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In the year 2029, the ruling super-computer Skynet sends an indestructible cyborg back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, the woman who will birth its greatest enemy.
For more about The Terminator and the The Terminator Blu-ray release, see the The Terminator Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on February 14, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Rick Rossovich
Director: James Cameron
» See full cast & crew
The Terminator Blu-ray Review
The Previous Version Has Been Terminated (but the Future Isn't Set)
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, February 14, 2013
I have seen the original Terminator film probably a hundred times, but I am always struck by its fundamental elegance. On a limited budget of under $6.5 million, director James Cameron, making his second feature, created a sci-fi classic that holds up favorably against later films with more advanced effects and bigger budgets for one simple reason: Cameron has always understood that story matters. His films always provide an engaging narrative, and his ability to elicit emotionally convincing performances from actors was evident in his earliest work (and has too often been taken for granted). Look no further than The Terminator's tragic love story between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. Reissues of The Terminator have arrived so often on various video formats that I can't even begin to count them all. This is the film's second iteration on region A Blu-ray. The first appeared in 2006 and was re-released in 2012 in a limited edition digibook. It was a respectable effort for its time, but suffered from the limitations of the format's early days (MPEG-2 encoding, a BD-25, etc.). Martin Liebman's review can be found here. This new version from Fox/MGM appears to use the same transfer previously issued on the region B disc reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov here. All three discs feature the same extras, except that the 2006 release also included trailers for other, unrelated films.
Even viewers who haven't seen the original Terminator know the story from one of its three sequels. In the year 1984, an ordinary young woman from Los Angeles, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), finds herself the target of a relentless killer cyborg from the future (Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the role that made him an international star). The cyborg, known as a "Terminator", has been sent from the future by a race of machines controlled by a supercomputer (dubbed "Skynet" in the sequels) that has attempted to wipe out humanity by launching a nuclear attack. Survivors of the resulting war organized a successful resistance under the leadership of John Connor, the son that Sarah will bear in the future. The Terminator's mission is to prevent John's birth by executing his mother before he is even conceived. In a simple but efficient stroke of plotting, the future John Connor is able to send back a trusted lieutenant to protect his future mom: Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, in what remains his best screen performance). Much of the film's kick, both at the time of its release and still today, comes from watching the two antagonists, Reese and the Terminator, treat the urban landscape as just another battlefield, in which everything is merely material for an ongoing fight. The Terminator doesn't care, because it has no feelings; and Reese doesn't care, because he knows that everything around him will be incinerated in just a few years. Collateral damage to vehicles, buildings and people doesn't concern either of them. The police, led by Lt. Traxler and Det. Vukovich (Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen, both superb), are ill-prepared for this kind of adversary. They're used to dealing with criminals, not soldiers, and in the case of the Terminator, they don't understand why shooting him repeatedly doesn't put him down for good. (As an aside, one can understand Cameron's interest in writing the script for what became Rambo. The character of John Rambo in First Blood treated the American small town that proved so inhospitable in much the same way that Reese and the Terminator treat L.A., and those police were equally unprepared.) As Sarah Connor, Linda Hamilton convincingly traces an arc from average girl to terrified victim to angry skeptic who's sure Reese is crazy and, finally, to horrified acceptance of the evidence of her own eyes as the Terminator keeps coming for her. It's the credibility of Hamilton's transformation that makes the emotional bond between Sarah and Reese so compelling. They really do have no one but each other on whom to depend. When Reese first explains to Sarah that he's been assigned to protect her from the Terminator, he says: "It's just him and me." Eventually, though, it's him and them. The Terminator pre-dated the CG era that its sequel famously inaugurated, but its combination of mechanical effects, prosthetics, animation, opticals, miniatures and rear projection still holds up, because Cameron has always used effects in service of a good story, rather than creating a story to service the effects. The film also demonstrates Cameron's early mastery of editing rhythms and camera angles to create visual energy with as much impact as the most striking special effect. Look closely at the edits following the Terminator's famous "I'll be back" line, or the accelerating series of cuts when the Terminator has commandeered a tanker truck and is trying to run down Sarah while Reece attempts to bomb the truck. The director would work with much larger budgets on future projects (think of the helicopter/limousine rescue in True Lies), but his editing template for edge-of-the-seat action was already well-established in The Terminator.
The Terminator Blu-ray, Video Quality
In direct comparison, the image on this 1080p, AVC-encoded remastered Blu-ray of The Terminator offers a noticeable improvement over its 2006 predecessor. Detail, contrast and black levels are superior, providing an overall improvement in clarity and a greater sense of depth to the image. In part due to the increase in contrast, the colors are stronger, which will no doubt lead to charges that the disc has been treated to a "teal wash", a claim that seems to have become fashionable lately whenever the blues in a film are particularly strong. It should be noted that both of Cameron's Terminator films have always had a strong cyan bias, which is a trademark of DP Adam Greenberg and an element for which Cameron strongly praised the cinematographer. If this be teal, make the most of it. The film's grain pattern is visible but fine and natural-looking. That was also the case in the 2006 disc, but here there is also a complete absence of video noise, and the superior AVC codec combined with the use of a BD-50 and a higher bitrate provides the equivalent of having a layer of grime wiped away. The Terminator has never looked better.
The Terminator Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I remember a time, back in the days of laserdisc, when everyone complained about The Terminator's mono track, which had almost no bass extension and, obviously, nothing by way of surround activity. (Cameron said at the time that he chose to allocate most of his budget to visual effects and spend less on sound.) After the success of Terminator 2, everyone hoped Cameron would oversee a remix of the original film's soundtrack. How times have changed. Now the chief complaint is the omission of the original soundtrack from current editions of The Terminator in favor of the remixed version that Cameron did eventually prepare. This remastered Blu-ray will not eliminate that complaint, as it features only the remixed soundtrack in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1. The previous disc from 2006 offered the same track in PCM. The remixed track still sounds quite good, with deep bass extension, distinct split surround activity, clear and intelligible dialogue, and a musically pleasing reproduction of Brad Fiedel's score that is especially effective when the main theme switches from electronic instrumentals to piano for the Sarah/Reese love story. Those wishing for the original mono will have to make do, but as "making do" goes, this is hardly roughing it.
The Terminator Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The disc features the same anemic selection of standard definition supplements included on previous Blu-ray releases. See the existing reviews here and here for further description. It also features Fox/MGM's crippled "menu" design for catalog titles, in which (a) there is no main menu, only a pop-up that can be accessed during playback; and (b) the disc is authored with BD-Java, but lacks bookmarking, so that there is no way to resume playback from the point where you stopped. When will Fox give up this idiotic design? Still missing is the full array of supplements supplied on MGM's 2001 DVD of The Terminator, including the one-hour documentary entitled "Other Voices", a collection of trailers and TV spots, various still galleries, Cameron's original treatment for the film and, perhaps the most offensive of all, Cameron's commentary on the "Terminated Scenes". Yes, he did record it, and MGM should still have it.
The Terminator Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Of the three sequels to The Terminator, only Cameron's, Terminator 2, is an acknowledged masterpiece. One of the reasons why no fan of the first two films has felt even remotely satisfied by Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or Terminator Salvation is that neither of them came even close to what Cameron achieved in T2, which was literally to remake his original film into something new in which the original could still be recognized. When I first sat in a theater in 1991 watching T2, I laughed with delight at the many echoes and direct references to the first film. Now, when I watch The Terminator, I still spot little details referenced in the later film that I never noticed before. Cameron conceived an entire world with The Terminator; then he reconceived it all over again in T2, bigger, bolder, full of surprises, and yet somehow utterly familiar to existing fans, because its creator maintained the integrity of his initial creation. No one who has come after Cameron has managed to rise to that level of creative imagination. Perhaps there's nothing left in the franchise (other than exploiting it for commercial gain). In any case, the original is now available in the best presentation to date. Recommended, but hold onto your DVD for the extras.
The Terminator: Other Editions
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• Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd Reunite f... - September 24, 2014
Next month, Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron and writer/producer Gale Anne Hurd will attend a special 30th anniversary screening of The Terminator at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The screening will take place on October 15, and American Cinematheque members ...
• Remastered Terminator Heads to the U.S. - December 4, 2012
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release director James Cameron's classic action film The Terminator (1984), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn. Recently remastered, the film will be available ...
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