Terminator 2: Judgment Day

[This review contains many, many spoilers.]

Terminator: "Come with me if you want to live."

T2 did everything a good sequel is supposed to do, and more.

The structure of the two movies is the same. Two warriors arrive from the future, one to kill and one to protect. There are battles, massive chases and action sequences, culminating in a pulse-pounding resolution in a huge, industrial space. The killer is destroyed, and the protector is sacrificed.

And yet, despite the similar structure and the many, many clever homages to the original movie, T2 isn't a rehash. It took the story to a whole new place. Most importantly, the end of the first movie was utterly bleak, with humankind facing certain destruction. The second ended on a more positive note. The world could still end, but it was no longer certain.

The circular paradox stuff continued. Dyson created the technology which led to the Terminator. But he did it using the chip and the hand from the original Terminator that Sarah crushed. So even the end of the world was circular, directly caused by Terminator coming back in time. It's like this is a story that shouldn't even exist. If it circles in upon itself, how can anyone break the loop, stop the inevitable?

The original was Michael Biehn's movie, but T2 belongs to Linda Hamilton. She owned the character of Sarah Connor, and it was hard to take your eyes off her while she was onscreen. She was in great physical shape for this movie, and it worked for the character; it made sense that Sarah would have made herself so strong. She was emotionally damaged, though. Like Cassandra in Greek mythology, she knew the future but was unable to make anyone believe her. And she had made a lot of mistakes raising John, with the best of intentions.

I liked Arnold's performance in this one. His minimalist acting skills had improved. And Edward Furlong was good as ten-year-old John Connor. His battle smarts and the way he turned "Uncle Bob" into something resembling a human being made his future self believable. Many of the best scenes were of John Connor playing with his very own killer robot. "Hasta la vista, baby." "Chill out, dickwad." "No problemo." I've always liked how John made Terminator swear not to kill anybody, and afterward Terminator carefully shot everyone in the leg.

Roles shifted. Terminator became protector instead of killer, making this into the classic sci-fi story of the robot giving his life to protect humans. Sarah and "Uncle Bob" connected because they were both protecting John; they became like a family unit. When Sarah went after Dyson, she was like a Terminator. (Except she couldn't go through with it.) And Dyson was rather like Sarah in the first movie: confused and overwhelmed, the focus of Sarah's rage. Dyson sacrificed himself to save the world, too, much like Kyle Reese did.

I'm always less about the action sequences than the story, but they were outstanding, world class action sequences. Unlike the original which was made on a shoestring, T2 (at the time it came out) was the most expensive movie ever made, and it looked it. Fortunately, James Cameron was always too smart to make the common mistake of sacrificing the story to the special effects.

Bits and pieces:

-- The action took place in 1994 or 1995; they don't tell us, but John is ten. Judgment Day was August 29, 1997, which is now ten years ago. That's one of the problems with sci-fi as a genre; it often gets dated way too quickly.

-- Although the original theatrical release is fine, I prefer the "Ultimate Edition." There are several more scenes that add depth to the story. My favorite was Sarah dreaming she was talking to Kyle. I really wish they had kept that one; Michael Biehn should have been in this movie.

-- Twins were used twice. The guard in Pescadero duplicated by the T-1000, for one. And Linda Hamilton's twin sister, Leslie, was in that final scene in the steel mill. In the Ultimate Edition, there's an extra scene with a mirror that also includes Leslie.

-- John Connor was a juvenile delinquent. Throughout the movie, he was wearing a tee shirt that said "Public Enemy." John was carrying the photo of Sarah that Kyle had in the original movie. That's one movie prop I'd love to have. We got a glimpse of the adult John Connor. Scarred and rather scary looking.

-- Earl Boen reprised his original role as slimy police psychiatrist Dr. Silberman. In the original movie, he said he could have made a career out of Kyle. Apparently, he did make a career out of Sarah.

-- I'd like to say some good things about Robert Patrick as T-1000, too. He was sleek and cat-like, the opposite of Arnold; just the way he moved and walked was menacing. He did a fine job with a very strange part.

-- One quibble. I thought the time machine would only transport living tissue. He looked human when he wanted to, but the T-1000 was liquid metal.

-- Okay, two quibbles. The Connors, mere et fils, both spent the entire movie pushing bangs out of their eyes. Wouldn't warrior types make certain their hair wouldn't obscure their vision? There's a reason they cut your hair when you join the military.

-- The way Dougie the revolting orderly licked Sarah's face has always given me the creeps.

-- Always liked the way the T-1000 shook his finger at Sarah. And how the Terminator's last gesture was a thumbs up.

Quotes:

John: "Please insert your stolen card now."

Sarah: "On August 29, 1997, it's gonna feel pretty fucking real to you, too. Anybody not wearing two million sunblock is going to have a real bad day."

John: "Who sent you?"
Terminator: "You did."

Silberman: "You broke my arm!"
Sarah: "There are two hundred and fifteen bones in the human body. That's one."

John: "We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean."
Terminator: "It's in your nature to destroy yourselves."
John: "Yeah. Major drag, huh?"

Sarah: "Dyson listened while the Terminator laid it all down. Skynet. Judgment Day. The history of things to come. It's not every day that you find out you're responsible for three billion deaths. He took it pretty well."

Dyson: "How were we supposed to know?"
Sarah: "Yeah. Right. How are you supposed to know? Fucking men like you built the hydrogen bomb. Men like you thought it up. You think you're so creative. You don't know what it's like to really create something." I always liked the way Linda Hamilton delivered these lines.

John: "We got company."
Dyson: "Police?"
Sarah: "How many?"
John: "All of them, I think."

Terminator: "Stay here. I'll be back."

Terminator: "Hasta la vista, baby."

John: "Holy shit."
Terminator: "I need a vacation."

If I had to choose between T1 and T2, I'd choose T1. But it would be close. This is an outstanding movie. Four out of four stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

Eris said...

Just watching this tonight and had never seen that brilliant dream sequence between Sarah and Kyle before. It brought Sarah's sadness and loneliness out. And the romantic in me always loved their tragic love story, so it was wonderful to see him back, even if only briefly.