Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Director: James Cameron
Notable Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong

Back before he became the pompous ass he is today, Cameron was the man to go to for great science fiction and action films. He wrote and directed films like "Terminator 2" that massively changed the way we see an action film by raising the stakes to astonishing heights. Considering the original film was a low budget over night success fairy tale, its odd to see how the massive budget and heightened sense of epic-ness would morph this franchise into the blockbuster territory. This is a bigger, badder, and bolder sequel that despite coming almost a decade later holds its own in new ways.

Sarah Conner (Hamilton) has been incarcerated as a terrorist. Her son (Furlong), whom she had been training for his role as leader of the human resistance against the machines, is now with foster parents and seems to be quite the hoodlum now. When a new 'liquid metal' prototype Terminator (Patrick) is sent back to find John Conner and delete him from the past, its up to a reprogrammed Terminator (Schwarzenegger) sent by John from the future to save them before all hope is lost...again.

"Didn't I see you in "Hercules In New York"?"
"Nope. That was Arnold Strong. I'm Arnold Schwarzenegger."
What makes this franchise so fascinating is how each of the first two entries completely represents the time period that it was released. The first film was gritty, dark, and violent focusing on terror and charisma to sell its action packed robot rampage story. "Terminator 2" is strange because it uses massively different tactics to go about a similar path. This film is high gloss and massive in vision. Rather than using grit and terror to bring its humanity to the screen, it uses a more hopeful and humorous track. Oddly enough, it works. "T2" is chock full of great characters and well placed humor to counteract its vicious action set pieces. Partnered with a strong narration that really spells out the overall tale and its connections to the first film, the humanity themes for a film about killer machines is quite strong in its writing. Not to mention some solid enough performances all around by returning and new cast members.

A cold welcome for franchise newcomer Robert Patrick.
Although having the Terminator as one of the 'good guys' for this sequel might seem to be a gimmick (it's supposed to be humans fighting machines right?), it certainly helps to have such a unique villain. Utilizing the best of CGI at the time, perhaps the first film really use it in such an impactful way that would ruin science fiction and action films for years to come, the liquid metal man is fucking awesome. He's similar in style to the Terminator from the first film that we get the same feeling of fear when he walks in, but the new tricks and special effects make him a deadly match to our powerful new hero (whom Schwarzenegger once again portrays with great charisma and oddly effective comedic timing while being badass). When they first meet in the back hall of the mall and begin throwing each other through walls one knows this film is going to kick it up a notch in action. By the time the finale comes around complete with police shootouts, helicopter/road chases, and a beat down in a foundry - the inner action fan will come out of anyone. This film simply takes the epic-ness of its action to new levels. Levels that would later become the standard for these types of films.

When a fence says do not touch...we really mean "touch it and the apocalypse will happen". It's a slight mistranslation.
Although I have some issues with the time travel basics of the film at times, strong performances and Cameron's eye for making a damn entertaining action film allow "Terminator 2" to match its predecessor in powerful action film making. It's funny when it needs to be (no film has made me laugh at knee cap shootings quite like this one), its exciting beyond measure in the final act, and its relatively smart with how it goes about expanding the themes of human vs machine with strong writing. Even 20 years after it's release, "Terminator 2" remains one of the greatest action films ever made. That kind of longevity says something about film...particularly one that defines an era to begin with.

Written By Matt Reifschneider


  1. One of the weakest points for me is Furlong. He's so damn whiny. I just want to punch him in his stupid face. Other than him, it's a near-perfect movie. Yea, the time travel stuff doesn't really make sense. Wait, why can't anything organic come back? And what about the skin on the older model terminators? You just have to move on from that.

  2. Furlong is an odd choice for John Conner. Just keep reminding yourself that his career dies quickly after this thanks to films like "Pet Cemetery 2" and you feel much better about it :D