Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Power of 'The Terminator'; Sci-Fi Character, Films Prove to Be Influential, Enduring

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Power of 'The Terminator'; Sci-Fi Character, Films Prove to Be Influential, Enduring

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel, Times-Union staff writer

Back in 1984, you wouldn't have been blamed for thinking that The Terminator would just last a few weeks in those crummy little shoebox theaters they had back then, moving on quickly to the dollar theater, the drive-in and, finally, oblivion.

After all, it was a low-budget flick that looked exactly like a disposable B-movie, what with its silly title, its time-travel plot, its cyborg killer. And look at the star -- that ridiculous-looking Austrian bodybuilder with the heavy accent and that last name few could spell or even pronounce.

And what was his first name?

Conan?

Arnold?

But who would have thought it? The Terminator has proven profitable, influential and enduring (the third in the series, from director Jonathan Mostow, opened this week, one of the more anticipated films of the summer).

The first two Terminator films helped give director James Cameron the power to eventually become King of the World with Titanic.

And with the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as an impassive cyborg, it created a huge action star who could be bound for even more glory. (They also may give the curious the chance to see what the naked buttocks of the next governor of California look like -- a new wrinkle in politics.)

Schwarzenegger was an inspired casting decision, notes Syracuse University pop-culture professor Robert Thompson.

"When you're sitting around a cocktail party coming up with the most perfect marriages between character and actor, that's one that's got to be on the list," he said.

The 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, was hardly the sleeper that the first was. It was high-profile, one of first films to make extensive use of computer graphics mixed with live action.

It was mind-blowing stuff for the time and helped make T2 a sensation -- even if its reputation has perhaps suffered in recent years as those effects are matched and topped in movie after movie.

"T2, seven years later, was then the most expensive film ever made, desperate to show it, and minus the original poetry," wrote critic David Thomson in his New Biographical Dictionary of Film. …

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