Movie Review – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
– Summary –
Director : James Cameron
Cast : Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley, Enrique Salceda.
Year Of Release : 1992
Length : 120 minutes
Synopsis: The Terminator returns, this time to protect a young John Connor, as another, more powerful Terminator model is sent back from the future to kill him. The T1000 is an unstoppable, inhuman killing machine, and the T101 must fight with all it’s strength to protect John Connor from becoming a footnote in history.
Review : Dazzling, classic sci-fi action opus, the best film of the franchise and possibly one of the greatest cinema events of all time, T2 remains the definitive film by which Arnie is recognised. James Cameron could pretty much write his own ticket after this, and he did, following up T2 with True Lies and then Titanic, two more blockbuster films.
Devastating, powerful, classic Sci-fi action film that deservedly receives multiple repeat screenings on TV every year: Terminator 2 – Judgement Day is a revelatory cinematic masterpiece that borders on the sublime. It’s slam-bang action filmmaking as only James Cameron can envisage, his explosive, cataclysmic technique perfectly capturing the power of the Arnold in full force. The sequel that managed to be far, far superior, and equally as ground breaking as it’s predecessor, T2 revolutionised computer effects in film (again) and ensured Arnie’s status as cult classic actor with one of cinema’s greatest ever lines. “I’ll be back”, and he’s right.
At the end of the original Terminator, Sarah Connor and her future lover Kyle Reese, have defeated the T101 sent back in time to kill her. Years later, with Sarah’s son John growing up, and Sarah herself imprisoned in a psychiatric institution for her somewhat mad ranting about future devastation, another T101 is sent back, this time, however, with the mission to protect John from attack by the latest Terminator to come off the production line, the T1000. The T1000 it seems, is sent to kill John in order to defeat the resistance to the machine uprising, which is scheduled to occur in 1997. This is the reference to the titular Judgement Day.
John Connor (Edward Furlong) is a recalcitrant, misogynistic youth, who spends more time in and out of foster homes than in, and cutting school to play arcade games with his friend. Over the course of the film, we discover he’s been led to believe his mothers claims of a nuclear holocaust in the future, the point at which Skynet, the AI-run computer, will obliterate most of humanity to protect itself from being switched off. Now that his mother is locked up in a mental hospital, under the care of Dr Silberman, the same man from the first film who didn’t believe Sarahs story.
Sarah, having now honed her body to an athletic, muscular peak, attempts to break out of the hospital, subjugating several workers and Dr Silberman himself with a syringe full of toxic chemicals to the neck. John, meanwhile, is persued through the city streets by the T1000, an unstoppable, liquid-metal monster in the form of a policeman (Robert Patrick) that is the equal, if not superior, in combat to the older T101. When he discovers that the T101 has been programmed to follow his orders, John decides they must rescue his mother from the hospital, and they do so, with the T1000 closely on their tail.
It is revealed that part of the original T101 (from film 1) was salvaged and sent to a development laboratory, run by Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) who is developing new technology based upon this future material. The T101 states that the weapons developed by Dyson, and the computer technology it will allow, are directly responsible for bringing about the nuclear apocalypse, and so Sarah sets off to kill Dyson in his home. John and the T101 stop her, just, before deciding that the remnant part, and all Dyson’s research must be destroyed. Housed at Cyberdyne Systems, the quartet succeed in their task to destroy the technology, but not before Dyson is killed and the entire building destroyed. The T1000 pursues John and Sarah (and Arnie) to a metalworks, where their final battle plays out.
Terminator 2 broke all records when it was released in 1991, and rightly so. It’s a taut, tense, terrifying action sci-fi thrill-ride, with some of the most bravura action sequences ever committed to film. Cameron has a no-hold-barred approach to filmmaking, a sense of scale and narrative that’s among the very best you’ll see. While the story is a little convoluted, and perhaps containing a few time-travel plot-holes, the action is intense, the actors give their all, and the technological marvels on display throughout the film are staggering to say the least.
