Terminator 2: Batting For the Other Team

TEN YEARS AGO THE MACHINES WHO RULE THE FUTURE SENT AN UNSTOPPABLE TERMINATOR TO ASSASSINATE THE YET UNBORN JOHN CONNOR. THEY FAILED. IN 1991 THE MACHINES WILL TRY AGAIN.

I was certainly part of the target audience for this film at the time of its premiere in 1991. I was 15 and the school was abuzz over this blockbuster. Its filmmakers had broken new ground with the visual effects and the movie was making a lot of money as well as securing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s status as one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors. It was argued that this sequel was superior to the original. It was bigger, after all. Well, size is not everything.

The terminator may have been destroyed in 1984, but a new copy of the same model appears ten years later. The cyborg (Schwarzengger) gets hold of a biker’s clothes and motorcycle but he is also, again, followed by another time traveler (Robert Patrick) who steals a cop’s clothes and car. Now, we all know that Arnold used to be the bad guy, which is why it may come as a surprise that his cyborg was sent by the humans this time. It is determined to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her ten-year-old son, John (Edward Furlong). Of course, watching what she regards as the old, evil T-101, come to her rescue is somewhat disconcerting to Sarah, but she eventually learns to trust the machine, along with John who teaches it how to behave in this world. At the same time, the rival is a newer model called the T-1000 and it is much more sophisticated and deadly than the original. As the old terminator and his protégés fight the T-1000, they also do their best to prevent the war that will begin in 1997.

Not as tight as the original
Director James Cameron tries to make the film as relentless as the first one, but its sheer length is one reason why Terminator 2 feels a bit bloated and not as tight as the original. The decision to introduce key elements that are very humorous and sentimental is questionable; some of it works, other stuff only makes you think of how much tougher The Terminator was. Schwarzenegger is a lot of fun as the reformed, leather-clad cyborg, but watching this machine who used to be such a killer goof off with a kid is a strange experience. So, we should be grateful then for Hamilton’s performance. Sarah’s changed a lot over the years. When we meet her, she’s been locked up in a mental institution for a while and spends most days working out, preparing for the war. Hamilton is hard as nails, the equivalent of Sigourney Weaver in the director’s Aliens (1986). The teenaged Furlong may sound like Bart Simpson throughout the film, but he’s pretty good in his first big role as a brat who doesn’t know that he’s the most important human being on Earth. And then there’s the visual effects. So-called “liquid metal” wowed audiences and showed remarkable progress in the field of computer-animation.

This is a spectacular action movie, regardless of the ingredients I’ve been complaining about, and once again Brad Fiedel’s pulsing music adds to the tension. Some of the chase sequences, particularly those involving trucks, even make you forget about a logical lapse like the fact that the machines would have had a better chance of killing Sarah if they had simply sent this improved cyborg back to 1984. Or to the ‘60s, to kill Sarah’s parents. But who am I to quibble?

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991-U.S. 136 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced and directed by James Cameron. Screenplay: James Cameron, William Wisher. Music: Brad Fiedel. Song: ”You Could Be Mine” (performed by Guns ‘n’ Roses). Makeup: Stan Winston, Jeff Dawn. Visual Effects: Stan Winston, Dennis Muren, and others. Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (T-800), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Edward Furlong (John Connor), Robert Patrick (T-1000), Earl Boen, Joe Morton.

Trivia: There are several versions of the film; one of them includes a scene featuring Michael Biehn. He was also allegedly considered for the part of T-1000, but the idea was deemed too confusing. Followed by Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).

Oscars: Best Visual Effects, Makeup, Sound, Sound Editing. BAFTA: Best Visual Effects, Sound.

Last word: “As I got ready to write the screenplay, I kept asking myself, ‘What’s the real goal of this movie? Are we going to blow people away and get them all excited? Is that it? Or is there a way we can get them to really feel something?’ I thought it would be a real coup if we could get people to cry for a machine. If we could get people to cry for Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a robot, that would be terrific.” (Cameron, SydField.com)

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