My first exposure to The Terminator franchise was the Sarah Connor Chronicles. As introductions go, it was a good one. I met a tough-as-nails Sarah and an intelligent John and my interest was piqued. It’s taken me way too long to get around to watching through the film franchise though, but now I’ve finally started it!
And it’s kinda weird. Thanks to SCC, I know the entire plot of The Terminator without having ever seen the movie. While knowing the plot doesn’t ruin watching it, the story’s not quite as thrilling when you know all of the twists and turns before they happen.
If, by the way, you’ve somehow missed out on knowing what The Terminator is about, here’s the deal:
A Terminator is sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor—the mother of a future resistance leader. Kyle Reese is sent back too. He’s a fighter charged with keeping Sarah alive so that the future can stay intact.
That’s it. That’s the story.
The first film was made in 1984 and the special effects, truthfully, leave something to be desired. Some older movies hold up okay over the years (Alien and Jurassic Park come to mind) but some just don’t. The Terminator is one of the ones that doesn’t look so good thirty years on. The Terminator himself is kind of funny looking in his robot form and the future looks cheesy. I’m willing to overlook the special effects, of course, but there were a few times they really did take me out of the movie.
The reason to watch this film in 2015 isn’t the special effects or the action though. It’s Sarah Connor. She keeps the movie relevant to a modern viewer and makes me wonder why we haven’t had many heroines like her in the last decade or so.
Sarah Connor of The Terminator started out as a disappointment for me. She spends the first half of the movie terrified and unwilling to fight back when she’s nearly killed by the Terminator and abducted by Reese. My disappointment didn’t last for long because, as soon as she accepts what’s happening to her, she does exactly what she needs to do to survive—which includes making bombs, dressing gunshot wounds, and dragging her would-be savior out of harm’s way (ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS).
After the movie was over, I thought back over her behavior in the first half of the movie and realized that I’d been too hard on her. From the first moment she realized her life was in danger, all she did was try to survive. Unfortunately, she was doing what she could to protect herself in a 1980’s way rather than a 2020’s way. She tried not to fight back against Reese because she was hoping to survive long enough to get to the police. Then, by relying on the police to protect her from an assassin a.k.a. the Terminator, she was doing what any woman would do under the circumstances. When her understanding of the situation shifted, she immediately adjusted her ideas of what behaviors would keep her safe and alive.
Sarah Connor becomes a Ripley-esque heroine over the course of the movie and I appreciated that more than I appreciate your standard superheroine fighting against evil plotline. Sarah Connor’s a normal woman, but she does some pretty extraordinary things.
As to Kyle Reese, he was an interesting counterpart to Sarah. The romance between them was sort of weird and forced, but I liked that he was a bit in awe of her—even if she hadn’t quite reached legend status yet. He does save her a lot over the course of the movie, but when it comes down to the finale, it was refreshing that she had to save him (by basically dragging him out of danger). It’s interesting to note too that Reese is played by Ripley’s mancandy from Aliens. Apparently, Michael Biehn was your go-to action heroine companion of the 1980’s.
Sarah Connor redeems The Terminator from being just your standard action movie. While the action itself is a bit lame by modern day standards (and there are WAY too many car chases), the film is memorable because it has an Everywoman as its star rather than an Everyman.
Who’s your favorite action heroine?
Image Source: Kiss Them Goodbye