Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): Breakdown by Kain424
Two more terminators are sent back in time, one to assassinate a young John Connor and the other to protect him.
There are many who say the Action genre hit its peak with T2, and one can see why. Alternately one of the most expensive films ever as well as one of the highest grossing of all time, the movie hits all the right marks with its precision in writing, direction and stuntwork. Jaw-dropping stunts and epic moments abound, giving everyone a favorite scene, one-liner and special effects sequence to be talked about for years to come. With iconic images in nearly every shot, it was destined to become a classic. Schwarzenegger would never be more popular, and the entire genre, as well as sequels in general, would never be the same.
If the first film could be seen to lean more towards horror, T2 has obviously decided to more fully embrace action sensibilities. The vehicular gun battles have become more stunt-focused and vary from car on car to helicopter on S.W.A.T. van. The largely synthesized score of the first film has been upgraded to a full on orchestra, featuring a more solid drum base and a choir. This adds an epic feel to the proceedings, and in a film about time-traveling killer robots, this really helps lend a lot of credence.
From The Terminator to Terminator 2, one can see how much James Cameron has grown as director. There are wider shots, a more mobile camera, and extremely busy set pieces. Cameron pulls out all the stops for this film, utilizing every trick in the film book: stop motion, miniatures, green-screen effects, CGI, pre-filmed backdrops, and forced perspectives. Amongst this, he still pushes his actors (in a genre more known for explosions than acting) for great performances. And, it fucking works. This is particularly true of Linda Hamilton, returning as Sarah Connor. Hamilton makes the transition from a ditzy waitress to a warrior woman on the edge of sanity seem not only natural, but almost logical.
Schwarzenegger is given far more dialog and an opportunity to play up the comedic side of his screen personality. Since the first film, Arnie had become as well known for his one-liners as his gunning down hordes of enemies. Cameron plays off this image by pulling one of cinema’s greatest bait and switches and turning the T-800 into a good guy. It was realized after The Terminator‘s success, that many people identified with the killer cyborg character. Taking this to its logical conclusion, with people wanting to be the Terminator, Cameron asked the question: what would it be like to have your very own terminator?
The movie deals a lot with responsibility and fate, which I find ironic given that the series’s fate has landed in such irresponsible hands. Watching the movie over again, I am struck with just how damn good it all is and I find the sequels even more disappointing. In three minutes, the future war scenes kick the shit out of the entire 3rd and 4th films in the series. Perhaps it is Cameron’s fault for setting the bar so high, or the hacks that have attempted to reach it. It’s possible the film simply had a combination of elements (timing, marketing, talent, star power) at such a lucky alignment as to never occur again.
The fan service present in the movie is almost ridiculous, with several smaller characters returning and bits of dialog uttered in the first film being either referenced or becoming major plot points. It’s basically the ultimate sequel, except, like Evil Dead 2, the second Terminator film is almost more of a remake than a sequel. It’s been said that Action films are as repetitive as they are derivative, and T2 doesn’t help arguing against that point. It’s almost the same film but with better effects and more stunts. I think it’s clever how much it mirrors its originator, replicating shots and moments while maintaining true to its source. If you aren’t quite sure what I mean, here’s a little montage of some of what I’m talking about:
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T2 set a lot of trends in film, not all of which have been for the best. With the advent of newer, faster computers, CGI became more commonplace. While Jurassic Park would later establish CGI more prominently (particularly in PG-13 films), it was here that special effects started stealing the show away from practical stunts, car chases and shoot-outs in Action films. It was also shown that an Action flick could make incredible box-office returns without a lot of gore and death, leading to more family-friendly Action movies in the future. So as much as it represents a sort of pinnacle of the Action genre, Terminator 2: Judgment Day also represents the beginning of the end of an era.
Still, it remains a damn good film. One of the best ever made, in fact. If you haven’t seen it, you’d better stop reading now and go check this baby out. It’s a time capsule to a time when bullets and babes were kings and queens. Before Will Smith’s “Wooooo!” was considered Action-worthy and superheroes were all the rage. Before rock was dead and kids ruled the box office. When explosions were real and stuntmen had jobs. When Schwarzenegger was a god, and the Terminator was still cool.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator (T-800)
The Model 101 is back, but this time to protect. Aside from a few scenes in the beginning, Arnie leaves his performance of a watching, recording machine back in the first film. He almost instantly becomes a more sympathetic being, but also an instant exposition device. To his credit, Schwarzenegger makes it credible.
More emphasis is put on his height, and instead of machine guns, The Austrian Oak mainly uses big, one-shot weapons like a shotgun and a grenade launcher. The result being that the Terminator feels more like a tank this time around.
Linda Hamilton is Sarah Connor
Spending the first half of the film in an institution, it’s clear that much has changed in Sarah. Introduced doing chin-ups on her overturned bed, she has become a warrior mother. She’s an ass-kicker with vulnerability. She wants to stop the impending doom of the future, but lacks the cold killing ability to murder the innocents necessary to do so.
Robert Patrick is the T-1000
Patrick plays the role like an alien-possessed man, intense in an undefined way. His look is pointed, his smile false, and his frame small, but underneath is a machine unlike any other. In a show-stealing performance, he manages to be scarier than the invincible machine of the first film. He is seemingly indestructible, very fast, and very lethal.
Edward Furlong is John Connor
A clever kid, John is one bad break away from juvenile hall. He’s rebellious and resourceful, but also a born leader. A lot of people have claimed to be annoyed by Furlong’s performance, but I think he did a great job displaying the conflict he has between becoming who he must be and running away from it all. One day, he’ll be quite the fighter. Even at 12 years old, this John Conner is more of a bad-ass leader, and take-no-shit, humanist survivor than any incarnation that followed.
[THE BODY COUNT: 27 Confirmed, 3 Uncomfirmed, 1 Dog]
There are 15 real deaths seen in the film, with a few implied. Jenette Goldstien’s character is assumed dead, as is the pilot of the helicopter, who jumped from a great distance. Also, the officer on the motorbike is assumed to have been killed by the T-1000, who perpetrates about half of the main kills of the movie. The other half dying during the future war opening sequence. Since the T-800 swears not to kill anyone, he only manages to tag the main baddie at the very end of the film.
In Sarah’s nightmare, she witnesses an entire city being annihilated in a nuclear strike, but only a park setting with 11 people are seen killed. As the nightmare ends, Connor herself is blasted into a skeleton, apparently having forgotten her 2,000+ sunblock. It’s all very nasty. So aside from that, there are stabbings, gunshot and lasershot victims. Mostly tame stuff, but occasionally graphic.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
My favorite kill belongs to the T-1000, disguised as John Connor’s foster mother (played by Jenette Goldstein). Using his best impression of a nice housewife/mother, the T-1000 is trying to lure Connor back home in hopes of an ambush. Outside, the dog is barking up a storm and the foster father (played by Xander Berkeley) is bitching away and drinking straight from the milk carton. Goldstein calmly switches the phone to a different hand and reaches offscreen, creating a nice ~SCHINK!~ sound effect. Only after the phone is hung up do we see the damage, and it’s pretty ugly. The T-1000’s arm has turned into a blade and not only has it pierced the annoying, good-for-nothing foster parent, but it’s also pierced the milk carton he was drinking from!
As horrifying as it is, there’s just something so damn hilarious about the way Goldstein plays it. It’s like she’s just kinda annoyed so ~SPLAT!~ she kills him. Like swatting a fly and then going back to dinner. It’s great! Add to that the way Burke sort of hangs there a second, even after the blade is removed, before finally collapsing to the kitchen floor, and you’ve got one of my favorite on-screen deaths of all time.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
As it’s a Terminator film, there is the obligatory nude intro, and this time a naked Arnie walks into a biker bar. As gay as this premise is, it turns into a brutal fight sequence. But just when you think it’s gonna go all straight and narrow, Schwarzy sticks a knife into a guy’s back, pinning him to a pool table.
Like any man would, upon first penetration with Arnie, the guy starts screaming: “Oh got, it hurts! Pull it out! Pull it out!”
Arnold then spends the rest of the movie dressed completely in leather. So yeah, there’s some gay here.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Sarah Connor, despite being treated as a nutjob throughout the beginning of the film, is shown to be intelligent, resourceful, and skilled. In fact, rather than seen in a bad light, Sarah is one of the strongest female characters to grace the silver screen. Works out, protective of her son (who she has taught all manner of life skills), helps save the world. That’s a role model.
There is one sick orderly who gets his jollies molesting the female patients of Sarah’s ward. He gets her good with a slimy tongue drag across her face while she plays catatonic in her cell. However, she returns the endearing facial contact—with the business end of a broken mop handle. ~CRACK, GUSH, COLLAPSE!~ Falling to the ground like the wet bag-of-shit he is, revenge was served.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
The whole fucking movie is epic! It may sound like I’m copping out here, but it’s true! From the opening to the end credits, the damn thing is filled with breathtaking awesomeness, death defying stunts, claustrophobic shootouts, and killer effects. Here’s another quick montage:
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And that’s only 20 seconds of a film that’s nearly two and a half hours long! This flick does not let up. It’s a balls-out good time, so strap in. This one’s a fucking winner. But you know what my favorite moment is? It’s following the one-on-one battle between the two killer cyborgs, with Schwarzenegger presumed dead.
The T-800 uses his auxiliary power supply to restart, and as the music pumps up to goddamn heroic heights, he yanks out the metal spike with which he has been impaled, and pulls himself up, back to life and ready for one more round! It’s such a simple scene, surrounded by loud and awesome ones, and yet I love it more than any other in the film.
Now the one-liner is a bit easier to narrow down. Taking John Connor’s words to his cyborg heart, and with the T-1000 frozen in his sights, the T-800 unleashes this soon-to-be-a-common-catchphrase:
“Hasta la vista, baby.”
And then he blasts the evil cyborg assassin into pieces, showing us all why Schwarzenegger is the King of the One-Liner.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. And if a machine can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.