REVIEW – ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’

Written by J.T. Johnson

5-stars

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: July 3, 1991
DIRECTOR: James Cameron
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Adam Greenberg
WRITERS: James Cameron, William Wisher
MUSIC: Brad Fiedel

Yes, it has been 25 years since “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” hit theater screens. The movie has stood the test of time and, in my opinion, is probably director James Cameron’s masterpiece. You can keep the blue cats from “Avatar”, I prefer the Terminators.

Why does this film still work today as much as it did 25 years ago? Well, for one, the action is fast paced and always exciting when it happens. Another aspect of the movie that still works is the special effects. Sure, some of them are showing their age, but for the most part all of the fantastic effects still work today.

For me, though, I would say that the number one thing that works in this movie is the character development. Every character has to go through some sort of change that evolves their storyline. The story takes a break from the action in order to allow our characters to become a little more real, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator.

The story starts off similar to that of the first one. After a futuristic A.I. known as Skynet failed to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before her son John Connor (Edward Furlong) was born, it sent another Terminator back in time to kill John as a boy. Like in the first film, though, the human Resistance was able to send back a protector, this time in the form of the reprogrammed Terminator played by Schwarzenegger.

The main baddie of the piece is the T-1000, played superbly by Robert Patrick. This Terminator is made of liquid metal and way more sophisticated than Schwarzenegger’s out-of-date model. The liquid metal aspect was tested out with the water effects from Cameron’s “The Abyss” and they still look fantastic.

Okay, let’s get back to the character development. Hamilton returns from the first film as a changed woman. She has since gotten herself locked up in a psychiatric hospital, losing her son to a foster family. Sarah is also subject to the physical abuse of the hospital staff and the mental abuse of the opportunistic psychiatrist Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen).

Hamilton has successfully transformed the character into a battle-hardened soldier when compared to the innocent girl we met in the first film. She knows the truth about the future, but it has caused her to become slightly unhinged. Throughout the movie, after the Terminator and John break her out, she must rediscover her own humanity and try to reconnect with her son.

John is another character that has to go through a change. At first, John is nothing more than a little smartass who doesn’t believe his mother. When he discovers firsthand that his mother wasn’t lying, he must evolve as the film progresses into the leader that he will one day become.

This was Furlong’s first film and not being a trained actor, he does a really good job in this movie. Being a kid, this character could have been a showstopper but thankfully they got the right actor for the part. Furlong has had his share of troubles since this film was released, but his performance here cannot be denied.

Then there is the Terminator himself. At first, Schwarzenegger plays him as the cold killing machine that he was supposed to be. However, this Terminator has been programmed to learn and become more human. Through his interactions with the Connors, the character becomes more human as the story progresses and this may very well be Schwarzenegger’s best performance as an actor.

“T2” may be a great action film, but the movie has endured due to having a deceptively deeper story than most action films from the ‘90s. The movie is just as fun to watch today as it was in ’91. It is also a rare sequel that outmatches its original in every way. The “Terminator” franchise has not fared well since “T2’s” release, but this masterpiece remains one of the true hallmarks of action and sci-fi entertainment.

P.S. – There are actually two versions of the film. The original theatrical cut and the Special Edition cut. I prefer the Special Edition due to a dream sequence featuring Kyle Reese from the original film and a scene where John has to remove the Terminator’s chip in order to turn off the restrictions for the Terminator to become more like a human.

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