Saturday, July 18, 2015

Franchises: The Terminator. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

You may think I'm pulling your leg but it's the God's honest truth that I first heard of the title Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the instruction booklet for one of my favorite video games of all time, Donkey Kong Country. At the end of the booklet after all the basics about playing the game had been covered, there was a little page devoted to the groundbreaking graphics of that game and it mentioned that they were created on Silicon Graphics Inc. workstations, which were also used to create the digital effects for both T2 and Jurassic Park. If you've been a longtime reader of this blog, you'd know that Jurassic Park was a big part of my childhood and I had seen it many times by the time I got the game for Christmas in 1994, so a connection between it and that game intrigued me, but I had no clue what Terminator 2 was. It may have been the biggest movie of 1991 but since I was only four years old when it was released and wouldn't have been able to comprehend what it was all about even if I had seen it, it was completely alien to me. The only response I got from my mom when I asked her about it was that it was "scary," which was no doubt meant as a deterrent from ever being interested in seeing this movie that I had no business watching. Weirdly enough, my first actual exposure to the film and the Terminator franchise in general would also come from video games when I blindly rented the Super NES game one time when I was very young (I can't remember accidentally when but it could have been before I even read the title in that booklet). Again, I had no idea what Terminator was; I just thought the cover on the Super NES box, which was the classic movie poster art of the Terminator sitting on a motorcycle while holding a rifle, looked cool and so I decided to take a chance. The game, however, was awful and I didn't play it for very long since I had no clue what I was doing or where I was supposed to go. The only lasting image I came away from it with was the animated version of the Terminator's metallic face surrounded by fire, an image that really creeped me out as a kid when combined with his eyes glowing red and the music that played at that moment. Over the years, though, I would slowly but surely begin to understand what these movies were about, particularly this one since it was the more popular of the two: I learned of the liquid-metal T-1000, who Arnold Schwarzenegger was and became a fan of him, some of the action scenes like the "future war" when I happened to catch a bit of a documentary on the making of that Universal theme park attraction, and, of course, I would eventually discover and fall in love with the first film. For nearly a year, my only personal experience with the franchise was the first film, although I certainly knew of the sequel since... well, it's Terminator 2! Plus, whenever I tried to talk with people about the first film, they would immediately go into the sequel and ask me if I'd seen it yet and when I would say I hadn't, they'd tell me that I really needed to because it was infinitely better than the first movie. While I wasn't cynical about what they said, I wasn't too sure either since I loved the first one so much and I felt like it was being unfairly overshadowed by the second film, no matter how good of a movie it probably was. I finally did see it when I got it on video for Christmas in 2000 along with the first movie and Predator and I went into it not really knowing what to expect save for everything that I've already mentioned as well as the knowledge that the Terminator himself was now the hero.

Honestly, before we go any further, I have to say that this is just one of the movies where, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what I say about it. Practically everyone on the planet has seen it, it's one of the most beloved films of the 90's and of all time, for that matter, it's often considered both the best sequel and sci-fi/action film ever made, and has its place in history for the groundbreaking visual effects work employed to make James Cameron's vision come to life. So, what else can I bring to it except to give my own personal opinion, as I always do? And in case you're wondering what that is, I'll say that it comes in two halves. The first one is that this is indeed a movie that does a lot of things right and deserves much of the acclaim it gets. It's very entertaining, fast-paced, expertly put together, has great acting all around, awesome action scenes, special effects that are still jaw-dropping to this day, and, most importantly, has a real human core to its story, as most of Cameron's action movies do. So, that's all great and I have nothing but praise for the movie there. But, on the other hand, it's not my favorite Terminator movie or my favorite sci-fi/action movie. While it is well done in many, many respects, there are other movies of this genre that I prefer a lot more, particularly the first Terminator, which is still my favorite of the series, for its dark, gritty, horror movie-like feel; although every penny is certainly up there on the screen here, this film is a little too massive and polished for my personal tastes. And also I do think this movie is a smidge overrated and, despite being well-made, is not as perfect as so many feel that it is. I guess the best way I can put it is that it's a film that I really admire but it's not one of my favorite movies of all time. It's a great flick, no doubt about it, but it's not one I pop in all that often when I'm in the mood for a movie of this genre.

One thing you can say about James Cameron is that the guy is both completely fearless and determined whenever he decides he's going to make a movie. Although the first Terminator did well both critically and financially and Cameron, in the years since, had followed it up with two equally well-received films like Aliens and The Abyss, putting this much money ($94 million, which would eventually balloon to $100 million) into Terminator 2, a sequel that was seven years removed from the first one, which often results in little interest when it finally does come out, and also had a locked release date of the July 4th weekend of 1991, just less than a year after filming actually began in October of 1990, was quite a gamble. It was a monumental task for Cameron and his crew to conceive and put this enormous film together in such a short amount of time (he and his friend William Wisher began developing the screenplay in the spring of 1990 and had a first draft by May 10) but, lo and behold, they all buckled down and not only brought the film in on time as perfectly as it possibly could be but it also paid off tremendously with both audiences and critics. It really is a testament to what a skilled and intelligent director Cameron is and how, as he would prove again years later with Titanic and Avatar, no matter how impossible it seems, it's not a good idea to bet on him not getting a movie made that won't also handsomely reward its investors. He may be a hot-headed, perfectionist taskmaster, but he certainly knows how to care of business.

One of T2's biggest strengths is the quality of the characters and the acting, which is top notch all-around, and it's interesting to note how, save for the T-1000, all of the main characters have an arc that they go through during the course of the film, giving the actors a lot to play around with, including Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. Here, he's able to give the Terminator more layers and complexity rather than just being a cold, heartless killing machine as he was in the first film. In fact, when he first arrives from the future at the beginning of the film, he's almost exactly like the Terminator from the first movie, with the only difference being that his main directive is to protect someone rather than assassinate them. While I don't think he actually kills anyone before he meets up with John Connor, you still know that he very well could have, as seen when he almost does kill that one guy, with John just barely able to stop him. And although he does go out of his way to protect John from the T-1000, risking serious damage to himself in the process, he's only doing it because he's been programmed to and doesn't understand why human life is so important or how humans work in general. But, once John takes command of him by ordering him to help get his mother out of the mental hospital and makes him swear not to kill anyone, the Terminator slowly begins to change. He goes from a very stoic, emotionless protector to someone who John can share his feelings with and who will listen without judgement. He may not understand everything John is telling him but he's still there for him and becomes a close companion, going so far as to become, as Sarah observes, something of a father figure to him. In fact, as she also adds, the Terminator is more of a father to John than any of the others that she tried to bring into his life: he will never shout at him, never get drunk at him, or tell him that he's too busy to spend time with him. By extension, you can also see the Terminator becoming more human-like throughout the film due to his neural-net processor, starting out with a very monotone, robotic way of speaking and an expressionless face and then moving on to a more natural way of speaking, like when he asks John in a puzzled tone why he referred to him as "Uncle Bob" to Sarah's old friend Enrique or when he asks him with generous curiosity why people cry, and a wider range of expressions, like when he smirks upon finding a minigun in Enrique's weapons vault and smiles upon reassuring John that he won't kill any of the police officers outside of Cyberdyne (you can also sort of link it to when he lost his sunglasses early on, making him seem less imposing). Near the end, he's coming up with witty, human-like remarks on his own, such as when, after Dyson asks how they set the explosives off, he hands him the remote control, tells him so, and even makes a click noise while gesturing pressing the button, not to mention when he tells the T-1000, "Hasta la vista, baby," before blowing him apart, remembering what John taught him earlier.

By the time you get to the third act, the Terminator feels like a completely different character than he was at the beginning. At this point, he's not only learned a lot and has been putting into use but has also been making decisions on his own without orders from John, like sparing the lives of the police officers at the Cyberdyne building and keeping his promise to John, which he would have no doubt done even if the kid hadn't reminded him, and when he tells John and Sarah to go on while he holds the T-1000 of when he's stalking them in the steel mill, having to forcefully tell John to, "Go! Now!" That's to say nothing of how he never gives up in defending them from the T-1000, despite how much more advanced and powerful he is and does succeed in temporarily putting him out of commission at one point. You could argue that the Terminator finding an alternate power source to keep going could simply have been a failsafe device that was built into him but I'd like to think that part of that was nothing less than his refusal to fail. Ultimately, the most significant development in him is how by the end, he's learned the importance of human life through everything he's experienced to where he sacrifices himself to ensure that he, along with the materials gathered from Dyson's lab at Cyberdyne, won't be used to develop SkyNet in the future. When John becomes distraught over this decision, the Terminator tells him that it must end there and, when he sees John crying about it, he reveals that he's also learned why humans cry but tells him that, "it's something I could never do." You can put into that last statement what you will, that he means that he can't exist in this world, that he can't allow the possibility of his being used to develop SkyNet in the future, which would, by extension, put John in danger again, that he can't be a father figure to him the way he wants (which is how I always interpretted it), but regardless, it and the hug that he gives John before descending into the molten steel are one last bit of proof that he's become more than just the cold, merciless, infiltrator unit he was originally meant to be.

Speaking of arcs, Linda Hamilton has an even more impressive one to go through in her second turn as Sarah Connor. When we first see her, she's gone from the girl next door thrust into a horrific situation in the first movie to a violent, muscular, paranoid, and tortured woman who has gotten herself locked in a mental hospital after trying to blow up a computer factory and is now isolated from the entire world, including her own son. The knowledge that Judgment Day is coming and nobody believes her and just dismisses her as crazy, coupled with the horrific nightmares she has about it, makes her all the more volatile, to the point where Dr. Silberman probably expects to be attacked whenever he talks with her and knows that she'll try to escape if he puts her in a minimum security wing. Realizing that her violent outbursts aren't getting her anywhere and that she needs to get out and help her son, she decides to feign catatonia and use it to escape. However, it's while doing so that she runs into her worst nightmare, another Terminator, and momentarily goes back to the terrified woman she was in the first movie. Her fear then turns to confusion when she sees that her son is with the Terminator and, despite how she feels, she goes along with the two of them and flee the hospital. However, her time away from John and the obsession with preventing Judgment Day has made her so cold that all she does is admonish him for putting himself in danger, telling him that he's too important to the future to put his life in danger, and that she didn't need his help to escape from the hospital. She remains ambivalent to both her son and the Terminator throughout the second act, using the latter only as a means to learn exactly how SkyNet will come to be and only focuses on that as well as escaping to Mexico. But, while they're stocking up on ammunition at her friend Enrique's, we see that there is some humanity still in her when she watches and laments on John forming a bond with the Terminator and even more so when she later sees Enrique having fun with his family and has a look of sadness on her face, knowing that they're going to soon be wiped out by Judgment Day. After she has the nightmare yet again, these feelings make her decide to take matters into her own hands and travel back to Los Angeles to kill Miles Dyson before he can set in motion the creation of SkyNet.

The most significant part of Sarah's arc comes when she attempts to kill Dyson. As James Cameron and others have commented, when she gets into position outside of his house to gun him down, she almost becomes like the Terminator herself, coldly trying to pick him off with a sniper scope and when that fails, slowly and methodically walking towards the house to finish him off. When she finally shoots him in the shoulder and confronts him as he lies on the floor, completely defenseless, while his family watches nearby, she's initially full of rage, screaming at Dyson, "It's all your fault! Motherfucker, it's all your fault. I'm not gonna let you do it." She's just about to pull the trigger but, when she looks into Dyson's frightened, tear-filled eyes, she sees that he's not the evil bringer of death that she's been building him up to be but an ordinary man who has no idea why she's threatening both his life and his family. The human emotions that she had surpressed for a long time, which had made it possible for her to attempt to kill him in the first place, come flooding back to her as she realizes the horrible thing she was about to do, as well as possibly that she had become almost exactly like the very things she's fighting against, and she collapses onto the floor, crying. Like the Terminator, she has also re-learned the value of human life. When she and John are reunited shortly afterward, she's able to bond with her son like she should have before and tells him that she always has loved him. From there on out, Sarah truly acts like a mother to him, being affectionate to him whenever she gets a chance, comforting him at the end when he's distraught over the Terminator destroying himself, and also being a more trusting and humane person towards both the robot and Dyson. She's still a very tough and capable fighter and still has some issues, unable to stop herself from venting at Dyson a little bit at one point, but she's come a long way from the borderline psychopath she was when the movie started. I like how she gives Dyson a knowing nod after he's been fatally injured at Cyberdyne, letting him know without words that she understands that he's decided to sacrifice himself, and that she shakes the Terminator's hand at the end, nodding her head in respect, and has a touched look on her face as she and John watch him lower into the molten steel, amazed that he would choose to do this. This is what gives her hope for the future, saying that if a machine can learn the value of human life, it shouldn't be hard for humanity itself to do so. It's a great inversion: the thing that she was terrified of has now given her the ability to look ahead with optimism.

At the beginning of the film, John Connor (Edward Furlong) is a foul-mouthed, smartass, juvenile delinquent who already has a rap sheet that includes crimes like shoplifting, trespassing, and vandalism, is a nightmare for his foster parents to deal with, genuinely treating them like crap, and, as a whole, doesn't give a crap about anything. At first, it seems like it's going to be impossible for you to care about this little troublemaker but, as the film progresses, you start to understand why he is this way. As he explains to the Terminator early on, his mother was constantly toting him around to places like Nicaragua, trying to assemble weapons and teach him how to be a military leader, and then when she got thrown into the mental hospital for trying to blow up a computer factory, he felt that everything she'd ever told him was nothing more than the ravings of a lunatic, which he has hated her for ever since. Of course, life quickly changes for him when he comes face-to-face with not one but two different Terminators and he realizes that her mother was right all along and that nobody, not even her own son, believed her. Knowing this, he decides that he needs to get her out of the mental hospital, eventually getting the Terminator to help him. What I like about John is how you learn that, even though he has these issues, he is a good person overall. Besides deciding to help his mother, he's also good enough to try to warn his foster parents about what's going on and, most importantly, keeps the Terminator from needlessly killing. When he first realizes that the Terminator has been programmed to do what he says, he's initially excited as a kid would be and sees him as a mere "plaything" and tool to get what he wants but when the Terminator almost kills one of the two guys he sicks him on, he decides he needs to be more responsible and try to civilize him as best as he can. As I described earlier, his relationships with both the Terminator and his mother evolve as the film goes on. The former goes from being a bodyguard and tool to an impartial person he can share his feelings with and ultimately, a surrogate father, the best he's ever had, according to Sarah; his mother is initially very cold to him and treats him less like a son than an object that's too important to be jeopardized but, after he arrives her to stop him from killing Miles Dyson, she realizes how much he means to her and from then on, they have a more loving relationship. If I have an issue with John, it's simply that, despite being tough for a kid and very tech-savvy, making him a useful component of the attack on Cyberdyne, he never proactively defends himself from the T-1000 but instead always has to be saved by either the Terminator or his mother. Even at the beginning when he gets on his motorcycle to escape the T-1000, it's still the Terminator who ultimately does save him. If he's meant to be a great military leader, I would like to see some hints of that besides smarts and technological know-how; otherwise, though, I think John is a well-conceived, complex character and I like how, by the end of the film, he's grown enough affection for the Terminator that he doesn't want him to destroy himself, a far cry from the disillusioned heathen he was at the beginning.

As the T-1000, Robert Patrick assumes the same role that Arnold did in the original film: the ultimate killing machine, cold and emotionless, whose only motivation is to hunt down and eliminate his targets. Like the original Terminator, he's nothing less than death itself that's constantly coming after the heroes. What's interesting about the T-1000, though, is that if you go into the film with no knowledge of its plot, you could very easily think that he's another soldier sent back as a protector like Kyle Reese was. Before the opening credits, you're only told that both times, SkyNet sent back a Terminator to eliminate a specific person and the human resistance was able to send back a protector and, although he does kill a cop and take his clothes when he first arrives, after what you saw in the first film, you could mistake more human-like, less openly threatening T-1000 to be said protector as opposed to the old T-800 model, who brutalizes a bunch of people in a bar in order to get their clothes when he first arrives. Patrick himself even said at the time of the film's release that James Cameron wanted someone who had both the qualities of the Terminator and of Kyle Reese in order to make people wonder whether he's machine or human. Once he's revealed to be the film's villain, he still doesn't feel as threatening as Arnold did originally due to his smaller stature but, when he begins showing off his liquid-metal capabilities, you start to understand how much of a threat he is, even if the heroes do have another Terminator on their side. Like his predecessors, the T-1000 can take a lot of abuse and keep on coming but he has an advantage in how he can instantly heal himself, unlike the original Terminator who had to retreat to repair himself before heading back out. He's just as weapons-savvy as the older models but is no less dangerous even if he doesn't have one handy, able to morph his hands into stabbing weapons, making for a much more efficient version of skewering people like the original Terminator did when first arrived. And his most frightening ability is how he can imitate other people's appearances as well as their voices, meaning that you have to be doubly careful about who you talk to when being pursued by him. But what I find more unsettling than his abilities is just how he successful he is in passing as human, as I said up above. Unlike the original Terminator, who always sounded like a machine, as does the one in this film until he starts spending time around John, the T-1000 is able to feign emotion, coming across as quite charming when he talks to John's foster parents and being casual when he asks other kids about him. What's more, he knows how to psychologically manipulate people into doing he wants, like when he impales Sarah's shoulder near the end and tells her to call to John, stating, "I know this hurts," continuing to push it in to get her to comply. And as methodical as the original Terminator was in trying to track Sarah down, the T-1000 is even more so, impersonating his foster mother to get him to come home, attempting to kill and imitate his real mother, and tracking them down to Miles Dyson's now abandoned home at one point, as the Terminator said he would.

My only qualm with the T-1000 is that I'm still not entirely sure how he works. I get that he's not a robot like the other Terminators but is composed entirely of liquid metal, enabling him to do what he does, but still, how does that work? How do you program something that has no CPU or circuits to do what you want? And how do you send it back in time if, according to what Reese said in the first movie, only living tissue will go? Since it's science fiction, any explanation as to how this works is possible and you could argue that since the T-1000 is an advanced prototype, he's probably able to generate the "field" created by a living organism that Reese mentioned is necessary to go back in time, meaning that he can possibly replicate human flesh. However, even for science fiction, that feels really out there and more in the realm of the supernatural. As advanced as it is, how could SkyNet have gotten to the point where it was able to create something that can replicate human flesh, as well as clothes, simply by touching them? That's quite a leap from actually growing living tissue to put over androids, even though I guess their ability to do that doesn't make this quite as far-fetched. And going back to how the T-1000 functions, I would really like to know why all the different pieces of him act like individual, living things that reform with him when they get severed. Moreover, how can all of his different pieces reform into one big whole and then recreate his original form? Again, this feels very fantastical for a science fiction piece and makes the T-1000 feel more like an evil, organic being than a machine, which is what he's supposed to be. And why does he always choose this same look and police uniform as his default appearance? Is that just the way it's supposed to be. I'm reading into this way more than I probably should, which is odd for me since I'm usually able to accept just about anything in these types of movies, and by this point, I'm just rambling and probably not making much sense, but these questions have always come up ever since I first saw the movie.

Although he doesn't become an integral part of the story until near the end of the second act, Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) ends up being a very important character not only in this film but in the entire Terminator mythos since you learn that he's the one who's going to set in motion the events that will lead to Judgment Day. Working from the damaged CPU and robotic arm from the first Terminator that tried to kill Sarah back in 1984, Dyson is on the verge of creating a revolutionary new type of microprocessor for Cyberdyne Systems that will make the company the largest supplier of military computer systems in the world and eventually lead them to create SkyNet, which will learn at such an incredible rate that it will become self-aware within weeks of going online and initiate a nuclear war that will almost decimate mankind. Once Sarah is told all of this by the Terminator, killing Dyson becomes her main objective in preventing Judgment Day after she has yet another nightmare about the impending nuclear holocaust. But, when she attempts to kill him, she sees that he's not an evil scientist who's going to do this on purpose but an innocent man who is just doing his job and has no way of knowing what his work will lead to. This leads to his life being spared and when he soon afterward meets the Terminator, who tells him what's going to happen the same way he told Sarah, Dyson is absolutely horrified, saying that he feels like he's going to throw up. He initially makes the excuse that there was no way that he and his colleagues were supposed to know that this was going to happen, which Sarah harshly criticizes him for, comparing him to the same people who created the atomic bomb, but regardless, Dyson decides to have no more involvement with this research that he's been working on for years. He agrees to go along with the others to destroy everything in his lab at Cyberdyne, including the chip and robotic arm, as well as all of his notes at the house, a plan that he at one point tries to abort when the building's silent arm gets tripped, locking him out of the rest of the building, but Sarah convinces him to go all the way and he doesn't put up any more argument. In fact, when he's mortally wounded in the lab when a SWAT team bursts in and shoots him while he's holding the detonator to the explosives they've planted, he sacrifices himself by holding an object above the switch and waits to die, whereupon he drops it and sets off the explosives, going up in flames along with the lab.

Earl Boen returns as Dr. Silberman, having a larger role here than he did in the previous film. He's now Sarah's psychiatrist at the mental hospital, having followed her case ever since he first examined Reese back in 1984, and just like back then, he's completely skeptical of Sarah's claims and believes that she's just suffering from psychotic delusions. It's interesting how his relationship with Sarah is a mirror image of how it was with Reese: Sarah absolutely despises the man because she knows that he thinks she's crazy and is always patronizing her when he talks with her about her dreams and the Terminators. As a result, she often screams at him as well as physically attacks him, stabbing him in the knee with his pen some time before the story begins and attempting to strangle him with his own necktie when he refuses to let her have contact with her son. Silberman, however, takes it all in stride, having now expected this whenever he speaks to her, and often makes condescending remarks about her, laughing about her "delusions" with other doctors when we first see him and, after Sarah is restrained upon trying to strangle him, looks into the camera that's been videotaping the session and remarks, "Model citizen." The fact that he shows Sarah off to some other doctors like an animal at a zoo speaks volumes as to how he sees her: he boasted in the first movie about how he could make a career off of Reese and he seems to have done so with Sarah, now apparently the head doctor of an entire mental facility (maybe he was so before but he seems to have a more high-profile job here). But, despite how slimy he still is, there is some genuine intelligence to Silberman in how he knows well enough that Sarah is only faking her recovery from her "delusions" during their latest session and is probably just trying to get transferred to the minimum security wing so she can attempt to escape. Although she seems more concern about seeing her son, by visitation or a phone-call, he does have a point and, while it is slimy for him to do so after making this promise to her six months ago, his decision to deny her request isn't entirely invalid and he is, in some ways, just doing his job. Of course, that ends up in his arm getting broken and Sarah threatening to poison him, and his ultimately meeting both the Terminator and the T-1000 face to face, leaving him stunned and questioning whether or not what Sarah has been saying is just delusion.

John's foster parents, Janelle and Todd (Jenette Goldstein and Xander Berkeley), are described by John himself as "dicks," although I'm willing to bet that he thinks that way simply because they make him do stuff like chores and that they're ill-tempered with him because he treats them like complete crap. Granted, Todd seems to be a bit of an asshole with how he yells at John's dog Max to shut up, calling him a, "worthless piece of shit," and then says to "Janelle", "I thought you told the kid to get rid of that fucking mutt," but, again, I think most of their being "dicks" is simply due to John's attitude and low opinion of them since they're not his real parents. One last noteworthy character is Sarah's friend Enrique (Castulo Guerra), who isn't mentioned until they arrive at his place about halfway into the film to stock up on weapons but you can tell has been a close friend of Sarah and John's for some time, which is further emphasized by the warm welcome the two of them receive from Enrique's family, particularly his wife. While he's not entirely sure what's going on, although he does mention that he's heard them mentioned all over the news lately, he's more than willing to help Sarah with whatever she needs, giving her the weapons she left there long ago as well as providing them with a different vehicle to use to get across the border. One moment between the two of them that I wish hadn't been removed from the theatrical version is when, after Enrique finishes getting their new truck set up for them, Sarah tells him that he and his family better leave soon too. Enrique says, "Drop in any time you want to fuck up my life," but smiles and the two of them have a friendly embrace over it, showing that he's used to her bringing trouble but would never turn her down when she needs help.

The first thing that immediately comes to mind whenever I think of Terminator 2 is metallic blue-white, a color that is dominate in the film's visual style. While that type of color was prevalent in the first movie as well, here it feels even more so. Entire scenes, like the sequence in the hospital when the Terminator and John help Sarah escape and a lot of the outdoor, nighttime shots, are completely bathed in it, and others like those in Miles Dyson's home and inside the Cyberdyne are full of it as well. In the original Terminator, that lighting helped in hammering home the film's bleak, dark, film noir-like atmosphere, here it feels like it was put in there simply because it looks cool, a stylish representation of the film's themes of advanced technology. There's no denying that it is a nice look that's very pleasing to the eye and makes the massive, spotless, shiny sets look even better but, at the same time, I see it as indicative of the differences between the two films: this is a big budget, glossy, sci-fi/action flick rather than a low-key, gritty, sci-fi/horror thriller with action setpieces. It has more emotional depth than most other films of this kind but, while James Cameron may have had different intentions, from a visual standpoint, its main concern is mainly just to look good rather than reinforce an atmosphere of foreboding and dread. Again, it succeeds in that as much as a movie possibly could, with every dollar being up there on the screen, as you always get with Cameron, but it feels strange to go from a movie that looked the way original looked to something like this, making it feel as if they're from two different franchises. And that's what ultimately leads into the notion of personal taste and why I always go with the first film because, as said in that review, I love its grittiness and horror movie vibe, neither of which you get here save for maybe those instances where the T-1000 graphically kills people by impaling them with the stabbing weapons he can make out of his arms and fingers. Everything here is a little too polished for me, with even Enrique's trailer and weapons bunker out in the desert and the steel meel that the climax takes place in coming across as what big-budget Hollywood would think that would be like, whereas the first film had more of an honesty to it. In short, it's much more mainstream, which is undoubtedly why it was such an enormous hit when it was released and still remains the most popular of the films, but it's not my preferred version of the series.

