The Terminator is the only edition of this long standing movie franchise to depict Sarah Connor as stable. She works in a diner and becomes flirty with her best friend’s boyfriend. Connor nearly vomits as the sight of a gunshot wound, and sits under a desk in total panic waiting for a rescue as a police station comes under assault from a futuristic cyborg.
By Terminator 2, she was locked up in a mental institution. Sarah Connor Chronicles depicted her on edge and in a frenzy to save her son, humanity’s best hope for the future. In Terminator 3 they… well, they said screw it for Terminator 3, but it does not lessen what a variation on the formula the first film is.
James Cameron loves a strong female hero. Aliens becomes a feminine ground war against the queen Xenomorph, and Kate Winslet has to save Leonardo DiCaprio from imprisonment in Titanic. So, Terminator becomes the film which will build that female lead. She runs away now, needs a male to pull her out of danger, but begins to see her inner strength. At the end of Terminator, you can see a spiteful, far less fearful Connor who is accepting of her fate.
Terminator is vastly different than the spectacle that would follow the franchise. This is a harder, edgier piece with a focus on dimly lit interiors and graphic violence. Arnold’s flesh coasted T-800 does not merely walk into a police station and begin shooting. The scene is set by the police chief who tells a tired Connor there are 30 cops in the building. Terminator announces its kill count the audience would be unaware of otherwise, while also building an unstoppable killing machine.
The T-800 is ruthless and a poor fact checker. He barges into a home, past a little boy playing in the front yard, and guns down a mother who happens to share the Connor name. These are graphic executions, performed in slow motion with an unnerving victim POV. The sense of fear and realization is evident before the trigger is pulled.
Despite being the most grounded of the franchise with general chase scenes and explosions, Terminator is no less of a spectacle. Brilliant miniature work depict a cold future, lasers firing and annihilating a helpless human force. Outstanding stop motion effects depict a machine stumbling and injured, relying on pure programming will. A dazzling truck explosion late is fitted with rear projection screens and miniatures you can never tell are miniatures.
Through all of the endless violence, Terminator remains a human story. The sequel would bolt itself down with a unique father/son dynamic, but is superseded by top tier action elements at every turn. No one immediately draws to mind a tender moment between a young John Connor and a new T-800 in Terminator 2; they recall the canal chase. With the first film, there is room to recall the relationship between a grizzled Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor. It is central to everything Terminator does, allowing it to stand in the face of a relentless machine and still be relevant.
Because The Terminator does not have enough releases on home video, Fox issues the second run for the Blu-ray with this Remastered Edition (the first was from Sony). Born from what appears to be a higher resolution master and certainly better encoding, the film breathes here with excellent fidelity. What the aging film stock may often lack in pure depth, it can sit back and relax at the sight of wonderful sharpness.
Image fidelity needs to peer through an up-and-down grain structure, and it will. The AVC encode is clean, and even when the screen picks up the weightier nuances of the film stock, compression remains at bay. There is a total lack of damage to be found even during the effects shots which is certainly impressive. Some motion can cause an insubstantial amount of smearing, the grain structure seemingly sticking around while the rest of the image moves. This is too controlled to worry about noise reduction applications or other types of filtering. No signs of sharpening, ringing, or halos creep into the frame.
If anything has been changed significantly, it without question the color timing. The blue filters Cameron used are always a part of the film, but the tweaks here “modernize” the 1984 film stock, not unlike Top Gun 3D. It is orange and teal time. This a chillier image, and while the effect on the special effects driven future scenes is almost nill, the rest of the piece has been altered. Again, the veer towards blue has always been there, now tweaked to better match the warming up of the whites. Scenes in the police station are especially noticeable.
Assuming the tweaks are not bothersome, the presentation can then work to reproduce exceptionally firm definition. Close-ups have never contained this level of fine detail, and medium shots are natural. Even in the absence of daylight the source material is able to generate layered imagery plus the necessary sharpness. Arnold’s false head as he works on his damaged eye is more obvious than ever thanks the boost in resolution. A mixed reaction for sure, while the end result seems worth the tinkering.
Fox mirrors the DTS-HD audio mix of the first Blu-ray release, an often highly debatable topic that tends to split the community. On one hand, the tracking, surround uses, and wide stereo spread are perfect. Nothing is missed, and pans sound natural. The electronic score during the opening credits comes from alternating speakers for a substantial split. Shoot-outs and car chases extend vehicles from the frame, while machines will force LFE activity in the future. The mix has excellent balance.
On the other hand, there are the new sound effects. Guns sound weaker, and shotgun blasts fade out without the needed impact. It is a mixture of positive and negative effects. Those unaware of the original audio will not even notice. Those who have followed Terminator from the days of VHS will still be disappointed. On a purely technical level, fidelity is marvelous for a film of this age, and the mixing is remains a precision marvel, new effects or not.
Extras are also cloned from the prior release. Creating the Terminator is a short look at the great employment of miniatures and the style of soundtrack. Terminator: A Retrospective is an older piece pulled from a taped source that actually has some decent production values despite being older. Seven deleted scenes are left.
Use the following screens, captured from Sony’s original Blu-ray, for comparison: