Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

t2 IMDb

With the upcoming release of Terminator: Genisys, I thought it was a great time to re-watch the Terminator films and review them so we are up to speed. I’m sure I will regret this decision once we get to Terminator 3, but I don’t ever need an excuse to watch this marvel of a film. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is one of the best science fiction films of all time, and the best action movie I have ever seen. Every part of this film, from the cast to the amazing directing and story from James Cameron, is A grade. Everyone involved in this film is at the top of their game. T2 also holds a special place in my heart as it was the first R rated film I saw in theatres. As a nine year old, watching a grown up film made me feel like an adult, which is something all preteens long to do. (I did quickly get over that feeling when I became an actual ‘legal’ adult, and my wardrobe mostly consists of cartoon characters on t-shirts now.) I first came to know about this film from my best friend Oliver, while living in Denver. He had also just moved from Australia and watching T2 was one of the things we bonded over. We both loved this film, and became good friends mostly because of our shared affection for it. I also need to thank him for introducing me to such awesomeness as Aliens and Beavis and Butthead. I am forever grateful to him, but I digress, back to T2.

The second Terminator film picks up 11 years after the first film. John Connor (Edward Furlong) is now a young boy living in foster care after his mother (Linda Hamilton) got arrested trying to stop Judgement Day from happening. In case their first attempt to kill Connor failed (spoiler alert, it did), the machines have sent back another Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), to kill John when he was a young boy. Just as before, the humans have sent back a protector for John. This time, they have sent back a reprogrammed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to save John from the evil T-1000. After they break Sarah Connor out of the mental hospital she is being held in, the trio are on the run from this advanced killing machine who will seemingly stop at nothing to finish his mission and kill John Connor. The T-800, overmatched by the more advanced T-1000, will have to put up a fight against this liquid metal machine, and the trio may also prevent Judgment day from ever happening in the first place.

WOW. Epic film. I recently did my top 25 films of all time and Terminator 2 came in at number 4 behind Empire Strikes Back, When Harry Met Sally and Jurassic Park. The thing I love about all four of those films is that I can watch them at any time, no matter the mood I am in. Even writing this review now, I just want to go and watch T2 again.

The thing I love about this film is how it switches things up so well from the first film. In the original, Arnold was the bad guy and Sarah Connor was the young waitress not ready to be exposed to the terrible future that awaits humanity. In this sequel, she is a battle hardened bitch who takes no prisoners, and Arnold is now the good guy. It made sense for Schwarzenegger to be the good guy as he had forged a career playing heroes after the success of Terminator. He was coming off one of his biggest hits, the family friendly Kindergarten Cop, when he agreed to make this sequel, and I’m sure one of the selling points was that he now got to play the hero. Schwarzenegger and Hamilton, along with young Edward Furlong, have terrific chemistry together. I really liked their interactions with each other, particularly when John tries to teach his new pet Terminator how to act more human and ‘not be such a dork all the time’. I would go into more detail about Linda Hamilton’s performance, as it is one of the strongest female characters ever to appear on screen, but I am almost sure that this will be a subject Sally delves pretty deeply into, so I will let her discuss it. All I will say is that Sarah Connor is up there with Princess Leia and Ripley as the best female characters of all time. If Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is the gold standard for strong females in movies, then Sarah Connor is not far behind her. I also think it is probably no coincidence that James Cameron was involved heavily with both of those characters.

In my opinion, this is Arnold’s career defining role. He is so good as the emotionless cyborg in the original Terminator, and goes to another level in this sequel. You can see how much he has improved as an actor over the decade he had worked in Hollywood. He is able to believably interact with his human counterparts as a machine. Some might say it would be easy, but Arnie does a great job as the robot protector to John Connor. I really liked the added comedy to this film, no doubt influenced by Arnold’s recently successful turn in comedic films like Twins and Kindergarten Cop.

Of course no action movie is complete without a satisfactory villain, and T2 delivers one of the best ever. Robert Patrick as the shape shifting, knife producing T-1000 is one of the film’s highlights– not just from an acting standpoint, performed brilliantly by Robert Patrick, but a technological standpoint. Making the liquid metal robot look believable on screen was going to be one of the film’s biggest challenges. The reason there was such a big gap between sequels is because James Cameron had to wait for the technology to catch up to his storytelling. Only after he had made The Abyss was Cameron convinced that he would be able to believably portray his new terminator onscreen. I really liked the dynamic between Arnie and the T-1000. Cameron describes them going up against each other as a tank going face to face with a Porsche, and I really like that analogy. It sums up the differences between the two machines so well. The T-1000 is a technical marvel though, one of the first times that CGI technology had been used so well. The liquid metal sequences still look great today, nearly 25 years later.

T2 is the perfect action movie. There is really not much more that I can say about it than that. BEST. ACTION MOVIE. EVER!

Rating: A+

It’s really rare to find a sequel that matches the quality and magic of the original. Terminator 2 more than gets the job done. And yet… I find myself enjoying T2 less than The Terminator.

It’s purely personal preference, because objectively I can see why this film is so much more popular. For starters, the special effects and make up vastly improved since 1984. The obvious stand out in this department is the newest Terminator model, the T-1000. He’s made of liquid metal (which seems to break the movie’s time travel rules, but whatever) and can assume the form of any one he touches, walk through walls, turn his hands into knives or swords. He’s a pretty cool villain, maybe even cooler than the Schwarzenegger version.

Another plus are the continued character arcs for Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) and the original Terminator. Between the first and second movies Conner has given birth to a son, John Conner, who will one day lead the human resistance against the machines. She’s also been committed to a mental hospital and is determined to break out so she can keep John safe. Hamilton did extensive training to meet the physical demands required this time around. She also transforms Sarah Conner into an intense, serious, and driven character. Her performance is powerful, though sometimes difficult to watch (in a good way).

Schwarzenegger is also back as the Terminator, this time as John Conner’s protector. You wouldn’t think that a cyborg could have character development, but T2 manages to add dimension to this one dimensional creation. By the time Arnie had done a couple comedies, so more humor is injected into his performance. However, it’s still mostly action, which isn’t a bad thing. This is what Schwarzenegger does best, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want to see.

So what exactly don’t I like about T2? For starters, the moody narration by Sarah Conner never quite feels right to me. There was nothing like this in the first movie. Similarly, there are several dream sequences in which Sarah has visions of the impending nuclear war and speaks with her now deceased baby daddy, Kyle Reese. Again, this is new to the series and comes out of left field. It’s an interesting view into Conner’s mind, but I don’t feel like multiple iterations were necessary.

I also was not a fan of John Conner, played by Edward Furlong. The audience is meant to empathize with John, but I had a hard time connecting with the character at times. He’s a troubled kid brought up in strange circumstances, and Furlong plays most of this well. This was Furlong’s first acting role, and he manages to hold his own against more seasoned actors. My real issue is that he’s such an annoying punk for so much of the movie. It’s not like he’s had a great life (Sarah Conner certainly isn’t Mother of the Year), but there’s only so many smart ass comments I can take before I lose my patience with a kid.

Ben will definitely disagree with me, but given the choice, I’d rather watch The Terminator over Terminator 2. I do like the continuation of the story and applaud the special effects and performances. I’ve just always tended to prefer origin stories over their sequels. This is no exception, though it comes very close to exceeding my love of the first movie.

Rating: A-

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