Eye For Film >> Movies >> Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Film Review
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald
"God, a person could go crazy thinking about this!" - Sarah Connor.
A solid quote from The Terminator's conclusion - offsetting the as then unwritten sequel, and an indication that writer-director James Cameron had indeed considered the royally rodgered paradoxical timelines that his movie dreamed up. Following this headache-inducing stream of nightmarish tech-noir, Terminator 2 is a wonderful sequel, dramatically satisfying and a fine entertainment in its own right.
The story takes the principal character from the first film, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) almost to the brink of madness. She has known for years the world is heading towards irrevocable change - by nuclear incineration on Judgment Day - August 29th, 1997. The key to the human race's survival was in her care. She's a dangerous person in her mentally toughened state - not unlike Bill Paxton's character in Frailty, whose unquestioning faith leads him to the darkest places of humankind. She considers other people like walking ghosts, dehumanising them as obstacles. To her, everything else is unimportant - people walking around living out their lives are mere trifles when compared to the "mother of the future".
Edward Furlong, in his first acting role, plays her son, John Connor, the 13-year old post-Judgment Day saviour of humankind. He is a natural for the part. Young, impressionable and sensitive - he brings an urgency to the human dramas that unfold. Terminator 2 has plenty of them, while he learns the responsibilities that come with having a badass killing machine as his pet - A Boy And His Terminator. The moments where he reunites with his hardened mother, who in the guise of hugging him, checks for physical injuries. We see the hurt, and the betrayal of this deep and sickening violation.
In the first film took physical directions from Cameron, removing ego. In the sequel, Schwarzenneger knows his character, limited as it is, is the reason for ticket sales, and delivers a camera commanding performance, only diluted by occasional lapses into schmaltz. He becomes the first computer to understand why humans cry - whooptiedoo!
Admittedly, the Terminator's ability to learn gives Schwarzenneger dramatic meat. And in one of the scenes restored by the Special Edition, he is temporarily disabled by removing the chip from his skull, and while John's mother is trying to destroy the chip, and therefore the Terminator. John Connor takes another step in cementing his leadership. All the other Special Edition restored scenes lack the dramatic heft to be anything other than wasted time in storytelling. They give it too little depth for the time spent.
While Arnie becomes kinder and gentler, Hamilton takes the dehumanising route as she becomes another terrifying killing machine towards the finale, made all the more shocking due to her character arc. Fiedel's score blends Sarah's themes with The Terminator's black heartbeat in a chilling mix.
It is delightful to see characters figure out events on their own. Cameron purposefully avoids dramatic irony - we unfold the story almost as quickly as the characters do. It doesn't slow until the latter half of the movie.
The villain of the piece, the incredible liquid-metal T-1000 faces off against our collective family unit - and Cameron delivers action without mercy. The film presses into a splendid chase movie for the first half, and changes into a soggy road movie in the second, although it features a nuclear nightmare almost rivalling Threads for scary believability. It rises back emphatically to one of the strongest continuous action set pieces I have ever seen, only surpassed in length by Cameron's own movies. The film lacks any humour, other than the gallows variety - Furlong commanding Schwarzennegger into nonlethal mode, who quickly starts kneecapping everyone, much to the chagrin of the BBFC - who lopped out much of this footage on release.
T-1000 is a masterwork of visual effects. Cameron's The Abyss was at the brink of what was possible with respect to photoreal computer graphics. However, they remained disposable enough to be cut should the VFX work be too immature for dramatic weight. T2 has no such luxury, there's a lot more of these shots in T2, and they hold up superbly. Like Hamilton's physical transformation overshadowing the great performance, we underrate Robert Patrick's contribution as T-1000 thanks to the incredible effects. Emotionless, unblinking, and straight enough to be a great movie villain.
The juggernaut of T2 is too difficult to resist.Reviewed on: 03 Jan 2007