Notwithstanding the nuclear holocaust of 1997 and the three billion body count, it is hard to think of anything else when watching this movie than money: money spent, and, more constantly, money craved. And this, from a purely fictional standpoint, is a distraction. The problem with the money spent is not at all that it is money squandered. That would not be a problem; it would not be something you needed to think about. The problem is very much the opposite. The dearly purchased special effects -- and in particular those shape-changing liquid sculptures which director James Cameron must have felt had either not been seen by a sufficient number of people in his Abyss or else not been run sufficiently far into the ground therein -- transport the live-action movie as far into the realm of the cartoon as in any movie since John Carpenter's The Thing. The result is more like a technological trade show than like a full-blown movie: often impressive to look at, or browse through, without ever seeming quite sensible and useful. The money craved, meanwhile, looms as the larger problem. Our first full realization of the width and depth of the movie's intended appeal comes when Arnold Schwarzenegger (Inc.) covers his birthday suit in the pilfered black leather of a pool-hall biker, and the soundtrack greets this sartorial make-over (the camera starting on the toes of the boots and working upwards) with the strains of George Thorogood's "B-b-bad to the Bone." So much for Flaubertian detachment. But it only gets worse as the Terminator gets "better." (Who, watching the 1984 original, would ever have imagined that the Terminator and his prey would one day play out a tearjerking farewell in the Shane-don't-go mold?) Well, Godzilla, we might recall, became a good guy too, but we might also recall he didn't become a better character in the process. With Linda Hamilton. (1991) — Duncan Shepherd
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