On the flip side, though, I think that Terminator 2 does a good job of reinforcing the fear of artificial intelligence that the first one dealt with, expanding on it in a way that makes it more frightening. I'm specifically referring to the scene where the Terminator gives Sarah the details about how SkyNet is built and gets to the point where it decides to wipe out the human race. After all stealth bombers become fully unmanned, equipped with Cyberdyne computers, SkyNet is built and goes online on August 4th, 1997, being put completely in charge of strategic defense with no input from its human creators. The most unsettling part of this speech for me has always been when the Terminator is able to pinpoint the exact moment when SkyNet becomes self-aware: 2:14 a.m., Eastern time, on August 29th. The idea of a computer being self-aware is frightening enough but his being able to tell you exactly when SkyNet will become the entity that decides the fate of mankind is scary as hell to me. It only gets scarier when you think about the Terminators are given neural-net processors so they can learn more, just like SkyNet itself did, and the fact that it eventually became so advanced that it was able to create something like the T-1000. I still think that type of a weapon is a bit on the fantastical side for a science fiction film but, at the same time, the idea that it became intelligent enough to figure out how to create that thing is still unnerving. Finally, the horrors of artificial intelligence culminates perfectly in Sarah's nightmare about what will happen on Judgment Day. You finally see first-hand the sheer horror that SkyNet will unleash upon the world once it becomes sentient, plunging humanity into a never-ending nightmare where it'll have to live in fear and squalor and constantly fight to stay alive. As Cameron intended, it almost justifies Sarah's decision to kill Dyson to stop this from happening. Again, scary stuff and something to think about as technology becomes more and more advanced as the years go on.

Juxtaposed with the ongoing threat of artificial intelligence here is a more hopeful theme of the importance of human life. It was kind of present in the first film, with the idea of Sarah Connor needing to face her destiny and play her part in saving humanity, but here, it paints a much more optimistic picture, with the Terminator himself learning to value life and understand why humans do things that he originally couldn't understand, like cry, to the point where he makes the decision to sacrifice himself to ensure that SkyNet won't be created. In addition, you have the notion of Sarah herself living with the knowledge of when Judgment Day will happen and what it will entail which, despite her tough exterior, is eating at her inside and is what drives her to do everything that she does. The juxtaposition of her seeing Enrique spending time with his family and then having yet another nightmare about Judgment Day, with children and families being evaporated by the nuclear blastwave, gets to her so badly that she decides to try to prevent it by killing Miles Dyson but her value of human life is what stops her when she sees that he has no idea why she's doing this and probably makes her realize that she became like a Terminator herself in that instance. Of course, she gets a little overzealous about it afterward, going on about how people like Dyson don't know what it's like to create something, forcing John to reel her in since it's not getting them anywhere, but her heart's still in the right place. The film doesn't shy away from mankind's dark side, as in a scene where John sees two kids playing with toy guns and they argue about who shot who, with the Terminator commenting that its human nature for us to destroy ourselves, but it doesn't lose sight of its importance either. By extension, there's the notion of you possibly being more important than others or even yourself may think you are, which is carried over from the first film, with John this time being the one who has to realize and accept how important he is, just as his mother did over the course of the previous one. For a long time, he's felt that everything that his mother taught him was just insane rambling on her part and that his life is worthless, which ties in to his attitude at the beginning, but once he realizes that everything is true, he finds the ability to take command of the Terminator and get his mother out of the mental hospital, as well as stop his mother from killing Dyson and leading to the plan to blow up all of his research at Cyberdyne. It's a sign that he's on his way to becoming the leader he's meant to be.

I still have a number of problems with the time-travel idea here, although I'm not going to go into them as much as did in the previous review because I'd just be repeating myself. Ultimately, though, I still don't understand how SkyNet's plan was supposed to change anything if they had virtually lost the war, as Reese said they had back in the first movie. Here, in the bit of the future war we get at the beginning of the film, it doesn't look like they're close to winning the war but we could assume that was probably before John came up with the advantage that allowed them to win and SkyNet sent the two Terminators back in time to change the future but, again, the hell would that accomplish? If either one or both of those Terminators succeeded, would that cause John to die in the future or something and even if it did, it seems like that would only be beneficial to SkyNet in an alternate timeline. And while we're on the subject, if the Terminator in the first film had succeeded in killing Sarah, what would that have left the T-1000 to do? Would he have just waited around until Judgment Day happened? For that matter, would the original Terminator have done the same thing? Or did SkyNet send them into two different timelines just to be sure? And finally, in the case of the, "No fate but what we make" concept, if they're attempting to change the future, then what happened in that first go-round when Judgment Day did take place? If John's very conception was a direct result to change things, what did he and Sarah do that first time? I know Reese said that she would teach her son to fight and to prepare in the years before the war started but what was different in this timeline that made them decide to try to change the future and prevent Judgment Day from happening? Did Sarah not have those nightmares the first time? Did she not get separated from her son? Did no T-1000 appear? And if so, why? I'm not even going to go into the idea that stopping Judgment Day would mean that John shouldn't exist at all because it's already too complicated. The only thing that makes sense to me is that time travel probably creates alternate realities and that things turn out differently depending on the circumstances... otherwise, your guess is as good as mine. Again, time travel makes my brain hurt and I try not to think about it too much because I wouldn't be able to enjoy these movies otherwise.

As much as I love the original Terminator, one major flaw with it that I can't deny is that some of the animatronic and compositing effects haven't aged well; there's not a bad effect to be found in Terminator 2. Every single dollar of the film's enormous budget was used to make all of the work here look as amazing and convincing as possible, with some of it being so realistic that it's very hard to believe that it wasn't genuine. As usual, Stan Winston and his studio outdid themselves with the makeup and animatronic effects. While I prefer the way it looked in the first movie because of its rawness and visceral quality, the makeup on Arnold at the end when you can see the damage and the metallic skull underneath the ripped flesh is really impressive, as is the scene where, in order to show Dyson and his wife what he is, the Terminator cuts the skin on his arm and pulls it completely off, revealing the robotic arm underneath (that is shot so well that I can't tell where Arnold ends and the prosthetic begins). You get to see some nice-looking, life-like Terminator endoskeletons during the future war scene at the beginning, especially the first one that crushes a human skull under its foot,  but even more impressive is the fully articulated torso of Arnold that they use in the scene where the SWAT team fires on the Terminator as he walks down the hall towards them. Again, that is filmed so skillfully and the effect itself is so incredible that it's difficult to tell when you're really looking at Arnold and when you're not (even in the behind-the-scenes footage where Arnold himself is checking out the effect, it looks amazing). And the effects for Sarah's nightmare about Judgment Day? Disturbingly life-like, especially when Sarah herself is burning and screaming in pain, leading to her getting blown away by the shockwave and leaving only a skeleton. My favorite makeup and animatronic effects here, though, are those used for the T-1000. For one, his methods of killing people by stabbing them with his makeshift knives, usually through the head, are very nasty and the effects help sell that feeling, with the shot of Todd's head being impaled through the mouth and the security guard at the mental hospital getting it through the corner of the eye while spasming just making you go, "Ooh, shit!" For another, those used for when he gets damaged are so good that, the first time I saw the movie, I was certain that they had to be CGI, like the bullet holes that pop open on him, the moment where his head gets blasted in half (my personal favorite), when Sarah puts a big hole right through the right side of his head, when the Terminator puts that iron bar down through the right side of his body, and when the Terminator blasts him in half before he falls into the molten steel. I first saw that last effect as an image on the internet before I saw the movie and it really freaked me out and to this day, it still looks great, as does everything else here.

