The film would prove to be a defining moment in the sci-fi and action genres and the work done by ILM’s Dennis Muren and the legendary Stan Winston not only holds up today but serves as a pivotal moment in on-screen effects.
Thankfully though there was far more to the film than some stunning effects work. This is arguably Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finest screen role, different enough from his first incarnation in Cameron’s The Terminator and far more complex than any of the actor’s subsequent dalliances with the family friendly fare of Twins, Kindergarten Cop and the execrable Junior. Cameron also hangs the entire film on the broken family dynamic between Sarah and John Connor, and the emotional power of the film come journey’s end and the fate of unexpected surrogate father figure is entirely earned.
As the film’s legacy has been more than a little tarnished by the next two films in the series I thought today we’d look back at how the film was produced, unveiled and received by audiences and critics back in the day. I’ve collected a number of videos from around the web which, while focusing on the VFX, give a good indication of how James Cameron surprised and delighted audiences two decades ago.
First up is a low-res on the set featurette which has some candid moments with the focus on James Cameron’s directing technique (a choice quote has him proclaiming that he hates being the centre of attention), the usual banter and some pretty terrifying demonstrations of the model work from Stan Winston’s team.
The next video is a short clip of Stan Winston himself talking about the process of creating the effects, and it’s interesting to hear him talk about a time when visual effects were starting to show the potential to overtake the practical side of things. Winston’s genius is compounded by his desire to get things right, whoever creates the effect.
A slight change of focus here as I’ve included Siskel & Ebert’s review of the film, which is unreserved in its acclaim.
Keeping on the theme of the pioneering visual effects here’s a three part documentary of the creation and ideas behind the CGI work. Foreshadowing Avatar and the technology catching up with the imagination of the director, Cameron talks about having the idea for the liquid metal Terminator during the first film and, once claymation was deemed unsuitable, the work on The Abyss paved the way for the T-1000.
Here’s the original trailer,
And here’s the famous music video of Guns N’ Roses You Could be Mine in which Arnold Schwarzenegger has the chance to blow seven shades of Sweet Child O’ Mine into Axl and his crew…
And finally there’s a bit of an oddity from Youtube user rymdreglage whose video for the track Anatoliy Shishkov features an eco-unfriendly tribute to the film.