Let's agree to one thing from the beginning: "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is the best movie ever made.
Okay, perhaps not the best movie ever made, but it is a perfect fusion of unstoppable killer robots, groundbreaking Oscar-winning visual effects, gob-smacking action scene and Arnie at the apotheosis of Arnie-ness. It is a great movie.
Story: Two humanoid cyborgs fly back in time to fight with each other over John Connor – the head of the human revolution in a futuristic war against Artificial Intelligence.
As with Aliens, director James Cameron has again taken an excellent science fantasy movie and made a sequel that’s in some ways more powerful - growing on the original rather than merely transforming it. This time he’s achieved the trick by bringing two cyborgs back from the future into the kind of present (the math doesn’t quite work out here) to severally threat and defend the juvenile John Connor (Edward Furlong) – head of the human resistance against machines that rule the war-devastated world of 2029.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is more relaxed and convinced here than the first time around, reprising a role so flawlessly suited to the voice and physique that have established him as a larger-than-life movie persona.
While "The Terminator" was an excellent horror movie, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is an excellent action movie. While "The Terminator" was about the horror of an unstoppable prototype of a technologically-advanced but soul-dead present, "Terminator 2" is, like so many action films before it, a paradoxically powerful screed toward violence. The film's conservative politics are mostly dated, though several modernized extremists represent the paranoiac thoughts that compel self-styled freedom fighter Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) to fight against mental systems, the police, and common sense to stop artificially-intelligent computer system Skynet from destroying humanity in a nuclear war.
When "The Terminator" came out in 1984, everyone was excited, and the director James Cameron earned a fan base as well as the reputation, which he later supported by making a lot of great movies. There are five Terminator movies, and Microgaming took the best out of all five and developed an online slot game named Terminator 2. It is really fascinating. The symbols cover Arnold Schwarzenegger's and Sarah Connor's pictures, as well as some of the most remarkable views from the movies in one icon. The game features many of the same actors from the movie, and it also boasts some of its blockbuster action with exciting animations, and adrenaline-fuelled bonus rounds and free spins.
But it's important to note that Sarah is not the actress of "Terminator 2" as she was in "The Terminator," but rather a supporting character that assists raise both estranged son John (Edward Furlong) and cyborg bodyguard/surrogate dad T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). The T-101 is the main role in "Terminator 2" since he, as he boasts, is a "learning machine," able of progressive evolution. This was the route to war in the era of George H.W. Bush bipartisanship: using one deadly system to fight a more threatening system. Robots don't kill people - people kill people.
Linda Hamilton’s work in this film was nomination-level. The events of Judgment Day take place a decade after the original, and by this time Sarah has become a hardcore warrior obsessed with warning the world about the madness just around the corner. Even though we know Sarah is right, we don’t blame the professionals for believing she’s crazy. She is a little bit off the rails, and even after she escapes from the institution and is on the road with her son and that blasted Terminator, it takes her a long time to allow her heart to soften. Hamilton owns every side of Sarah’s character.
The bond between Edward Furlong’s 10-year-old John Connor and the Terminator is sweet and funny and, yes, actually quite moving. (Furlong was not the best child actor in the world, but he does better in the lighter scenes with Schwarzenegger than in the moments when he’s required to show a tremendous range of emotion.)
The T-101's burgeoning ersatz humanity makes Schwarzenegger a perfectly re-purposed tool. Director James Cameron had to convince the Austrian Oak to turn his humanoid baddie into a good guy, a jarring transition that was partly difficult for Schwarzenegger to stomach due to the previous failure of "Conan the Destroyer," another sequel that was relatively lighter than its predecessor. But the T-101's role change works as well as it does because viewers - both then and now—don't necessarily expect Schwarzenegger's deadpan killing machine to be capable of serving as anybody's Jiminy Cricket-like moral compass. Still, that's precisely what the T-101 does when he reunites John with Sarah and gets from both characters first-hand the importance of preserving human life.
The T-101's change from a villain to a hero also shows the uncertain faith at the heart of "Terminator 2." Some transmissions in the system can be retrained, but not all systems are good. The psychiatric system, designed by vainglorious Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen), is tellingly removed since it keeps single radicals like Sarah down, and assures them that they must genuinely want to re-assimilate rather than just simulate a wish to change (in "Terminator 2,"evil machines are good mimics, but good people are evil mimics). The cops, described by the confused investigators who examine Sarah about her connection to the T-101 and the gas-mask-making SWAT team that tries to stop the assassination of Skynet, are ineffective and hindered by a lack of passionate motivation.
But nuclear species, like the ones that surround well-meaning specialist Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) and good-natured survivalist Enrique Salceda (Castulo Guerra), are all positive since they describe a brilliant future that must be preserved (hope must be preserved and defended instead of cultivated and maintained). So it makes sense that Sarah ends being a machine-like human, and starts acting like a human machine when she finds Miles and Enrique but is either contained, or scared during her every battle with security guards, orderlies, and cops.