Not only do Fantasy II return to continue the impressive modelwork they contributed to the first film but Bob and Dennis Skotak of 4-Ward Productions come along for the ride as well. As Stan Winston did with his end of the film, Fantasy II took the sequel's gigantic budget and used it to perfect what they had done before, with the future war sequence now being bigger and more spectacular, with a wider scope, more Hunter-Killer tanks and planes blasting everything in sight, and much better rear-screen projection than before. That's another thing: the compositing and matting effects here are infinitely improved from the first film, now looking completely seamless. Speaking of which, those Terminators you see in the background during the future war sequence are stop-motion but they blend in perfectly with the rest of the action because of the way they're filmed, placed in the background with your eye being drawn to the practical Terminators in the foreground, and the quality of the rear-projection (I didn't even know they were stop-motion until I heard about it on the special features of the DVD). That's to say nothing of the shot where you see real actors matted in with the HK's: it looks absolutely like a huge warzone. Going back to the models, the HKs look better than ever: bigger, sleeker, and more agile, although I do still prefer the way they were in the first film because I love the old-school aesthetics to them. And as they did before, Fantasy II provides some miniature trucks for the action sequences and as amazing as the shot of the truck blowing up at the end of the first movie was, here the blending with the live-action during those chase scenes is so good that I'm not exagerrating when I say I can't tell which is which. F-Ward Productions worked on the shots of the blastwave from the nuclear explosion wiping out Los Angeles in Sarah's dream and it's very convincing, like those old films you see of what such a thing is like.

And finally, we have the effects that everyone mentions: the CGI by ILM, was revolutionary and the first of its kind. It's weird that the early uses of CGI as in this film and Jurassic Park still hold up while nowadays, you're lucky if you don't get computer-generated images that don't look cartoonish, but it's the truth: the majority of the CG used here is still very impressive. Some of it looks a little funky, like the scene during the hospital chase when the T-1000 lands in the elevator as a big, silver glob, and when you first see him heal himself after the Terminator shoots a bunch of holes in him in the mall, the picture quality of the shot becomes a little suspect, but those are minor quibbles. Everything else, like the famous shot where he walks out of the fire and slowly goes from silver to his usual form (the motion-capture in scenes like that is really well done, making the character move the way Robert Patrick does), his arms turning into big blades and vice versa, the shot of him rising up as part of the floor and later walking right through the bars in the mental hospital, pouring himself into the helicopter through a hole in the windshield and then reforming, the iconic moment where he's blasted to bits and slowly becomes whole again, and, one of my favorites, where the Terminator punches him in the head and he reorganizes himself to make that part of his body his hands so he can turn the tables, all still look great. His dying moments in the steel where he tries to fix himself by going through a number of different forms are pretty disturbing too, but the effects I like the most are when he does something without becoming completely silver, like the aforementioned moment with the cell bars, when his head reforms after getting blasted in half, when the Terminator slams him against the wall and he quickly switches his front and back to face him, when he pulls that iron rod out of his side when the Terminator slams it through his body, and, most impressively, when he goes from looking like Sarah back to normal as he turns around. Seriously, look at that last effect again and tell me that's not jaw-dropping. That reminds me, James Cameron and company made good use of actual twins when the T-1000 impersonates someone, like the moment when he becomes that security guard before killing and the aforementioned moment with Sarah where they used Linda Hamilton's identical twin, Leslie, as well as that nightmare where Sarah sees herself playing with baby John. Very creative stuff, which is something you don't see a lot nowadays since everyone's content just to fall back on CGI, not understanding that it's not the only technique and is not always photo-realistic. Hell, the reason why the CG, as well as the other effects here, still look good is because they're all mixed together, making it harder to tell when they used what. I'm still not sure how they did some of this stuff, like the shot where the T-1000's shattered, frozen pieces melt back into liquid or when they used matting for shots in the action sequences where the real actors are in the same frame as the actual vehicles (even if they even did use it), a testament to how this should be the way visual effects in movies today are done.

I think it goes without saying that the action sequences in Terminator 2 are just as amazing as the special effects. They're very well put together, choreographed, and edited, with some very good stuntwork and absolutely unreal physical effects involving genuine big vehicles like trucks and helicopters. Like the first film, the movie wastes no time in thrusting you into the ongoing war between the human resistance and SkyNet in 2029. After Sarah's monologue about Judgment Day and the aftermath, we get a close-up of a Terminator endoskeleton's foot crushing a human skull that pans up to reveal a devastating battle going on. A big Hunter-Killer tank comes rolling in, blasting everything in sight, as soldiers fire at it from behind cover, with one soldier getting killed by the tanks laser cannon. As the soldiers continue the fight, a flying HK comes roaring in and shoot down another soldier as it escalates into an all-out war, leading into that amazing shot where you see both sides firing at each other. A truck with a soldier manning a laser cannon in the back tries to shoot down a pursuing HK flyer but they get blown up with their truck, while laser gun-toating Terminators come marching in and fire at the soldiers. Another truck with a soldier, this time with a rocket launcher, manages to destroy one of the flying HK's. After that is when we get our only look at the adult commander John Connor, who walks out of his bunker and looks over the battlefield while Sarah describes the two attempts by SkyNet to kill John in the past with the use of Terminators (by the way, does John not look badass with his stern expression and those scars on his face?) After the opening credits over shots of a children's playground in flames, which are very haunting images, the movie promptly gets underway, with the Terminator arriving from the future near a small biker bar. Following a funny bit where the Terminator walks into the place completely naked, searching for clothes that match, with everybody staring at him in either shock or amusement (as well as questionable interest, in the case of that one waitress), he comes across the biker with the right set and, as politely as he possibly could, asks him for them and his motorcycle. The guy reacts the way anybody would by laughing in his face and, after saying that he forgot to say please, blowing smoke at him and putting his cigar out on his chest. That was a mistake, because the Terminator proceeds to grab his hand and crush it, bringing the guy to his knees and forcing him to ask for help. Another biker whacks the Terminator across the back of the head with a pool stick and gets thrown clear across the room and out the window for his trouble, while the Terminator flings his victim into the kitchen, where he lands on the fryer. Another biker stabs the Terminator in the chest but he just grabs his arm, turns it completely around, and puts the knife through his shoulder, nailing him to the pool table. The guy yells for help but everyone else decides to hell with this and leaves. The Terminator marches into the kitchen and takes the biker's handgun away when he draws it on him, prompting the guy to throw him the keys to his bike. After the scene where the Terminator walks out of the bar with his new set of clothes, as well as "relieves" the bartender of his rifle and sunglasses, he drives off, while the T-1000 arrives in another part of town, kills a police officer, and takes his uniform and car.

The next action sequence happens at the mall, as both the Terminator and the T-1000 arrive and begin scoping the area for John Connor, who's hanging out in the arcade with his friend. Once his friend warns him that the T-1000 is looking for him, John runs for it through the back door right as the T-1000 spots him and starts after him. He chases him down a hallway, with John reaching an exit, with John running into the Terminator, who promptly takes his rifle out of the box of roses he was hiding it in, in the hallway outside. Frightened at the sight of him cocking the weapon as he walks toward him, John runs back the way he came, only for the T-1000 to round the corner ahead of him. The T-1000 draws his pistol and both Terminators then seem to point their weapons at John. However, the T-800 tells John to get down and when he does, he blasts the T-1000 on the right side of his chest, prompting him to begin firing his pistol rapidly. The Terminator grabs ahold of John and swings his back to the T-1000, using himself as a shield, which doesn't help the poor janitor who got caught in the crossfire. After the T-1000 empties an entire clip into the Terminator, he takes advantage of the moment he's reloading to fling John into a nearby closet while he turns around and blasts the T-1000 six more times, eventually knocking him to the floor. While the Terminator reloads his rifle, the T-1000 heals up his bullet-holes, quickly gets to his feet, and grabs the Terminator's rifle. The two of them struggle with each other and then take turns slamming each other into the walls before they both crash into a department store through the wall on the left. While John takes the opportunity to run, the T-1000 throws the Terminator through a store window and out into the mall before heading down after John again. The Terminator, of course, gets back up right away and chases after the T-1000, reloading his gun on the way. John manages to get down to the parking garage and reach his motorcyle but has trouble getting it to start as the T-1000 shows up and chases after him. The vehicle finally starts and John takes off with the T-1000 sprinting right behind him, going so fast that John is only able to stay ahead by a few feet. As they reach the street, John almost gets run over by a truck that the T-1000 grabs ahold of. He manages to throw the driver out and take control, chasing John down the street, while the Terminator follows the truck on his Harley Davidson.

