhere deep inside I suspected it was the same film. Great military leader needs to be born, so robot from the future comes back to kill the mother before she can have him.

And in a lot of ways I was right. For me, Terminator and T2 are kind of like the Xbox and the Xbox 360. Same basic storyline, just better graphics and some added pizzaz. But it doesn't really give you anything extra.

That's not to say I didn't like it, I did. But I think T2 is the superior film, and Terminator doesn't really give you much that T2 didn't already have (and T2 had more cool twists, in my opinion.)

I'm sure I would have felt differently if I had seen this one first. It was a great film. And it handled a very complex subject which required a lot of exposition (often the kiss of boring death) very smoothly. It had a scroll at the beginning, and 2 major sequences where Kyle from the future explained what was going on to clueless people in "the past." It worked, seemed integrated with the story, and explained enough for us to understand what the conflict and story was all about.

While the film doesn't feel too dated, the effects start to strain a bit when Arnold's skin melts away and the evil Robot starts the chase. It looks really herky jerky, and unlike the Exorcist, it just doesn't hold up anymore.

Not that I mind it at all, because I think it's thought-provoking and it "works" in the universe this film sets up, but I can't quite get my head around how John Connor's father is the man who was born later and travelled back to save Sarah. I think it's cool, but how does that work exactly? It's like a hole in the space time continuum or something.

One last thing. There are some very funny parts in this film. And emotionless killing machines are ALWAYS scary. Like sharks, and robots. And Chigra, from No Country for Old Men. Dr. Suber, who teaches my Film Structure class, says that humans are so emotionally wired that things that have or show no emotion terrify us, because we just can't relate to it.

2 out of 4 - You should love this film

Posted by jason on February 15, 2008 04:08 AM

Comments

Funny thing is I remember as a young kid watching Terminator and being SCARED OUT OF MY MIND by that terrifying robot! I could barely watch as it chased them down with no hope of destroying it!

Funny how 17 years makes a difference.

PS I always thought the robot was a better actor than Arnold!

Posted by: Jonathan on February 16, 2008 07:50 AM

I can relate to seeing a sequel before the original movie. I did the same thing with the movies Alien and Aliens. I saw Aliens first, which I loved, and saw Alien second, which I liked. Most people who saw Alien first like it better than Aliens but not me. Regarding Terminator, I saw the original first and prefer it. I wonder if there is a psychological element that predisposes us to prefer the 1st movie we see.

Posted by: sean on February 16, 2008 11:51 AM

I think it's when the stories are so similar with just some slight twists, so you're predisposed to the first time you were exposed to it because it was more revelatory and interesting. I saw Aliens first and liked it better as well.

When sequels are different enough that they are really expansions of the stories, or whole new stories using familiar characters, it's different I think. For instance, I like 2 towers and return of the king better than fellowship. And I think everyone likes Empire Strikes Back better than A New Hope.

For both Terminitor and Alien franchises each story is essentially the same in each installment. And they're all good (at least for the first 2 I guess), but they don't get away from that storyling. If T2 had taken us to the actual human / machine conflict in the future, it would have been a completely different story and had a chance to be loved more whether you saw it first or second, I think.

I liked T2 better because I liked the son being in it, I liked Arnold being good this time, and I thought the new Terminator machine was creepy and seemed much more unstoppable. Plus I liked how tough Sarah Conner had become.

Posted by: jason on February 16, 2008 01:46 PM

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