|Star:||George Segal, Joan Hackett, Richard A. Dysart, Donald Moffat|
|Cert / Year:||PG - 15 / 1974|
After an accident computer scientist Harry Benson has been suffering violent episodes. In an attempt to cure him he is offered a revolutionary treatment where a computer chip is implanted in his brain to control the attacks. Will the technology give him back his normal life or will it have a far more frightening side effect?
This film is based on a Michael Crichton novel and while it's some way from his normal "theme park gone wrong" storyline it does share some similar themes. It is another film where he looks at our inability to control the technology we create, and the fear that new technology generates. Yet again he gives us a vision of what happens when we tamper with the natural order, when what we have created goes badly wrong.
The main problem with this potentially clever story is it's terrible implementation. Director Mike Hodges gives it such a lack of pace and such a tediously long build up that you will probably be bored long before anything happens (he must have got paid by the minute). This is combined with laid back performances from the main cast leaves little to get excited about. The early part of the film is tedious in the extreme, yet even when the murders begin the whole affair is strangely un-involving.
The first half of the film contains nothing but debates on ethics, the operation itself, and the recovery period. This highlights another problem, which is while in 1974 the medical procedure may have been impressively futuristic and fascinating, today it is rather mundane as the technology actually exists. Therefore while it is an amazing accurate piece of prediction by Michael Crichton, it means that the operation itself has lost its impact. Today you can watch something even more impressive on the Discovery channel.
George Segal is a strange choice to play the central role. He seems to lack the clout needed to give the character of Harry Benson the necessarily schizophrenic edge. No amount of bad wigs or rolling of eyes can hide the fact that his performance is hardy convincing during his violent episodes. This coupled with the lack of background to his character leaves little that can we can sympathize with.
It is a real shame that an idea that is so interesting has resulted in a film that is so boring. The operation and its results should have happened in the first 10 minutes, then we could have had the rest of the film to witness the scary concept of a man trapped in his own body as he involuntarily performs these unspeakable acts (a sort of modern day Jekyll and Hyde if you will). More concentration of the violence and its results on the screen would also have helped hammer this home. This would result in ending where he traps the female scientist in her house, as she knows to the second that an attack is about to happen but unable to escape in time. The whole film would have been much more effective and truly terrifying.
The Terminal Man is a botched job, not so much technology gone wrong, as film making gone wrong. There is no doubt the concept behind it all is a good one, and that once the attacks do begin there are some genuinely effective moments. It just inexcusable that it takes tills nearly the end of the film for any of this to happen. I love the idea scientists knowing when an attack will happen but having lost their "Frankenstein's monster" they are powerless to stop him, but this movie wastes the concept. This is a film that screams out for a remake by someone like Brian De Palma who could give the flesh, blood, life and deaths it needs. Overall The Terminal Man is terminally boring.