Terminator 2: Judgment Day Review
“Terminator 2: Judgement Day” was released to worldwide acclaim back in 1991 (yes you are that old!) and has since been released umpteen times in various DVD packages. “T2” can be classed as an iconic movie containing quotable dialogue not seen since the days of the original Star Wars Trilogy. Imagery from “T2” is also classic, with Arnie, commanding a Harley and spinning his Remington shotgun to reload still bringing a little shiver of excitement every time I see it. Spurning one sequel (“T3: Rise of the Machines”- a ho-hum affair) and having one predecessor (“The Terminator” - a B movie cult hit), “T2” is the best of the bunch although I am a big fan of the original “T1”. Also coming in 2009 we have “Terminator: Salvation” which, in my opinion, should have been made instead of “T3” and could be a summer blockbuster but I won't hold my breath! The 2003 Artisan Extreme Edition release of “T2” contained a reference standard HD master video transfer and an outstanding DD 5.1EX soundtrack. This release also contained a loaded extras disc (although not as loaded as the Ultimate Edition) complete with a 1080i Windows Media Player version of the movie and a magnificent animated interactive feature mode. This BluRay version has a mighty predecessor in this Artisan release but with a 1080p transfer of the Director's Cut (weighing in at a mammoth 2hrs33mins) and a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack I'm hoping for big improvements. The Artisan release is part of my two hour home cinema demo which is forced upon (and hated by) all visitors to my humble abode. Let's see if it will be usurped by this Blu-ray contender.
“T2” was an opportunity for director James Cameron to flex his creative muscle with a much larger budget than he had for the original “Terminator” movie. At the time of its release “T2” contained ground breaking special effects, such as the morphing capabilities of the T-1000, which simply blew audiences away. These CGI morphing effects were completely revolutionary and cost a packet - $5.5 million with eight months development for three and a half minutes screen time. This fact shows how far CGI effects have progressed in the last eighteen years as today most home PC users could create similar (although not as good) morphing effects with commercially available software. However, in 1991, these pioneering techniques earned “T2” four Oscars (Best Effects (sound), Best Effects (Visual), Best Sound and Best Makeup) which cemented its place as a groundbreaking piece of film work.
“With “T2”James Cameron (writer/director), fresh from successes with “The Abyss” and “Aliens”, looks to revisit his sleeper hit “The Terminator” with a much bigger wallet. It's obvious from looking at “T2” that Cameron had a passion for this project and I'm glad that he opted for a sequel rather than a remake. As co-writer (with William Wisher Jr.) of both the original and this incarnation of the Terminator, Cameron had a vested interest in his vision of the future and the story that “T2”is trying to tell. There was never any question about Cameron's capabilities with this project with nothing but excitement from the movie community when it was announced that Cameron was planning a Terminator sequel. Cameron's love of the Terminator also shows in his involvement with the “Terminator: 3D” project as well as character provision for the recent “Sarah Connor Chronicles”. Following “T2” Cameron had a bit of a lull period with nothing of note until 1997's smash hit “Titanic” and really has done nothing of great significance since. Let's hope that the soon to be released “Avatar” will relive the breakthrough status that Cameron achieved with “T2”.
The Austrian Oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger, steps up again to fill the shows of the Terminator in what is his most recognizable role. Arnie was basically at the pinnacle of his movie career at this stage and Cameron was relying heavily on both him and the CGI effects to make this movie a box office smash. With “Conan the Barbarian”, “Commando”, “Predator”, “The Running Man” and “Total Recall” under his belt and seemingly victor in the 'action hero battle' with Stallone (a fact that was later parodied in his “The Last Action Hero”) there is no-one else I would rather see play the iconic Terminator figure. Without meaning too much disrespect to the now Governor of California (and sometimes Bollywood actor!), I think that Arnie fared better in roles where he did lots of “muscling” as opposed to getting the former Mr. Universe to break out the Hamlet. Physical acting is what Arnie does best and he does it very well indeed. Getting paid a salary of $15 million with only 700 words of dialogue really says it all. Following “T2” it was all a steady degeneration (apart from “True Lies”) into the seedy world of politics for the big man with titles like “End of Days”, “Collateral” and “Eraser” showing that the world was moving on from the heyday of the 80's action hero. In saying that Arnie does succeed in bringing us one of the most memorable and iconic on screen characters of the last twenty five years in “T2” so my hat is off to him.
