Plot: What’s it about?
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) will have a pivotal role in the future of the world, but of course, she doesn’t know that right now. She seems to be a normal woman, trying to live her life and make ends meet, not much else. But she is destined to be the mother of John Connor, who will be the leader of a band of rebels, who will fend off an invasion that threatens mankind’s survival. You see, the work in robotics will advance by leaps and bounds soon, to the extent that self operating machines will be possible, some that even look like humans. In the right hands, these kind of machines can be invaluable, but as always, something ends up going haywire. Skynet is a powerful system that controls these robots and in the future, it chooses to rebel against the humans, sending out powerful robots to demolish mankind. But Sarah’s son proves to be a true savior and leads mankind it the battle against the cyborgs. But Skynet has a new plan, in which a cyborg with immense powers of all kinds is sent back to find Sarah, then terminate her. As this Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) closes on in her, can she discover the truth in time to save herself and the future of all mankind, or has Skynet finally found a way to leave the human race behind?
The first DVD release of this movie was rather bland, but now MGM has revamped the package, to issue this definitive special edition. A new transfer, a new sound mix, tons of extras, and unlike other regions, we get the original burned in subtitles. As you know, MGM has used player generated ones on some releases, but thankfully, the originals were left intact here. As far as the movie itself, it more than deserves this kind of treatment, given the worldwide success and massive fanbase it has enjoyed. It is hard to believe The Terminator was a low budget movie, but it was, although the visuals and most of the effects still look good. No, it doesn’t measure up to the sequel or more modern blockbusters in terms of effects, but as far as entertainment, it holds its own and then some. In truth, I prefer this film to the sequel, not just because it came first either, but it seems tighter and more realistic, perhaps due to the budget limitations involved. A true classic in several genres, The Terminator is a must own movie in most circles and with such a rich presentation, there’s no reason not to pick up this release.
The man who makes The Terminator work is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who of course, has made a career of the science fiction & action genres. Yes, Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd’s writing provides the skeleton for Arnold’s role, but without his persona, this movie would have never been the smash success it went on to become. No, his acting is not the best, but he is excellent in this flick, never going too far with his lines, or mannerisms for that matter. Just the look he gives, even with his sunglasses on, is enough to make you run away and in this case, that is just what was needed, to be sure. You can also see Arnold in such films as The 6th Day, Commando, End of Days, True Lies, Predator, and Conan the Barbarian. The cast also includes Linda Hamilton (Dante’s Peak, Black Moon Rising), Michael Biehn (Cherry Falls, The Rock), Lance Henriksen (Hard Target, Pumpkinhead), and Paul Winfield (Original Gangstas, Mars Attacks!).
Video: How does it look?
The Terminator is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Although this was a low budget movie, it looks terrific here and yes, some flaws do surface, but nothing serious in the least. This edition offers a large improvement over prior releases, including the original DVD from Image Entertainment. The print used here is very clean and shows minimal defects, though some marks still appear, as is to be expected. I was pleased to see less grain than in prior versions, since this was shot on lower grade film stock, which usually looks much worse than this, to be sure. The colors look a little faded, but more than solid and contrast is razor sharp, I was stunned by the depth of the black levels here. In the end, this is an excellent visual presentation that overcomes the inherent flaws of the material very well, impressive work indeed.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes a new Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track, as well as the film’s original mono option, both are which are most welcome. As usual, some elements are lost in both mixes, as some atmosphere is gained with surround sound, but some smaller, subtle sacrifices are made in order to achieve that. I don’t think either is a perfect mix, but both offer pros and cons, so I applaud MGM for including them both on this release. I think most people (especially casual fans and newcomers to the film) will prefer the power and range of the surround choice, since it sounds good and uses all the speakers, but I think it sounds a little thin, due to the source materials. The mono option is much more natural in scope, but some folks think mono equals bad, so they’ll take a poor surround sound track over a clean, natural mono one. I am conflicted here, as I think the mono is the best choice of the two, but the new Dolby Digital track should please home theater buffs, who need to justify their systems with loud and powerful dynamics, even if at times, at the expense of the original sound design. This disc also includes French and Spanish language options, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
While the other regions were given two disc sets and we have just one, we still have access to all the extras, as well as some new ones. It all leads off with Other Voices, an in depth documentary that offers all sorts of insight into The Terminator. This piece includes some newly created interview time with director James Cameron, which was not included on the other versions, so we Region 1 fans have an edge from the start. In addition to the interviews with various cast & crew members, you’ll also be shown some interesting special effects & behind the scenes footage, very cool stuff, to be sure. This is one of the more comprehensive, informative, and entertaining documentaries I’ve seen of late, so no one should miss Other Voices, especially fans of the Terminator flicks. Another interview piece is also included, but it is a brief one with retrospective interviews with Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It still clocks in at almost twenty minutes, but when compared to Other Voices, it seems brief by comparison. You can also browse some massive still photo libraries, which have been divided into sections to ease navigation. The usual production photos can be seen of course, but also special effects stills, publicity materials, and some of Cameron’s own shots have been included here, which amounts to a ton of stills, without a doubt. A selection of deleted scenes have been tacked on as well, complete with text intros and optional Cameron comments. This disc also contains some DVD ROM content, two television spots, and three theatrical trailers.