John makes it to an old drainage canal and it seems like he can relax... until the T-1000 drives his truck over a nearby bridge and slams down right behind him. John takes off again but the T-1000 is right behind him and gaining quickly. At the same time, the Terminator is pursuing them both on the edge of the canal, keeping up as they come to a fork and head down the left path. The truck gets smacked against the walls but the T-1000 isn't fazed by this at all. Keeping up with them by shooting open some gates leading on to other parts of the edge of the canal, the Terminator takes a couple of shots at the truck before its top gets sliced off a bridge John drives under. Again, this proves to be no problem for the T-1000, who ducked down and proceeds to punch away the remains of the windshield before speeding up in an attempt to run John down, which he almost succeeds in doing. The Terminator then reaches the end of the canal's edge and jumps down into it, allowing him to get ahead of the truck, get alongside John, pick him up and set him down on the seat in front of him, and turning around to blast one of the truck's tires. They soon reach a column and while the Terminator and John are able to drive through one of its sides, the truck crashes in the middle and a spark from some ripped wiring results in an enormous explosion. The Terminator and John outrun the blast and stop to look at the blaze. The Terminator draws his gun on some movement in the flames but it turns out to just be a rolling tire and the two of them drive off, which leads into the famous shot of the T-1000 emerging from the fire as a completely silver, liquid metal figure before slowly reforming his natural look.

Upon learning that the T-1000's next move will most likely be to kill Sarah at the mental hospital and take her place, John makes the Terminator accompany him there to bust her out. But, while the T-1000 does indeed arrive there and kills and impersonates one of the security guards, Sarah already has the situation well in hand. After being restrained to her bed for the night after acting catatonic during an interview with the police about the Terminator, and getting her face licked by a rather perverted guard named Douglas, Sarah uses a paperclip she took from the interview to pick the locks on her restraints and once she's free, uses it again on the door lock. As the disguised T-1000 searches for Sarah's cell, Sarah uses a broom handle to smash Douglas' face into a bloody mess and then drags him into and locks him in her room, taking his keys and baton. Soon afterward, she ambushes Dr. Silberman and an orderly, knocking the latter unconscious while breaking the doctor's arm. After injecting tranquilizers into the orderly, she fills the syringe with cleaning fluid. In the meantime, the Terminator and John arrive and after he swears to John that he won't kill anyone, he cripples the guard at the main gate by shooting him in the legs and then throws the switch to the gate. Inside, Sarah arrives at the security office holding Silberman hostage and threatens to inject the toxic cleaning fluid into his neck if they don't let her through. Realizing that she means business, they comply, and while Silberman is saved by another orderly, Sarah is able to run for it, slowing her pursuers down by locking a door and breaking the key off in the lock, forcing them to go around. While this is going on, the guards have sounded the alarm, which gets the attention of the T-1000 right when he comes across the orderly Sarah drugged earlier. Sarah makes it to the elevators but is absolutely horrified when the Terminator walks out of one in front of her. Panicking, she frantically runs back the way she came, not hearing John calling for her. This causes her to get caught by Silberman and the guards but the Terminator, on John's orders, walks up to them and quickly incapacitates them, smashing one against the wall and throwing another up against the window. When a female guard punches him in the face, breaking his sunglasses, the Terminator simply shoves her on the face, causing her to slip down the hall. John runs up to his mother and reassures her that she can trust the Terminator, who helps her up.

That's when the T-1000 shows up at the other end of the hall and walks right through the bars blocking his path, stunning Silberman. John and Sarah make a break for the elevators while the Terminator slows the T-1000 with some rifle shots. Heading back to join John and Sarah, once again acts like a shield as the T-1000 fires at him with pistol. The three reach the elevator and although the T-1000 turns his arms into hooks and pries the doors open, the Terminator shoots him at point blank range, blowing his head apart. As the elevator goes down and the Terminator reloads his rifle while Sarah frantically asks what's going, the T-1000 quickly repairs the damage to his head, pries open the elevator doors with his hook hands, and jumps down the shaft, landing on top of the elevator. He begins stabbing his blades through the roof, while the Terminator and Sarah, the latter of whom uses the Terminator's pistol, fire up at him. Sarah's shoulder gets cut by the blades but other than that, they manage to hold the T-1000 off until they reach the parking garage. Upon getting out of the elevator, they commandeer a police car that arrives right then, with the Terminator knocking out the confused and scared officer, while the T-1000 pours himself into the elevator through a hole he made in the roof. He exits the elevator and gives chase, with the Terminator driving the car through the parking garage in reverse while both he and Sarah continue firing at the T-1000, with John reloading their weapons as needed. They don't do much to slow him down and the chase continues as they reach the parking lot, with the Terminator swerving the car around in order to drive through the main gate. This allows the T-1000 to catch up to them and latch onto the back of the car with his hooks. He climbs up onto the trunk and smashes through the back window, attempting to slice John open, with Sarah grabbing him and pulling him out of range. The Terminator fires a shot back through the window while continuing to drive but is unable to knock the T-1000 off. He tells Sarah to take the wheel and as she does, he leans out the window in order to shoot at the T-1000 more clearly. He manages to shoot off the tip of one of his hooks and then blows him off completely, causing him to tumble along the road for a short distance. He does get back up and tries to continue the chase but quickly sees that he can't keep up with them on foot now and gives up. After John throws the tip of his hook back onto the road and it reforms with the T-1000's body, the liquid-metal Terminator heads back to the hospital.

Once the group meets up with Miles Dyson and the Terminator tells him of what will eventually happen if he continues his research, he agrees to get them into Cyberdyne so they can destroy everything. Things go smoothly until a security guard discovers the one at the front desk that they incapacitated and he activates the silent alarm. Although this makes their job a little more difficult since it disables all of the automatic lock codes in the building, making Dyson's keycard useless, the Terminator allows them to enter the research lab by blowing the door open with a grenade launcher while John uses computer skills to hack into the compartment containing the key to the room with the arm and CPU from the original Terminator. But, while they get to work, the guards contact the police and tell them to send everything they can. Even worse, the T-1000, who's investigating the now abandoned Dyson house, hears of the situation over the radio on the police motorcycle he's now using and heads in that direction as well. As a massive army of police and SWAT officers gather outside the Cyberdyne building, John manages to get the key out of the compartment while the others finish setting up the explosives in the lab. John, however, sees the officers gathered outside on the security monitor and warns the others of what's going on. Sarah tells him and Dyson to go get the arm and the chip while she finishes with the explosives. The Terminator, in turn, says he'll deal with the police and reassures John that he won't kill anyone. With a minigun in tow, the Terminator heads to the windows on an upper floor and kicks it out with a desk. He begins spraying the police cars with bullets, making sure not to hit any of the officers and allowing them to take cover. He damages a number of squad cars and when his minigun runs dry, he takes out his grenade launcher and blows the two remaining up. After scanning the area and seeing that he didn't kill anyone, he turns and heads back into the building, easily shrugging off all of the bullets that the officers fire back at him. John and Dyson manage to get the arm and chip and meet back up with Sarah, not knowing that a SWAT team enters the building and begins heading up the stairs towards them. Just as they're preparing to leave, the SWAT team bursts into the lab and begin firing, hitting Dyson several times and mortally wounding him. Taking cover from the onslaught of bullets, Sarah looks at Dyson who lets her know just with facial expressions that he'll take care of everything. Sarah then first distracts the SWAT team as they prepare to move in by firing into the air and makes a run for it, just barely avoiding the gunfire as glass shatters around her before tumbling into the clean room, ending up trapped behind a metal cart by the continuing gunfire and unable to reach the door. Upon seeing what's happened on a security monitor, the Terminator bursts through the wall behind Sarah and pulls her out before blowing open the door to the adjacent hallway. They head for the elevator, while the SWAT team enters the lab and comes across Dyson, who's breathing rapidly as he slowly dies and holding an object over the detonator switch, warning them that he can't hold it much longer. The SWAT team retreats and the group enter the elevator as Dyson breathes his last and drops the object on the switch, destroying the lab in a massive explosion.