In the shadow of Arnie we have Linda Hamilton who in my opinion really turns out a star performance as the troubled Sarah Connor. Hamilton has always struck me as a very unusual actor as although she plainly has a wealth of talent she seems to dwell in the realm of TV bit parts and has never really made it big time in Hollywood. A name that everyone recognizes but most would be hard pushed to name many of her movies. In fact “Children of the Corn”, “T1” and “T2” are the only ones that spring to mind. What matters here is that Hamilton convincingly becomes Sarah Connor and is believable as the psychotic mother of John Connor. Hamilton was reasonable in “T1” but with the much larger production of “T2” it's evident that she has stepped up her game. Hamilton actually received weapons training from an Israeli commando and learned lock picking skills prior to making “T2”. This level of training and preparation really shows in “T2” as Hamilton never once looks out of place with the arsenal of weapons that she utilises throughout the movie. Since “T2” Hamilton has done nothing noteworthy apart from marry and divorce James Cameron, act in TV shows/low budget movies and have a much publicised breakdown. It seems a shame that such talent has been wasted.
“T2” also starred, and touted as the next big thing, Edward Furlong. “T2” was actually Furlongs very first movie but this fact is not reflected in Furlongs performance. Playing John Connor, who will lead the human resistance against the machines in the near future, Furlong turns out a strong performance and I think that the title of child prodigy was rightly granted to this young man. At the start of the movie I disliked John Connor's character and wrote him off as a whiney delinquent but as the movie progresses we see the maturation of Connor into someone who could one day actually lead the human race in the war against the machines. Furlong is strong throughout and, along with Hamilton, provides the only real “acting” in “T2”. For a supposed next Brando or Dene, Furlong was dormant until a superb performance in “American History X” (1998) and a reasonable faring in 2000's “Animal Factory”. Again, like Hamilton, Furlong seems to have dropped of the radar for the moment. It's also interesting to note that Furlongs voice broke during filming and much of his dialogue had to be redubbed - Furlong is also noticeable younger in some parts of the movie.
Robert Patrick takes up a fair portion of screen time as the T-1000 and plays the “bad guy” opposite Arnie's “good guy” T-800. Like Hamilton and Furlong, Patrick doesn't seem to have done very much before starring in “T2” with a bit part in “Die Hard 2” being his only other notable action outing. Patrick does fare well here and you can see the methodical nature in which he studied to become the T-1000. Patrick's ability to act and carry out tasks like run and fire a handgun without flinching really impresses. Patrick does an excellent job of portraying a machine that is devoid of emotion and expression and simply “functions”. Following on from “T2” Patrick busied himself with numerous projects with his most notable appearance on the recent TV series “The Unit”.
For those of you who have being living on Mars or who have been pursuing more wholesome activities rather than lounging around watching movies like me I'll give a brief synopsis of the story. “T2” follows on from “T1” and is set approximately 10 years after the original (the timeline of the Terminator movies has always been a point of question). John Connor (Furlong) resides in foster care, is off the rails and heading for trouble. With a strong spirit and technical skills learned from his mother John Connor is the human race's salvation although he doesn't know it yet. Connor's mother Sarah (Hamilton) is locked in a mental asylum with no-one believing her story about the future war or the existence of the Terminator. The premise of the Terminator movies is that in the near future Cyberdine, producer of computerised weapons systems, create the ultimate defence network called Skynet which is eventually given control of all the US's military systems. This highly advanced computer system develops artificial intelligence and uses the nuclear armaments at its disposal to wage a war on Russia sparking a nuclear holocaust that eradicates most of the earth's inhabitants. All these events take place shortly after 1997 when Skynet first goes online. The machines (whose ranks include futuristic aircraft and cyborgs) take over the planet with few humans left to struggle against their quest to destroy all human life. The leader of the human resistance, John Connor, makes life very difficult for Skynet and after repeated failed attempts to kill Connor, Skynet sends a highly advanced T-1000 Terminator back in time to kill the juvenile Connor. The future John Connor then sends back a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator that has been captured from Skynet to protect his younger self. It's that simple!!
“T2” opens with a glimpse of the future war and immediately we are treated to a terrific battle sequence with flying craft and the terrifying metallic endoskeletons of the Terminators shining as they advance on the remaining humans. It's a great action set piece that gives insight into the terrifying aftermath of the nuclear holocaust. These scenes haven't aged badly and still look fantastic. The only thing that I noticed is that the Terminators now appear to be gliding along rather than walking but this is a small niggle. With an accompanying monologue from Sarah C. the premise is set for what the human race faces if history goes to plan.
Arnie as the T-800 is introduced very early on in the movie (when we cut back to present day 1991) acquiring his trademark leathers, Harley Davidson motorbike and RayBans in the now iconic bar scene as “Bad to the Bone” throbs in the background. Next we see the introduction of Patrick as the T-1000 who, through morphing, takes on the appearance of a police officer. At this early stage we don't know what side Arnie is on which is a very clever move by Cameron. We don't know the purpose of the exciting T-1000 (complete with morphing abilities) either and this lures the viewers into a false sense of belief that Arnie is once again reprising his role as the bad guy. All we know is that both are looking for John Connor.