Robert Patrick’s turn as the T1000, the Terminator made of liquid-metal, is one formidable foe, and certainly one of the best screen villains of the 90’s. He never really did anything of equal status in the years since, with the possible exception of the latter seasons of The X Files, which is a shame, because Patrick is a great actor in everything I’ve seen him in. The effects used to allow him to morph into a variety of shapes were revolutionary for their time, and gave the audience a taste of what was possible with computer effects. A fact not lost on Steven Spielberg a few years later with the release of Jurassic Park. There’s a moment, when the T1000 jumps from the exploding Cyberdyne building onto a helicopter, punching through the windscreen, where he/it becomes a kind of liquid metal worm, his CGI face and movements replicated from Patrick’s own performance capture, if you will. It’s a staggering moment, because it made the T1000 a truly amazing creation, and it’s potential for destruction was virtually unmatched.
Cameron’s great twist in T2 was to make Arnie the good-guy this time round, unlike his chillingly bare performance in Terminator, where uttered his now famous trademark line for the first time. Arnie is a little older, but still an imposing image here, striding into a bikers bar to clothe himself, before riding into the night on a Chopper, the strains of George Thorogood’s “Bad To The Bone” echoing through the soundtrack. Here, he’s given a lot more dialogue, and while perhaps still garbling most of it with his heavy Austrian accent, it’s a classic vocal performance that if oft parodied, ensuring it’s cult classic status.
Linda Hamilton, reprising her role of Sarah Connor from film 1, is almost un-sexily masculine in T2. She’s a muscular, hard-core militant, making her body into a weapon of it’s own, and a deadly one at that. She can handle herself this time, a far cry from the timid, frightened Connor of the original film. This shift in her character allows us, by association, to generate some sympathy for John and the T101; John because he never had a chance to get close to his paranoid mother, and the T101 because he is merely a machine, and has no feelings about the events of the previous film, where his model nearly ended Connors life and threw it into turmoil. She’s the most complex of all characters in the series, even though the focus tends to shift a little towards John this time.
Edward Furlong, child-actor chosen by Cameron to play the role of John Connor, is a squeaky-voiced annoyance. While his more recent films have allowed him to mature (both as a person and an actor), here, he’s a little like that kid who played Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace: uninspiring and devoid of depth. Perhaps it’s Cameron’s script, but I suspect the issue is more with Furlong himself. He just seems wooden, lacking the ability to convey emotions adequately onto the screen, and his vocal delivery is nothing short of ear-burstingly shrill. When Cameron has asked him to “act casual”, he takes that literally, changing his voice and performance to overdo it. I have long thought this to be a flaw with Cameron; his inability to cast child actors capable of delivering a performance the script and story deserve, and his inability to recognise this flaw.
However, his greatest asset is his ability to generate tension, shoot action, and give his films the epic, widescreen feel that they engender. Here, Cameron weaves some dynamic set-pieces (including the now famous truck chase through the streets of LA, culminating in a pursuit down a water drain which concludes with a massive fireball), with some envelope-pushing effects (including the T1000 moving through prison bars, the nuclear holocaust tearing through a major urban area, and the final, brutal, battle with between the two machines, with the T1000 able to morph itself around the T101 with incredible ease) and a pulse-pounding score from Brad Fiedel (who also scored Cameron’s True Lies) to generate one of the most exciting, thrilling entertainment spectacles ever filmed.
It’s a fair bet that most of the money spent on this film (all $102m of it) is up there on the screen, it would appear that no expense was spared to bring this film to life. The screen is littered with wanton destruction, almost throwaway carnage that barely makes it into frame. Cars, buildings, roads, scattered with the flotsam of explosions and gunfire, the level of destruction in this film is far superior to even more recent films of this ilk. It’s a film set to entertain, for no greater purpose than to entertain.
If you’ve never experienced the sheer thrill of watching Terminator 2, can I suggest you do so with the greatest urgency. This is a classic genre film, a genuine first class thriller and sci-fi opus, a film that has already entered the cult realm and pop-culture consciousness. Sits alongside Aliens as Cameron’s most complete, most cohesive, film effort. Superb.
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