As the T-1000 arrives on the scene, the trio reaches the lobby but they run into the SWAT team down there. One of the officers fires a tear gas canister at them, forcing John and Sarah to take cover in the elevator and share a gas mask. The Terminator tells them to stay there, saying he'll be back, and heads on down the hallway. When he ignores the SWAT team's warning to get down on the floor, they begin firing on him but he just walks through the onslaught of bullets, with the only damage being to his flesh. When he reaches the end of the hall, he pulls out his pistol and shoots all but two of the officers in the legs. He grabs the discarded tear gas gun and puts the remaining two out of commission by shooting them with the canisters. While the T-1000 drives his motorcycle into another part of the building, the Terminator, tear gas gun still in tow, heads outside and fires canisters all over the parking lot, incapacitating the remaining police offcers. Walking up to the SWAT van, he rips the gas masks off of two officers there (I like how he forces the one to allow him to do so by giving him the gun) and commandeers the van. He drives it directly into the lobby, avoiding the crippled officers, and picks up Sarah and John before gunning it back outside and down the street. Patrolling an upper floor on his bike, the T-1000 hears the commotion outside and sees the officers firing at the SWAT van. Knowing what it must mean, he decides to take advantage of the circling police chopper and drives right at it, crashing through the window and grabbing onto one of its landing legs. Climbing up onto the front, he smahes the windshield with his head and then pours himself in. While reforming himself, he tells the thoroughly freaked out pilot to get out, which he quickly does, falling to his death. The T-1000 then flies off after his targets.

Sarah gives John a bunch of bulletproof vests to use as protection and stuffs another into one of the shattered back windows when she spots the chopper coming up fast, with the Terminator somehow knowing it's the T-1000. Sarah arms herself with assault rifles as the Terminator swerves the van around other vehicles on the highway. The T-1000 aims the helicopter down towards the van until he's flying mere inches above the road, catching up rapidly with the van as other vehicles try to avoid him. Sarah fires at him out of the back and he returns fire through the helicopter's cracked windshield. They exchange fire again as he follows them underneath an overpass as he reloads (I don't know how many people catch this but in a close-up, you see that he's grown a third arm out of his side so he can keep control of the chopper while reloading). He and Sarah exchange more shots, with his bullets finding their way into the van and hitting the vests John is hiding under. The T-1000 flies above a walkway extending over the road and then zooms back at them, firing on them some more, which Sarah returns. As the van sideswipes another car, Sarah fires back but this time, the T-1000 manages to hit her in the right leg. Seeing this, the Terminator hits the brakes, causing the chopper to crash into the van's rear and rear upward, with its tail splitting off before skidding along the road. However, following that, one of the van's tires blows out, causing the Terminator to lose control of the van, which flips over on its side and skids along the road before coming to a stop. A tanker truck containing liquid nitrogen comes to a stop behind the crashed chopper, while a guy driving a very small truck comes across the van and gets out to see if everyone is okay. At the same time, the man driving the tanker truck gets out and sees the T-1000 emerge from the wreckage. He asks if he's okay and gets a blade through the chest and out the back for his trouble, with the monster then commandeering his truck.

Back at the van, everyone gets out and try to compose themselves when they see the tanker truck smash through the remains of the chopper as it barrels towards them. They quickly take the man's truck and head down the road, with the tanker truck coming at them full blast, smashing right through the van, forcing the former truck driver to dive off the freeway. John helps Sarah deal with her bleeding leg when they see that the T-1000 is gaining on them fast. John tells the Terminator to step on it but he says that they're driving at the truck's top speed, which is a lie since they're driving under 65 (I know why he's doing that but wouldn't he at least realize that this isn't the time to obey the speed limit?) The T-1000 rams into the back of the truck and then gets alongside them and forces them against the guardrail, which he does until he's forced to drive around a cargo truck up ahead. Once they get past that obstacle, the T-1000 gets back on their tail as they drive along a bridge, with the tanker truck knocking a car out of its way as it gains on them. The Terminator tells John to take the wheel while he climbs outside and fires his grenade launcher at the front of the truck, which damages it but doesn't slow it down. He tells John to take the off-ramp up ahead but when he does, the T-1000 quickly swerves onto the alternate road to keep up with them. John has to swerve around another truck at the intersection up ahead while the Terminator fires at the truck again. He attempts to load another grenade when the T-1000 rams them from behind, causing him to drop it into the back of the truck. The impact sends them speeding out of control through the main gate of a steel mill facility, with the T-1000 keeping the tanker truck right on their tail-gate. Discarding the grenade launcher, the Terminator grabs Sarah's assault rifle off the dashboard, climbs across the back of the truck and onto the front of the tanker truck, and unleashes a volley of rounds right into the T-1000 through the windshield, causing him to back off from the truck. The Terminator then jumps on the tanker truck's left side and swerves it away from Sarah and John, causing it to fall on its side and skid along the road, with the Terminator standing up on it. Sarah tells John not to stop as both vehicles enter the steel mill, with Sarah and John hitting an obstruction in front of them while the Terminator jumps of the truck as the tank gets separated from the cab and then splits open when it hits the entrance to the mill, sending liquid nitrogen pouring everywhere. The mill is promptly evacuated as the T-1000 jumps out of the destroyed cab and proceeds to get soaked in the liquid nitrogen. He walks forward into the mill when his liquid-metal body begins to gradually freeze, slowing him down and then freezing his feet to the floor, leading into him breaking them off when he tries to continue. When he falls from the impact of his right foot breaking off, his hand gets stuck to the floor and he ends up breaking it off too. He pulls his severed limb up and looks at it with a shocked expression as he freezes completely. Seeing this, the Terminator stands up, pulls out his pistol, and tells the T-1000, "Hasta la vista, baby," before shooting him and breaking his body up into thousands of frozen pieces.

Once again, it seems like everything's okay as John and Sarah join the Terminator where he stands when he notices the molten steel nearby and the sparks flying towards the fragments. Seeing them melting back into liquid metal, the Terminator tells John that they don't have much time and when he sees the bits of liquid coming together into a large puddle, he realizes what the Terminator means. As the T-1000's body begins to emerge and form out of the liquid, John and the Terminator head back to the truck, with John helping Sarah as she then sees what's happening, while the Terminator grabs the grenade he dropped in the back of the truck earlier and loads it into his gun. The T-1000 is almost fully reformed when they begin to move and it's only a few seconds later when he's completely reorganized and begins chasing after them again. Sarah's injured leg slows them down, making it easy for the T-1000 to gain on them even though he's just walking. The three make their way through the mill, amongst the machinery, but reach a dead end when they come across a vat of molten steel that's too hot for them to get near. They head back the way they came but when he sees the T-1000 closing in nearby, the Terminator tells John and Sarah to go on while he holds the other Terminator off. After some protesting from John, they do leave and the Terminator prepares both his grenade launcher and his pistol as he inches forward slowly, searching for the T-1000. He then gets ambushed from the side and his grenade launcher gets tossed away, while his pistol proves useless and the T-1000 smacks it out of his hand. The Terminator grabs his shoulders and headbutts him before slamming him back and forth between two walls. He then breaks the Terminator's hold on him and bashes him against a ladder but the Terminator shoves him backwards, turns around, grabs him, and slams him back and forth against the walls in a small, enclosed section, leading to the moment where he gets slammed face first into the wall and then quickly reorganizes his body to face his opponent. Right after that, he runs at the Terminator, who punches him in the head but then the T-1000 reorganizes himself to make his head now his hands, enabling him to fling the Terminator around by his arm until he throws him into a corner and then shoves him to where his arm gets caught under a large gear. The Terminator tries to wrench himself free but only gets stuck further. He tries to grab the T-1000 as he turns to walk away but is enable to stop, with the liquid-metal Terminator heading to catch up with his real target.