Sarah C. is introduced next as a psyche ward detainee in an asylum. We later learn that she tried to blow up a robotics factory and after telling authorities about the future war and the Terminators was committed (and has made several escape attempts). Hamilton does an excellent job as the edgy, unhinged soldier/mother who is tortured by her vision of what will happen to mankind if she cannot do something to stop it. Following the explanation of Sarah's back story we cut to see that young John Connor is a delinquent living with foster parents whom he has no respect for. At the outset John is a whiney brat and doesn't really draw any compassion from the audience. This changes as we see John forced to rapidly mature as the movie progresses as the weight of the human race is laid firmly on his young shoulders. Like Hamilton, Furlong does a fantastic job of portraying the troubled yet responsible John C.
There's a tense race at the beginning of the movie to see whether Arnie's T-800 or Patrick's T-1000 reach their target first. The T-800 gets there in the nick of time and a battle between the two machines ensues with the T-800 escaping with John C. in tow. The explosive and exciting storm sewer chase sequence follows and form this point onwards there is never really a slow point in the movie. “T2” has a cracking pace with some of the most exciting set action pieces ever committed to celluloid which include the opening future war scene, the storm sewer bike/truck chase, the Cyberdine destruction scene, the cryogenic truck/helicopter chase and the climatic Terminator battle. None the action set pieces have lost any of their excitement or drive although at times the effects can look a little dated. Both Arnie and especially Patrick do a great job of portraying machines - Cameron was so impressed with Patricks ability to fire a handgun without flinching that he used Patricks original takes without altering them. Great ingenuity and design has been used throughout “T2” to ensure that the excitement factor is never lost.
“T2” also acts as a pseudo buddy movie with John C. teaching the T-800 about human values and emotions throughout the movie in an attempt to break his programming. These scenes work well and enamour the audience towards the T-800 setting him firming in place as the good guy and underdog to the more advanced T-1000. This element also serves as an opportunity to offer some comedic relief from the weight and severity of the storyline as the Terminator tries in vain to emulate human characteristics like smiling.
Cameron utilises some great imagery throughout “T2”. Particularly effective and poignant is his use of the flaming swings and roundabouts in the opening scenes to really drive home the devastation that the nuclear holocaust has caused. So convincing was the nuclear holocaust piece that the American authority on nuclear testing declared it the most realistic ever committed to film. In fact children, and imagery to do with children, is prevalent throughout “T2”. I suppose that Cameron was trying to portray a message that war affects the lives of our children more than it affects the older generation. Cameron also utilised the bleak and deserted Mexican arms dump as a possible future image of the way the human race will exist following the nuclear war.
As a big fan I'm trying not to be too critical of “T2” but the fact of the matter is that it's an old movie and in some parts it's age definitely shows (Skynet was due to go online in 1997!). I'm not the kind person who will rip a movie apart from a technical point of view and ponder how it is possible for the T-1000 to reform so quickly and do calculations on the dates given in “T2” to see do they match up but the fact of the matter is that this film has aged. Some of the CGI effects are noticeably outdated in this updated transfer. In the opening scenes where Arnie appears in a storm of electrical energy the strands of lighting that flick around the screen are obviously overlay effects that were added in post production. The red hot metal of the surrounding truck also looks more painted on than real. Some of the fight sequences (especially with Sarah C. being force fed her medication) are clearly exposed as being fast frame footage in this BD release. The morphing effects do however hold up rather well for an eighteen year old film with only the full profile body morphs looking a little false. The video games that John C. plays (Afterburner), his state of the art Atari laptop and, in fact, all the consumer electronics clearly date this movie to the early 90's. I suppose that this is the problem with making a “modern day” movie that contains many common elements that will be rapidly outdated. Whatever my gripes are about the age factor of “T2” Cameron has succeeded, in conjunction with Arnie, in creating an iconic on screen character and superb action flick that will stand the test of time no matter how dated this film may look to future generations.
Standing as the last bastion of the tremendous 80's action movies that we all love (“Rambo”, “Rocky”, “Predator”, “Commando” etc.) “T2” is a worthy Nero to this now almost dead genre as more cerebral movies have taken over. The production and attention to detail has, however, stood the test of time with touches like the bullet holes in Arnie's jacket and facial damage even more evident here on BD. “T2” is still a cracking movie with an enjoyable storyline (that does require some suspension of belief), thrilling action set pieces and an exciting “is he dead/isn't he dead” classic ending that is often present in this genre of 80's-esque movies.
An iconic and exciting movie that although dated can still keep you perched firmly on the edge of your seat