Before there was “the summer blockbuster” (a label that now describes a studio’s box-office hopes rather than a film’s actual success), there was the matinee movie, meant as a respite from summer heat for kids with nothing to watch at home (in the days before videos, DVDs, and the like) and brainpans overflowing with Marvel comics, Aurora models, and backyard G.I. Joe scenarios. This beautiful, conceptually fearless piece of all-American pulp—forget the 2001 Tim Burton remake—remains resonant and unforgettable, but it also invokes memories of an entire decade of summers (what with its many sequels and frequent rereleases) for a lucky generation of kids, whose cerebellums are permanently branded with the image of Charlton Heston kneeling on the beach before the wrecked Statue of Liberty. Ah, to be lost on this “desert planet” once more. . . .
James Cameron goes all action-movie sci-fi on underwater technology and alien life, with plenty of vein-bulging special-effects action for the fellas, and for the chicks, a surprisingly passionate story of eternal love at its hot center.