Meanwhile, John and Sarah climb up a set of stairs onto a large platform in the heart of the mill, with John having to help his mother. At the same time, the Terminator uses a metal bar to wrench his arm further under the gear to where he can pull it out, ultimately having to sever it to do so. John and Sarah then reach another flight of stairs on the other side of the platform, when the T-1000 appears down below. As he walks up the stairs, Sarah and John frantically try to find somewhere else to go, with Sarah making John grab onto a large chain, which she then uses to lower him down onto a conveyor belt below. Staying behind despite her son's cries, Sarah prepares to face the T-1000, loading her shotgun as he walks up the stairs towards her. When he gets to the top, she blasts a large hole through the right side of his head but he immediately closes it up, with Sarah backing away while trying to load some more shells as quickly as possible. The T-1000 takes a second to glance down at the conveyor belt that John rode off on and then turns to Sarah, turning his finger into a long, narrow blade and stabbing her all the way through the shoulder before she can shoot him again. Sarah struggles to get free when the T-1000 tells her to call to John. She naturally refuses and he begins shoving it in deeper and wriggling it around in order to cause her enough pain to make her comply, saying that he knows that it's painful. When that doesn't work, he turns the index finger on his other hand into a similar blade and threatens to stab it through her head. He again tells her to call to John, to which she replies, "Fuck you." Just then, the Terminator comes up behind him and slams the metal rod through his shoulder and down into his body. He grabs the rod as the rip seals back up, swings around and kicks the Terminator, and pulls the rod out of his side. He then pummels the Terminator with the rod, with the android unable to do much to defend himself in his damaged condition, and shoves him off the walkway with it. Before the Terminator can get back up, the T-1000 jumps onto the grated platform he fell onto and bashes him a couple of more times before grabbing him by the shoulder and throwing him down another level. Again, the much more agile Terminator is on him before he can get up, grabs him, lifts him up, slams him against the wall, grabs ahold of a large piece of metal hanging down from a chain, and bashes him in the chest with it. The Terminator falls to his knees and the T-1000 slams the metal into his shoulder. When the Terminator turns around to face him, the T-1000 smashes him the face twice, exposing much of his metallic skull underneath. Badly damaged, the Terminator is now only able to crawl across the grating, with the T-1000 coldly watching. When he reaches the edge of the platform, he sees the grenade launcher and tries to reach for it but the T-1000 shoves the metal rod into his back and works it around a bit. That doesn't stop him, so he then shoves it completely through him, shorting him out and deactivating him.

While Sarah manages to grab the shotgun and reload it, and John finds a place to hide elsewhere, the Terminator is able to reactivate when his circuits reroute to an alternate power source. Pulling the rod out of him from below, he's able to grab the grenade launcher. Meanwhile, John hears the sound of his mother calling for him and follows it to its source. He finds what appears to be his mother, badly injured and barely able to move... when another Sarah suddenly appears behind her. This second Sarah pulls out the shotgun and tells John to get out of the way. John does so and she shoots the imposter through the back, forcing the T-1000 to drop his disguise as he turns around to face her. Sarah then relentlessly shoots hole after hole into him, blasting him ever closer to the edge of the platform overlooking the vat of molten steel. Right when she's about to blast him off completely, she runs out of shells, giving the T-1000 time to heal himself again. Looking up at the now completely helpless Sarah, the T-1000 childishly wags his finger at her and then closes in for the kill on both of them. They turn around to run when all three of them spot the Terminator riding up on a large gear with his grenade launcher. John and Sarah duck as he fires, hitting the T-1000 in the gut. With a look of shock on his face, he then explodes and ends up shredded apart, making a loud screeching noise as he stands there. He then falls backwards into the molten steel below him and thrashes around, screeching crazily, as he tries to reform himself, going through the various imitations he used throughout the film and turning his arms into blades again. He downgrades into a humanoid, chrome figure and forms several different heads on long necks, the last of which turns inside out through the mouth, before finally disintegrating. Things then wrap up, with John throwing the metal arm and the chip into the steel and the Terminator then makes the decision to sacrifice himself, with Sarah lowering him into the steel on a chain as John tearfully watches. He gives him one last thumbs up before disappearing into the steel and shutting down completely, with Sarah comforting her devastated son. The movie ends with Sarah narrating that, thanks to the Terminator, she can now face the future with hope.

Aside from that I don't like how it overshadows the original, one of the few problems that I have with Terminator 2 as a movie is that I think it's a little longer than it should be. The first movie was a lean and mean 107 minutes and it didn't even feel like it was that long because of its pace; this film, however, even in its original theatrical version, is over two hours long and really feels like it at points, particularly during the second act after the chase scene at the hospital. While the scenes there, which include them meeting up with Enrique, aren't bad at all, the film does slow down a bit and doesn't gain momentum until after they meet Dyson and decide to blow up Cyberdyne. For that matter, the T-1000 is absent from the movie for the entire second act, to the point where every time I watch it, I almost completely forget about him until he shows up at the Dyson household. I know James Cameron had to cut a lot of stuff out to get the film down to a more reasonable length but I think he could have trimmed just a little more fat here and there to make it a bit shorter. That leads me into the special edition of the movie, which was the only version I was able to watch for a while since the first DVD of the film I owned was the Extreme DVD that only had this cut (I now have the Ultimate DVD that has both versions). While I love Cameron's special edition of Aliens, which is the only version of that movie I've ever watched, because I feel the scenes that were put back in added to the story and made it flow really well, the added scenes in this cut of T2 I think are better suited staying as points of interest in the deleted scenes section. Some of them are cool, like the dream Sarah has about Kyle Reese (I like that they actually brought Michael Biehn back for that) and the scene where they take the Terminator's CPU chip out to switch it from "read only" to "learning" and Sarah tries to smash the chip, forcing John to take the first step in becoming the leader he's supposed to be, but others, like the T-1000 killing John's dog and discovering that he had been tricked and the shots during the climax where you see he's losing control of his morphing abilities, are kind of needless. As I said, earlier I don't mind the added exchange  between Sarah and Enrique at one point and I also don't mind the scene of the orderlies violently forcing Sarah to take her medicine because, when combined with the scene of him licking her face, it makes you understand even more so why she brutalized that one orderly during her escape, the scene of Dyson at home where you get the sense that he's obsessed with finishing his work on the new microprocessor and is kind of neglecting his family as a result, and the little echange between John and the Terminator about fear of death, but I don't mind that they're missing from the theatrical version at the same time. The scene where the Terminator tries to smile, though... I smirked the first time I saw it but I think Cameron made a good call in cutting it. The Special Edition of T2 isn't bad at all but the added scenes bog the movie down even more and I'm fine with them just being curiosities in the special features section.

While I like his score for the first film more because of the cool, synthesizer sound and how scary it is at points, Brad Fiedel did provide T2 with a great one as well. The main Terminator theme is now much bigger and more epic and heroic rather than somber and apocalyptic but it's still a nice sound and the combination of it with the shots of the burning playground during the opening credits does have a power to it. He creates some alternative, even more heroic versions of it for some of the action scenes, like when the Terminator first saves John on the motorcycle, but my favorite alternate version of it is the sad, slow one that plays at the end when the Terminator sacrifices himself. It's very effective and highlights the emotion perfectly. The theme for the Terminator character, which is this distant sound that's like metal banging and is accompanied by a menacing, electronic melody, doesn't have the power of the heartbeat sound from the first movie but since he's the good guy here, they probably couldn't use that. You only hear it while he's still something of an imposing figure and I like that you also hear it when Sarah is trying to kill Dyson, reinforcing the idea that she's become like a Terminator herself at that moment. I like the theme for the T-1000, which is this threatening, constantly droning sound that gets across that he's lethal and unstoppable. I used to not like the theme that plays during some of the chase scenes, like the first one at the mall and at the hospital, because I felt it sounded a little cheap, but now I don't mind it. What I like more, though, is the kind of atmospheric music for when the authorities arrive at Cyberdyne, the music that plays during the helicopter chase, and the utterly awesome bit that plays when they all crash into the steel mill. And how can you not love the epic themes that play during the battles in the mill, especially the one that builds and builds as Sarah blasts the T-1000 towards the edge of the platform and the nightmarish piece with singing male voices that you hear when the T-1000 is slowly dissolved in the molten steel? Good stuff. I'm more mixed on the actual songs on the soundtrack, though. Can't say too much about Guitars, Cadillacs other than it's definitely country, which I hear all the time around here so it doesn't faze me at all. Bad to the Bone is overrated and overused in my opinion; it got enough coverage in Christine. And You Could Be Mine by Guns N' Roses? Eh, it's okay, but utlimately not something I would listen to all the time.

What more can you say about Terminator 2: Judgment Day at this point? It's one of the most beloved sci-fi/action movies ever, one of the most popular films for both James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and, indeed, has a lot of stuff going for it. The cast and acting are all top notch, the story is rich and well told, the film goes at a fairly good pace despite its length, the special effects are amazing all-around, the action scenes are big and spectacular, and the music is once again very memorable. While I do have some qualms with it, like the ongoing problem with the time-travel and the film's length, ultimately there isn't much to complain about. But, at the same time, this is not my favorite sci-fi/action film or my favorite in the series. I think the film has been hyped up far too much over the years to the point where hearing about it all the time can get tiring (as many also feel about The Dark Knight), especially when you personally enjoy the first one more, like me. It may have made the Terminator franchise a worldwide phenomenon but there are other films of this genre, as well as other Schwarzenegger films, that I enjoy more than this and I still prefer the gritty, dark, horror film vibe of the original to the glossy, mega-budget feel of this one. It's still a great movie and I do enjoy it whenever I do see it but I don't think it's the greatest of its kind either. That's just me, though.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.