Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Release Date: July 3rd, 1991 MPAA Rating: R
Director: James Cameron Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley
ne of the finest sequels ever made – often considered even better than the original – “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” marks the return of the big screen’s most prominent cyborg. Arnold Schwarzenegger, now a household name (from this series and “Conan the Barbarian” before it), comes back to his greatest (and most fitting) role as a more tractable and benevolent killer robot, again sent through time to help save Earth. Never has so much action, excitement, and suspense been contained in a single movie.
In the near future, Cyberdyne Corporation releases an artificial intelligence called Skynet that will gain so much control over the nation’s defense systems that it will destroy the world. The remnant human rebel forces’ successful efforts to protect Sarah Connor, the mother of their leader John, has forced the self-aware Skynet to send an advanced model Terminator (the T-1000, wickedly played to perfection by Robert Patrick) back in time to eliminate John as a 12-year-old boy. But the humans have captured an older model T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and reprogrammed it to protect John, setting the stage for the battle to end all battles.
Once again, Schwarzenegger’s screen presence is grand, assured, and not too demanding for the heavily-accented Austrian bodybuilder. This time, with exhilarating gravitas, he’s the protagonist, teamed with a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) for a surrogate father/son relationship that shines light on a more emotionally complex partnership – one that is filled with as much pathos as fist-pumping awe. Killing in defense and killing to simply clear a path are underlying themes explored through the morals of the boy with fantastical control over the Terminator’s actions. Choice versus command and malice versus implementation are examined with dark humor as the unreasoning automaton opts to shoot to wound and systematically track random human casualties when he’s ordered not to carry out his primary program – which is, of course, to unwaveringly terminate.
The T-1000, however, isn’t queried with the same ethical consternation. It even appears to take pleasure in the act of torture. Its utter inhumanity splendidly contrasts Schwarzenegger’s kinder killer, who formerly exacted the same level of ruthlessness in the preceding picture – here, accompanied by snazzier catchphrases. If ever there were a perfect opponent for our stalwart hero, it’s the chillingly sinister liquid-metal executor. And with stunning special effects that haven’t betrayed their age (a combination of Industrial Light & Magic and Stan Winston’s practical work), the T-1000 shape-shifts, absorbs gunfire, and reassembles itself (with the help of computer models and mercury) in one of the most electrifyingly cinematic inventions of all time. The film would go on to win four Academy Awards, for Best Visual Effects, Makeup, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing.
An undeniable science-fiction masterpiece, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is brimming with so much adventure, pulse-pounding thrills, visual and scripted humor, and surprisingly solid acting that even those who don’t enjoy the genre can marvel over the cohesive moviemaking techniques. The always-tricky time travel implausibleness doesn’t even interfere with its entertainment value. And while bigger isn’t always better, writer/director James Cameron’s follow-up is genuinely bigger and better in nearly every way, expanding upon the successes of the original production without resorting to cheap gimmicks, overuse of prior ideas, or a diminishment of inventiveness and creativity.
– Mike Massie