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Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1991 - R - 137 Mins.
Director: James Cameron
Producer: Stephanie Austin, James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Mario Kassar, B.J. Rack
Written By: James Cameron, William Wisher
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Who said sequels aren't any good? "Terminator 2" is the ultimate sequel, a big bad wolf ready to chomp the head off of anyone who crosses its path. It's dark, it's mean, and it’s one tough movie. It's not as bleak as the first film, at least in terms of visuals, but rather has a new kind of bluish-tint that supplies a great backdrop to the ongoing battle between man and machine.

If there was ever a contemporary mainstream visionary director, it is James Cameron. Here we've got Cameron's real thoughts on the series, those repressed by a low budget in the original film. He lets loose here, filling every frame with hard-boiled action and special effects. He introduces a liquid metal Terminator that he wanted to use in the first film, but graphic processors and CGI were not advanced enough in 1984, at least not advanced enough to work on the low means he had to film the original. So his original dream is finally unveiled, and good golly, gee Molly, is it wonderful.

Yeah, he's "back." Arnold (like he needs any introduction?) returns as The Terminator, Series T-101, Model T-800, an indestructible cyborg sent from the future to assassinate Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in the first film. Well, it's 1991. New film. New mission. He has to save the future resistance leader of mankind who will ultimately defeat the machines of the future, John Connor (Edward Furlong), Sarah's 11-year-old son. (Though his age has been switched from 11 to 13 and back to 9 over the years, with no help from the third film that takes place in 2003, yet claims he was 13 in 1991 though his age doesn't match with his age in the third. We'll just leave it at 11 in this film. Got that?)

Another model Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), has been sent back to 1991 programmed to annihilate John Connor. Which explains Arnold's appearance. Arnold, an undoubtedly lesser opponent compared to the T-1000, has to help save the day and learn to appreciate humanity. It won't be easy. First, he has to find John Connor, who is a rebellious angst-driven pre-teen living with foster parents. Then, together they have to break into the local loony hospital and release Sarah from the clutches of Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen), who believes Sarah is delusional. (You may remember Silberman as the psychiatrist from the first film, too.) Then, they have to stop a computer chip designer (Joe Morton) from creating the first version of a SkyNet computer, modeled after a destroyed chip his employment company discovered at a large mechanical warehouse. (Which is, of course, the chip from the destroyed T-800 of the first film.)

Whew. On with the film analysis, right? Where to start? This isn't as fierce or brutal as the first film, but it's got plentiful action sequences, a large budget, great special effects (even compared to those gracing the screen nowadays), not to mention a great character study of the machine we loved to root against in the first film. Of course, this Terminator has no memory of the first film, since he wasn’t in it--SkyNet creates hordes of the same version machines on a large conveyor belt and ships them off to fight in the war. Some are sent back through time. So, with that in mind, John Connor's resistance found an extra Arnold lying around in an abandoned warehouse, programmed him to keep John Connor out of harm, and sent him through the time portal.

Sarah doesn't trust him. In a deleted scene available on the Ultimate and "Xtreme" edition DVDs, Sarah says, "You don't know what it's like to try and kill one of these things!" It's an important scene that should have been left in the final cut. In it, Sarah is about to destroy the machine's central processing chip located inside his head, when John stops her. It's important because it focuses on the fact that Sarah still doesn't trust him, and came close to destroying him purely out of prejudice, without giving him a chance. As much as I don't like it when people go on about hidden meanings in films that obviously are not meant to have hidden meanings and are purely little flubs made by directors unrightfully analyzed for deeper meaning(s), "T2" clearly has an underlying message: One, don't judge a book by its cover. Read it first. Two, if an emotionless killing machine can learn to appreciate life, why can't everyone? And three, the most important fact of all: Never mess with a muscular man who walks into a bar completely naked and requests your clothes and means of transportation.

I suppose the question on most interested viewers' minds is this: Is "T2: Judgment Day" better than its predecessor? Well, in some respects, yes. In others, no. It lacks the fierce brutality and darkness of the first film, but makes up for it with spectacular visual effects and action sequences. It lacks the horrific central focus of the first film (futuristic, indestructible cyborgs with no feelings being able to unemotionally kill), but it makes up for this with a new focus of humanity, coming to accept your future, and how it would look if two colossal killing machines entered into an arena together.

If you're looking for an action film, "T2" is your safest bet. It's ten times better than the other junk out there, and it has a definite, not-stop, pulse-pounding sense of action, that leaves you trying to catch your breath. It has a strong narrative and a clear statement on our society. On the other hand, "The Terminator" is probably the film for horror fans, time travel film fans, or those who like to be thrilled while they're watching their films regarding the future.

In some respects, I like the first better. But then I think about the second film and I have a hard time choosing. I suppose if I had to choose I'd choose the first film. And let me just state for the record that I'm glad I don't have to choose.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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