Everyone has that movie that stays with them, that they can watch over and over again without tiring of it. Maybe yours is The Godfather. Or, maybe you’re more of a Shawshank Redemption Fan. Me? I’m all about The Terminator.
Earlier this month, I was at a chain bookstore and noticed a Father’s Day display in the middle of the store. Well, I didn’t realize it was Father’s Day stuff at first. I initially thought it was a table of awesome because it had beer making kits and homebrew books, Console Wars, and HOLY CRAP THERE’S A TERMINATOR BOOK?!
That’s right, there’s a sweet ass coffee table/text book hybrid on the best movie there ever was. How did I not know about Terminator Vault by Ian Nathan? Needless to say, I snatched a copy up right then and there. The next morning, I dug in and finished most of the book in one sitting. The book covers just about every aspect of the first two Terminator films, like cast relationships, special effects, drama, ingenuity, the whole she-bang. The author did his homework and has some really informative interviews with James Cameron throughout the book. Not only that, the Foreword is by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This just keeps getting better and better.
I want to start out this review by stating that I am slightly biased about this book because The Terminator is my favorite movie of all time. That being said, I’d also like to state that I am not at all biased because it is a fact that The Terminator is the best film of all time (proof: time travel, robots, time traveling robots, Arnold Schwarzenegger, action, adventure, Linda Hamilton’s boobs, and for the romantics among us—a loving and caring relationship between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese). It’s science fiction, it’s action, it’s horror and disaster. And it clearly appeals to females. Boom. Science. Moving on.
The hardcover book comes in a protective sleeve, like old DVD movies used to. The photographs in this collection are absolutely stunning and there are a lot of them throughout Terminator Vault.
The attention to detail in is unparalleled. Upon cracking the book open, you’re greeted with Cyberdyne-decorated end pages. Who even thinks of that?
Sprinkled throughout the book are envelopes with some pretty amazing artwork reproductions inside. From production stills to a T2 badge and even the photograph of Sarah Connor that Kyle Reese had in the first film.
All the little stories that comprise the films’ making are fascinating. Like most people, I enjoy movie trivia, especially when it comes to actors that were originally considered for certain roles. I already knew that Orion wanted O.J. Simpson as The Terminator (but that he was “too nice” to be taken seriously in the role), but I didn’t know that Sting was on the list to star as Reese. Do not want.
Because The Terminator was so dark, making T2 was a challenge with the way the script developed. Understandably, making the bad guy from the first film into the good guy of the second film would be quite the challenge. Cameron, however, pulled it off—and we even rooted for T-800 as the underdog in the film.
Marketing for the sequel involved copious images of Schwarzenegger, which, interestingly, were replaced on later video and DVD covers with the T-800’s endoskeleton—a testament to the power of the character of The Terminator. This shift in icons stuck with Schwarzenegger more than anyone else. As Nathan points out: “The instant Schwarzenegger was sworn into office on November 18, 2003, as the new governor of California, a catchphrase sprang to reporters’ pens—he would henceforth be known as ‘the Governator’. No matter where he went, or what he chose to do, Schwarzenegger was still the Terminator.”
Promotional movie tie-ins abounded. There were video games, toys, comic books, graphic novels, a Subway “Terminator Special”, and a cologne called Hero.
Locally, a pizza joint picked up this Terminator moniker and named their huge 28-slice pizza The Terminator. This was a sleepover party staple and when someone wants to order a large pizza, the term Terminator is still thrown around (even though we never order from this place anymore).
The Terminator even makes an appearance in the music video for Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could be Mine” to tie in with the heavy usage of the song in the second film (not to mention T-800 actually carrying guns and roses in one scene).
While the book focuses on the first two films, Nathan does delve into T3: Rise of the Machines, T4: Salvation, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and even discusses T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (an attraction still open at Universal Studios Florida and Japan).
After the attraction, Cameron stepped away from the franchise, not signing on for T3. So, what of the criss-crossed timelines? Nathan writes: “The internal logic of the Terminator movies is barely held together by a knotty thread of time lines. If we take our lead from Cameron, then we should value little beyond Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time, seeing the further episodes at best as tributes, at worse aberrations.” An interesting take on things.
Further on in the book, I was happy to see that Nathan brought up the age old question: Which film, The Terminator or Terminator 2, is the better film?
“It is a mark of fans’ acceptance of the radical character reversals of both the T-800 and Sarah Connor that a heady debate remains to this day over which film, The Terminator or Terminator 2, is the better. Some vie for the dark, lo-fi purity of the first. And there are those who praise the witty recalibration of being the same but different. If fans went in initially resistant, disconcerted by the potential softening of the T-800, both the barrage of action and the extension of the first film’s themes left them no recourse but to surrender. T2 won over its doubters, with critics and bloggers to this day still unable to pick a critical favorite between the two films. Ultimately, fans don’t want to pull them apart—they feel like two parts of the same epic encounter with the future.”
Whenever I bring up that The Terminator is my favorite film, I’m questioned as to why I chose that instead of its sequel, especially because I’m a big Guns N’ Roses fan as well. I was glad to see Nathan touch upon this dilemma in his book.
While the first film will always be my favorite, I still love T2 as well. T2 is more than just an action flick. Cameron calls T2 “a violent movie about world peace… It’s an action movie about the value of human life.” And he’s done a hell of a job conveying this. On the other hand, The Terminator was a darker movie, not cutesy in the least. There’s no “Bad to the Bone”, no Guns N’ Roses tie-ins, no kids to worry about, and no Subway promotions. This is likely what draws me more to The Terminator instead of its sequel. There’s no punk-ass Eddie Furlong calling T-800 a dork in the first movie. I will admit, however, that after reading Terminator Vault, I find Nathan’s point of the two films being like two parts of the same epic encounter to be true of how I feel about the films. Still, if I could only watch one film forever, I’d choose The Terminator.
What began as a fever dream for Cameron became a franchise of epic proportions. The Terminator’s origins came about in March 1982 when Cameron was sick with a fever and a nasty flu. He was in Rome to confront the production company of a film (Piranha II: The Spawning) that he had been unjustly fired from. Upon waking, he sketched the terrifying creature of his dreams—a “chrome skeleton emerging phoenix-like out of the fire,” according to Nathan. The film was Cameron’s last chance. As Nathan puts it: “if it had failed, then his career as a director might have followed suit. In succeeding, it set him on a path to become the biggest director of all time, but more importantly, a director free to pursue his own vision.” The first film went on to elevate both Cameron and Schwarzenegger to a level they otherwise may have never achieved.