Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Danny Cooksey, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley
Directed by James Cameron
Expectations: I’ll be back.
You shouldn’t need me to tell you that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is an incredible movie. One of the greatest blockbuster films of all time, T2 is a total thrill ride that, like the Terminators themselves, never stops. It is expertly paced and written in such a way that it is both a perfect sequel to the original film and completely self-contained and accessible to anyone in the audience. And does it hold up nearly 25 years after its original release? No problemo.
T2 brought revolutionary FX to the screen, and honestly they still look fantastic to me. Due to the limitations of the time, the CG is used exactly how it should be: to augment real footage to create incredible illusions of fantasy. The grounding in the real world makes the unreal feel all the more real because it’s seemingly happening in the same world we live in. The physical FX work is top-notch as well, with the scene when Arnold tears off his skin to show Miles Dyson his cyborg endoskeleton remaining my favorite. It blew my mind when I was a kid, and it still looks so real to me. I guess that’s what you get when your movie has a crazy budget and you’ve got Stan Winston on the case. Practical FX work may have gone out of style, but I stand by the claim that it does and will continue to age much better than CG.
On that note, I have to admit that some of the CG here does resemble the wonkiness of character models in early ’90s computer games, but for me this isn’t a knock. The stiffness of the movements, or the slickness of the liquid metal surface, work to enhance the illusion of the T-1000 for me. I don’t know if that makes any kind of sense, but let’s just say I like the little bits that make this movie a 1991 movie, and I don’t think they date the movie in a negative way. People born in the late ’90s or 2000s will probably have a different opinion, but to them I suggest that they should have more respect for this important document of the years before their birth, because without the actions of the Connors and the T-800 you would have grown up in a hellish apocalyptic machine war!
What I really focused on this time was how great the acting is. Even people with small roles, like the cop getting a cup of Poker coffee, add something memorable to the film. I’m sure this is also thanks to James Cameron giving them something great to work with, but the actors definitely delivered in realizing his vision. Specifically, Linda Hamilton is just fantastic, especially considering how much her character changed since The Terminator. She was once a simple waitress, but in the years between films she has trained herself to be ready for the coming storm. She is a force to be reckoned with and every moment she’s on-screen is electric.
Arnold and Robert Patric also do phenomenal jobs at suppressing their personalities to become the machines the script requires. Arnold gets to stretch out a bit as he learns more of humans from John Connor, but even in these moments the illusion that he is a Terminator is never shattered. Same goes for Robert Patric, who proves that a Terminator doesn’t need to have Arnold’s stature to be absolutely terrifying.
T2 is also filled with a lot more humor than I remember, much of it coming from Arnold’s character. It adds something of a campy vibe sometimes, and probably more so if you didn’t see this in 1991. But I did, and I was around 10 years old at the time, so the jokes never seemed out of character to me. If anything, the humor endears the film more to me the older I get, as it feels indicative of a time when movies weren’t always so damn serious. So there’s a pair of killer robots from the future and we’re teaching one to say, “Chill out, Dickwad”? Yeah, OK, I can dig it, and in the ’80s and early ’90s most people were OK with it too. I miss those days.
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger is Last Action Hero! I was 11 when it came out, I saw it in the theater, and I hated it. It crushed me. I haven’t seen it since. See ya then!