01/04/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: BFI Publishing/Palgrave Macmillan. 72 page illustrated small softcover. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85170-553-8.
check out website: www.palgrave.com
When I was given Palgrave Macmillan's advanced book list and spotted a couple new BFI Modern Film Classics being released which we'll be reviewing later in the year, I checked on what was available in their back catalogue and discovered several Science Fiction related.
A request to the nice lady publicist and I have a bunch of them to review in the next couple months. The only one not in print is 'The Thing' although whether it will remain that way I don't know. 'The Terminator' by Sean French is on its third reprint which should be an indication that people are interested in both the 1984 film and this critic's appraisal. As it was written before the third film, 'Rise Of The Robots', French only goes as far as 'Terminator 2' in assessment.
I don't think I have to remind you illustrious audience just what 'The Terminator' film is about. A SF film which mixed time travel and a robot...excuse me cyborg with its own agenda terrorising the local inhabitants as they got in its path. 'The Terminator' surpassed its low budget and turned everything on its head, including making Arnold Schwarzenegger's star and certainly did a world of good for director Jim Cameron and the late Stan Winston's careers. Interestingly, none of them, including the studio, realised how much of a classic the film would become, just giving their best shot in making it work. Something that should still be encouraged in today's CGI age.
I'm not sure if I agree with French's assessment of Michael Biehn's role in the film though. Here we have Kyle Reese, one tired and somewhat shell-shocked soldier sent back into the past, knowing that he is likely to die saving Sarah Connor, against the insurmountable odds of a Terminator with current day weaponry. Not an enviable position and being brave in such a situation would wear any normal person out. French does point out that it is left to Biehn's role to explain all of what is going on leaving Schwarzenegger to steal the scenes but then again, audiences remember the monster roles. Boris Karloff is remembered from all the Universal 'Frankenstein' films, not the actor who played his creator. Cameron thought highly enough of Biehn to cast him in 'Aliens' with a lot more to do certainly shows how much he felt about the actor.
Don't under-estimate the small size of this book as it does do a good in-depth assessment of the film and covers a lot of the bases and details that you can use as a ready reference to dazzle your friends with. French looks at all the influences that Cameron had before making the film's look as well as the readily more acknowledged ones from the original 'Outer Limits'. He then moves onto assessing the film. I did find it odd that when it came down to breaking it down into scene by scene assessment that he stopped after the first hour forgetting it's the finale that makes the ending. Granted this was covered from the technical aspects elsewhere in the book but then again, so was this scene breakdown as well and could be regarded as either unnecessary padding or a little more thought and combined the two elements together.
If you're stuck for something to read on a trip, these BFI books are small, don't weigh very much and will allow you to pass an hour with undivided attention.
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