Like they say, hindsight is always 20/20. Predicting the future is never as accurate as truly “seeing” it. Back in the early ‘80s, the action film genre was on its last legitimate legs. The ‘70s had taken the once viable category and dragged it through a dozen b-movie drive-in permutations. Unless it was being helmed by Stephen Spielberg and centered on a he-man archeologist with a funny first name, no one much considered stunt-oriented cinema as the upcoming decade’s moviemaking messiah. That was before young hot shot James Cameron and his sci-fi masterpiece The Terminator came along. Borrowing a bit from speculative fiction’s past (thank you very much, Harlan Ellison) and arguing for a new style and approach to edge of your seat thrills, it remains, some 27 years later, one of the benchmarks in the business called show.
Forget the fact that it launched a relatively unknown bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger into the upper echelons of the A-list (and into a certain State House). Ignore the fact that it would spawn a sequel that literally redefined the use of special effects and computer technology in filmmaking. Heck - how can you overlook the fact that its primary driving force, that glorified geek named Cameron, went on to direct the two most popular motion pictures of all time (Titanic, and Avatar)? From the steel-blue gray color scheme that defined the genre’s look - until The Matrix remade it in mossy greens and browns - to the careful combination of concept and execution that remains to this day, the story of a future warrior sent back in time to protect an unknowing waitress from the mechanical menace out to destroy her is, perhaps, the single most important film of its time.