These central tenets of "Terminator 2"'s fear-mongering worldview are also present in "The Terminator," but they are possibly more compelling in the sequel since they are a product of Cameron's singularly fanatic creativity. I imagine he recognized as the clean-burning machine, his thought limited only by unyielding crew members, pressing budget limitations, and the small-mindedness of anyone who doesn't agree that bigger is significantly better.
For proof, compare the way Cameron shoots violence in "The Terminator" with "Terminator 2." There's more gore and impact-intensive massacres in the former film while the latter is characterized by the relatively sleek killing style of the T-1000, or even the scalpel-like precision of the T-101, who self-disassembles his left fore-arm in "Terminator 2" much faster than he gouges his right forearm and his left eyeball "The Terminator." And while there aren't more collisions and car crashes in "Terminator 2" than there are in "The Terminator," there are bigger explosions. "Terminator 2" oozes barely-sublimated tension that hails from Cameron's highly personal vision, as we see during formative car chases, pyrotechnics, and body-morphing computer effects.
In fact, one primary reason to revisit the "Terminator 2" is that the post-converted 3-D makes the film's textures that much richer, especially any surface covered in fire, sweat, or light. Special effects designer Stan Winston's cyborg puppets and computer effects are worth the extra couple of bucks for 3-D, especially his body-deforming designs for the T-1000, like the bifurcated "Pretzel Man," or the porous "Donut Head."
Schwarzenegger and his most outstanding cast-mates may not need a glossy technological reboot, but it is nice to be reminded on a big screen, through engrossing close-ups, tracking shots, and complicated brightness set-ups, that Cameron knows how to use his man cogs to maximally maintain his hulking anti-authoritarian blockbuster. His maximalist way pays off big time, making "Terminator 2" that unique genre classic that is every bit as good as its name.
There’s no point going into plan details considering how strongly this movie has inserted itself into pop culture. Watching the movie now makes you think about how many other movies followed Terminator 2’s visible and fictional direction, and yet not one single other movie directed to replicate what James Cameron did here. It’s surprising that the visual effects still keep up. The fight in the shopping mall between T-800 and T-1000 tearing up walls is as genuine as it gets. T-1000’s morphing mercury body still looks like a technological masterpiece, and the view where he passes through the prison bars still provides a wide smirk on our face.
But that’s the thing about T2 - it wasn’t just about next level visual effects, it was also about using the next level technology to make extraordinary sequences. That is the basic difference between most of the current CGI-laden blockbusters and T2. If you’re to pick some of the best fighting set pieces of the last ten years, you’ll find it tough to name more than three or four, and most of them would be the ones with the limited use of CGI. The current crop of superhero movies stun you into slavery, rather than wow you. When T-800 and John Connor race through the aqua duct on the Harley Davidson with a loaded shotgun tracked by a truck, you get that for the rest of your life. When T-800 shoots a bullet into a frozen T-100 breaking him into a million pieces, you stick a banner of his tagline ‘Hasta la vista baby’ on your bedroom wall.
The film has been remastered into a fresh new 4K format which only makes it better than before. The colours of the lava burning in the backdrop of the finale now pop out, the bluish night lighting of the mid-section when the gang goes to find a scientist with a robotic arm now looks like a neo-noir. The dream that Sarah has of the apocalypse burning the city still makes your jaw drop.
As we mentioned earlier, T2 is a mixture of action and horror, and, as in most films relating to either of those styles, it has a rigid strip about which it’s fascinatingly unconcluded. Cameron’s self-conscious to know that he can’t have his “good” Terminator killing people willy-nilly, particularly as played by a man who became a superstar by modifying the hard and narcissistic image that he honed in Pumping Iron. And so John must teach the T-800 to be more sensitive, which requires shooting innocent people in the kneecaps, making them great pain and probably handicapping them but providing us with the sensory rapture that’s expected of an action movie, only without the offence that might go with laughing along with outright killing. In this sense, T2 divides audiences of engagement in a fashion that implies the pop-cultural equivalent of, well, drones. Carnage is reduced to pair ideally with our supersize Coke and popcorn.
Watching Terminator 2 on a big screen is real happiness. If you’re a millennial and steerage from Generation Z, it might not inspire you as much, but be rest confirmed that if you watch T2 on the big screen, you’ll watch one of the best movies of your life. But if you’re from Generation X and Y, and/or you’ve been an Arnie fan, these revisits to the most outstanding action movie ever made is an event you cannot miss.
‘T2’ truly attains the test of time with a fabulous story connected with smart and effective special effects that complement the story. After all, the menace of global nuclear annihilation is greatly relevant today, while artificial intelligence sits on the verge of independent sentience. This movie established the bar greatly high for action blockbusters and would become a game-changer in the film industry – even if the ‘Terminator’ franchise would go on to break under heavy expectations. Though you might have watched it repeatedly on cable TV, you do not want to miss the surreal and futuristic action of ‘T2’ on the big screen, remastered in 3D!
Go and watch this amazing movie at least once!
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JAMES CAMERON / SCREENPLAY: JAMES CAMERON, WILLIAM WISHER / STARRING: ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, LINDA HAMILTON, EDWARD FURLONG, ROBERT PATRICK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW