Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) Classic Movie Review “One of the Best Sequels Ever Put to Screen”

poster-terminator-2-judgment-day-1991-schwarzenegger

Coming off the success of “The Terminator” then the highly successful and arguably superior sequel  to “Alien”, “Aliens” (and not to mention the groundbreaking film “Abyss”), James Cameron  proved to be a force in Hollywood. With each film his skill for filmmaking became that much better, making him one of the best in Hollywood .  It took (only) 7 years for Cameron to return to the “Terminator” world; which is certainly not the standard release schedule for a sequel.  Many just want to strike while the iron is hot but Cameron went off to do other projects.  “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” would arrive in the summer of 1991 and the long wait and time did nothing but enhance this superior sequel to the already amazing first film.  “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is among the greatest of all action films; it thrills, it entertains, has a very strong script and groundbreaking effects.  This is the benchmark that no other “Terminator” film has ever reached .

“Terminator 2” pushes the story forward a few years.  John Connor is now a young boy of 10 years old living in foster care as his mother, Sarah Connor, is institutionalize in a mental hospital after spouting her stories of the future with Machines ruling over humanity.  Soon though John’s already upside down world gets worst when another Terminator is sent from the future to kill him.  A more advanced T-1000, the new cybernetic machine is made out of liquid metal giving it the ability to shape shift creating new weapons and appear as a different person.   To protect him, the Resistance from the future, sends back a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator.  This time after rescuing Sarah, simply surviving and destroying the Terminator won’t be enough.  Sarah, John and the T-800 plan to reset the future and stop Judgment Day from ever happening by destroying the company that builds Skynet.

Photo-Lionsgate
Photo-Lionsgate

Parts of this film might sound like it’s a retread of the first film.   A Terminator is sent back in time again to kill a Connor family member how can this be much different?  I can assure you that while this has familiar plot elements this is nothing like a repeat of the first film.  This takes the basic plotline of the first film but adds plenty of new twists, subplots and a whole different tone.  While the original 1984 film was very frantic, feeling more like a chase film than anything else; our characters always on the run trying to survive.  “T2” only has elements of that but is a lot smarter.  This sequel is able to slow things down and have a cool off period where the script is able to develop its characters, create many different dimensions to them, and develop a multilayered story while it’s at it.

Changing your future isn’t anything new to movies.  “Back to Future” explored that theme greatly.  Yet in this, the movie is able to bend those concepts and ask some big questions about fate and destiny that not many other action movies are not mature enough to ask or pose.  The great thing about those questions is it feels very organic (not heavy handed) and is developed throughout the 137 minute running time (which is 20 minutes longer than the original).

Photo- Lionsgate
Photo- Lionsgate

Among the film’s biggest twists is taking the villain from the first film and turning him into a hero for this outing.  Arnold Schwarzenegger who originally laid down the work for one of the best villains ever on screen now plays the ice cold role of the T-800 Terminator to becoming one of the best heroes ever put to screen.  You buy him as a hero, but even though he is a machine even his character goes through growth and change.  James Cameron walks a tight rope with giving him enough character while never compromising his machine persona.

This time around we have Robert Patrick taking on the role of the antagonist as the T-1000. Matching Arnold as a great villain, this role was one of the first to ever use heavy amounts of computer generated effects (just before “Jurassic Park” blew the world away with its world class CGI).  The best part is the primitive effects still hold up to today’s visual effects.  That’s in small part to Cameron actually using a blend of practical effects on Patrick and CGI for the stuff that could not be achieved otherwise.  The illusion is so good that many people are shocked to find out that there is a decent amount of practical effects used on the liquid metal character.

Photo- Lionsgate
Photo- Lionsgate

James Cameron does more than push the boundaries of visual effects (like he did in his previous film “The Abyss”) he also stages some of the best action sequences ever put on screen.  There is really no bad action scene.   I would start listing them for you but the easiest way to say this is basically say all of them are fantastic.  It’s such a blanket statement and I don’t normally like using those but that’s the honest truth with this film.  Every action scene has great stunt work, exciting and heart stopping moments and gets your adrenaline going.  This film will never bore you.

Reprising her role from the original, Linda Hamilton once again steps into the role of Sarah Connor.  Although she is much different than we saw her the first time around. The character of Sarah by the end of the first film has changed from her meek beginnings.  Here a few years have gone by and she has become a harden solider.  Hamilton is the definition of bad ass in this film.   There are points where you wonder if she has become “a terminator” herself, cold and calculated but never does she lose her humanity.

Playing her son, John Connor, is young newcomer Edward Furlong.  A display of acting talent beyond his years, he is tough, vulnerable, and has a sharp wit about him.  Child actors are a bit hit or miss, you either get really good or unbearable (not many right in the middle), just look at “Star Wars: Episode I” for the latter (which I think everyone has pointed out by now).  Here though Furlong is outstanding for not just a child but an actor in general.  It’s a shame he hasn’t gone on to do much else in his career other than a role in “American History X”.

Photo- Lionsgate
Photo- Lionsgate

By the end you’ll be surprised by the amount of emotional weight on your heart.  A great ending that makes all of the character growth all that much worth it.  This is an action epic that is hard to match for its intelligence, thrills and character work; certainly better than the typical action film.  This remains the best of the series and one of the best in the genre.

Final Score

10/10

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