a critiQal film review Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Plot: A decade after Sarah Connor (Hamilton) destroyed the original Terminator, a second unstoppable killing machine (Schwarzenegger) arrives from the post-apocalyptic future. But this time his mission is to stop an even deadlier Terminator, the T-1000 (Patrick), made entirely of shape-shifting liquid metal and determined to kill young John Connor (Furlong), Sarah's son - and the future leader of the human resistance.

901 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 30s)
  • ...Arnold's first return engagement as the T-800 is even better than anyone could have expected, even to this day!

Even though I haven’t been feeling up to snuff all day, I decided to make the best of it. While I couldn’t make it to the theaters to see Quentin’s Inglourious Basterds (2009), it did give me a chance to go back and see where Terminator Salvation (2009) came from.

After seeing the decent, if a bit aged, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), I sat down again to watch it’s first sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. While I still fondly remember seeing this film on the big screen (especially the collective “ooh” from the crowd when Ah-nold chambers another round in his shotgun one-handed), I wasn’t sure if T2 would still be the thrill ride it once was. After all, the film’s 18 years old by this point – will it stand the test of time better than it’s predecessor?

Arnold is back as the unstoppable killing machine for Terminator 2, but things have changed up a bit. Rather than the bad guy he was in the first film, this time around he’s the protector, doing what he can to save young John Connor’s life. He’s still the same hard-to-kill machine he was in the first film, but this time around he’s allowed to inject a bit of humor and heart into his character, and he really comes through. Known throughout his career for tossing off one-liners while battling foes, he doesn’t disappoint here, spouting such classics as “Hasta La Vista, baby” and “No problemo,” among a whole slew of others.

Given this much meatier role, Arnold jumps in feet first and delivers on all levels. Whether his machine character is interacting with the young John Connor (played brilliantly – and with a whole slew of teen angst -by Edward Furlong) or taking on his unstoppable opponent, he does so with a glee and humanity that gives his cold, unfeeling character real soul this time around.

Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor has also changed drastically from the first film. While she was weak for most of The Terminator (1984), only showing backbone near the end, this time around she’s buffed up and – at first – locked in a mental ward. Knowing of mankind’s impending doom has not been kind to her, and her mental facilities are obviously starting to crumble (an idea reinforced later on in the film). Hamilton plays this tougher and slightly less sane Sarah Connor with a hard edge she usually doesn’t showcase in films, and the effect is both remarkable and a little bit frightening – a wonderful combination for this tough heroine.

Robert Patrick, who would later go on to replace David Duchovny for a brief time on “The X-Files” (TV), is stuck in the silent bad guy role Schwarzenegger had the first time around. He does get a chance to interject a bit more of dry wit into some of his lines, but for the most part he’s the silent killer type. While his acting skills are a bit under-utilized, his smaller stature and friendlier countenance make for an interesting foe for the much bigger and tougher-looking Schwarzenegger.

At first, Terminator 2: Judgment Day starts off just like it’s predecessor. Schwarzenegger and another man appear from a sort of time bubble, take what they need, and start hunting. By portraying Schwarzenegger as the good guy, it would seem like he has the advantage – but once Patrick’s T-1000 skills are utilized, the roles are reversed, and Ah-nold’s T-800 finds himself at an extreme disadvantage. While Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) would go on to try to repeat this type of plot for it’s storyline, it seems like nothing but an inferior copy after watching Terminator 2.

That feeling may also have something to do with the human interaction added to Terminator 2. While the action sequences between these two nigh-unstoppable forces are something to behold, even the breather sequences (aka the slower parts) really have something to offer in T2.

Ah-nold’s interactions with Edward Furlong’s John Connor are both a bit poignant and fully integral to the story, as John tries to teach the killing machine the value of human life. Despite the circumstances of their association, the two form a bond, and this nearly unstoppable killing machine becomes a pseudo-father for the boy even while this odd family is on the run.

Back when the film came out, the special effects used to create the liquid metal of the T-1000 were proclaimed as breath-taking and awe-inspiring, and, despite the years since the film’s release, they continue to be pretty impressive. Even though the film is nearly 2 decades old, it doesn’t yet show any signs of aging (aside from the 1997 deadline set for the end of the world), and the special effects are still as entertaining to watch today as they were then. True, the effects aren’t without their flaws, but those flaws (the stunt double for Schwarzenegger in the bike jump scene; the puppetry used when a mental hospital guard is stabbed) were recognizable even from day 1, and don’t really distract the viewer from the picture.

While it’s an action movie at heart, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is also so much more. It’s a sci-fi movie with a message and a heart, and yet it’s entertainment value is still extremely high. It’s a machine movie with a soul, and still as good today as it ever was.

If you haven’t seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day recently, go watch it again, and relieve one of the highest points of Schwarzenegger’s acting career again.

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