Skip’s Quips: Reflections on ‘The Terminator’

Blog Sketch 082813I wish The Terminator were an enjoyable film.

Sure, it’s kinetic. Action-packed. Exciting. But enjoyable?

Frankly, I find flat, warm cream soda more appealing.

These ruminations popped up while I was watching the film recently on TV. And yes, I sat through the entire flick … which I hadn’t done in ages. I admired the snappy editing, the fierce car chases. Even the crisp dialogue seems tailored to speed things along. It’s a fast-moving, zippy movie.

But again: not enjoyable. Downbeat. Unpleasant. I guess that’s the point—it does, after all, concern the possibility of a post-apocalyptic future where unstoppable machines roam the earth killing humans. Yet there’s something dreary about the whole thing, even when you factor in the idea that it’s not completely hopeless … that those terminators can be beat. I don’t get that feeling while watching another seminal, dark sci-fi picture, Blade Runner, which has a more positive outlook. In that film, machines have a human side. They seek life, while the construct in The Terminator wants death.

That, in my opinion, is a big reason why I enjoy watching Blade Runner. The characters are more complex, and the antagonist isn’t evil. He, like Pinocchio, has humanity. The terminator doesn’t.

It’s easier, I think, to create film villains without nuance. You can drop sneering, classical music and other standard ingredients into the blender and mix. A three-dimensional villain, however, is a lot more difficult … but can add more flavor. Yes, that’s beside the point in The Terminator, but this missing ingredient makes it less entertaining.

And I just think of replicant Roy Batty’s final speech in Blade Runner to prove it.

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