Take Two: The Terminator

Who would have guessed that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best acting role would be as a robot? A cyborg at that. And he’s terrific. In James Cameron’s sci-fi whooper The Terminator (1984), T-800 Model 101 arrives on earth from the year 2029, programmed to kill sweet, but mighty tough, Linda Hamilton before she can give birth to the son who will lead the future resistance movement against the big machine in the sky. Considering she’s not yet pregnant, that’s awfully good fortune-telling. To counteract Arnie’s grunts and muscles, Michael Biehn, from the resistance, is sent down to protect little Linda from rampaging T-800. Guess who becomes Poppa?

On a very small budget, Cameron works miracles. The film, stripped to the bone, races through nonstop mayhem with crashing motorcycles, police shootouts, truck chases and nuclear annihilation, in case we forget why everybody is running around like crazy, and the pièce de résistance, the Austrian Oak’s head pressed flat in a compactor. The wow-inducing special photographic effects enhance the overwrought narrative, which is saved by tongue-in-cheek flashes of humor. Techno-geek Cameron got a huge career boost from this movie and would later become king of the world with blockbusters Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). We know where The Governator ended up. The Library of Congress certainly liked the movie. In 2008, that august body deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” for preservation in the National Film Registry.

7 p.m. Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $6.
Fri., July 25, 7 p.m., 2014

 
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