Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

R   |    |  Action, Sci-Fi


Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Poster

A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from a more advanced and powerful cyborg.

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8.5/10
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  • Jenette Goldstein and Xander Berkeley in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • James Cameron in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger and Axl Rose at an event for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Linda Hamilton at an event for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

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23 February 2004 | red_core
10
| the best action film of all time, and NOT due to the CGI
Disclaimer: If you are a viewer that mainly prefers arthouse-type movies, then you might as well ignore this review. In addition, if you're not able to take a few sci-fi leaps of faith, ignore this review, as well. We'll both be better off.

This is the finest action movie of all time. And, yet, believe it or not, it's not the action in the film itself that makes this be the case. This is especially odd in a movie with a $100 million budget (in 1991!), with multiple huge explosions, with thousands of bullets fired, and scores of stuntmen used.

This movie is what it is, a perfect 10, because it takes the vision of one of the most imaginative directors on Earth, and realizes them almost perfectly with all the tools that fit the task -- actors, stunts, puppetry, models, and CG. Without the vision, this film would be nothing. Without the tools, this film would be nothing.

But, a little bit of background is due. This is the sequel to the Terminator (1984), whose premise was that a near-indestructible cyborg is sent by evil self-aware machines from the near future to destroy the mother-to-be of the military commander who would lead the humans to a victory over the machines. Oh, and this terminator machine would come from a time of war between men and machines which followed a nuclear exchange that left billions of people dead, first. In Terminator 2, John Connor (the commander-to-be) is about 12 years old, and his mother (Sarah) is feverishly trying to prepare him for his fate, even as she tries to stop the factors that will lead to the nuclear war and the entire terrible future that made all this necessary. The machines now send a superior, more intelligent, shape-shifting cyborg (T1000) into the past, to kill John himself. Meanwhile, future-John reprograms the ex-evil Terminator (T101) from the original film, and sends him into the past to PROTECT John against the T1000.

That's your basic plot. It does involve travel into the past, so it immediately presents a time-travel paradox which can't really be resolved. In order to even try watching this movie, you MUST LOOK PAST THE PARADOX. If you don't, this movie has zero credibility, and is not worth your time.

What happens after the two terminators appear in the past is a wild ride rife with macho action, dark reflection on the nature of man, and a few rays of hope, here and there. Schwarzenegger (the good terminator) and Patrick (the bad one) make for such effective foes that the times they meet on-screen are completely breathtaking (and odd, given that you repeatedly see the relatively slim T1000 through Arnie through a wall or two). Hamilton, as Sarah Connor, is a wonderful character -- tough beyond all belief and completely focussed on preventing the nuclear war and ensuring John's safety, yet clearly a little out of her mind with paranoia and anger; amazingly, you see actual character development (specifically, when John and T101 arrive at Dyson's house to prevent her from doing what she wants to) in her otherwise 2-dimensional character. And Furlong, as John, is not bad himself as the extroverted kid who's confused by the fact that everyone except his mom tell him his entire upbringing was based on a lie. The bit players all do their jobs well, particularly Earl Boen who plays the semi-sadistic mental hospital warden that stands between Sarah Connor and her son (until the T1000 makes a chilling entrance).

With these players set in motion, it's up to the script to deliver the real substance of the movie. (One often sees great performances in mediocre films... here the story transcends the performances -- an impressive feat.) The script delivers. The film is absolutely filled with great, classic moments (I counted TEN all-star ones during my last viewing), and they're evenly spaced through the movie. I mean, who doesn't cheer (at least inside) when Arnold steps out of the biker bar, fully clad in leather when "Bad to the Bone" music starts to blast? The guy absolutely bleeds coolness. And the T1000 absolutely bleeds evil. But, with so many great moments, you'd think the pacing would be a little uneven... not really! The film shifts from place to place with an ease that makes perfect sense, never giving you the time to start being a little nitpicking jerk, always driving forward, but always doing so thoughtfully and with attention to detail.

Of course, this wouldn't be an action movie without some action. There's plenty of it, and it's perfectly done. The CG effects for the shape-shifting T1000 were cutting-edge for the time, and still look great (whoever said differently below is simply incorrect) -- even if they're completely commonplace today. The stunts are completely insane in scale (at one point, a helicopter flies under a highway overpass; at another, a motorcycle jumps from the 2nd floor of a building into a flying chopper). (Probably, only the Matrix and the Lord of the Rings movies compare in terms of the level of stunt insanity.) And the gunplay is delivered in perfect Cameron-Schwarzenegger style (as opposed to the slo-mo John Woo-style) -- you'll see lots of heavy automatic and explosive weapons, and you'll see them used well. The film is violent, and somewhat bloody, but ALL of the mean-spirited violence is dealt by the evil characters, not the ones you root for (Quentin Tarantino fans: sorry). And then the truly amazing scenes that bypass acting are shocking and memorable -- just wait until the nuclear detonation sequence.

I'm not sure what else you would want in a movie. Probably moral content, and the movie has a very clear pro-human, anti-war message. The message is a bit stale, and the delivery IS, at times, a little heavy-handed (and some moments with the T101 seem just a bit unrealistic, towards the end), but the movie has heart, and that you cannot deny. Plus, it simply rocks. 10/10

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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film outperformed the full gross of its predecessor, The Terminator (1984), after just four days of release.


Quotes

Sarah Connor: Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. The computer which controlled the machines, Skynet, sent two ...


Goofs

(at around 59 mins) After the T-1000 is blown off the back of the police car, Sarah Connor reaches back to hug John. The slash wound from earlier in the elevator has disappeared, leaving only trace blood on her shirt.


Crazy Credits

Play the Nintendo Game from Acclaim/Lin Entertainment


Alternate Versions

The British Board of Film Classification initially requested some cuts before they could pass the film with a 15 certificate in the UK. For the cinema version, the following edits were made to what they deemed to be "heavy and realistic violence":

  • The blows delivered to the security guard by Sarah with the wooden broom handle were reduced from four to one; the subsequent blows and shots of his bloodied face were removed.
  • The beating of Silberman with a nightstick was reduced so that only the impact to his arm remained; the impact to the back of his legs was removed.
The initial VHS video versions (the 1992 theatrical cut and the 1997 'T-1000 edition') were cut by a further 18 seconds to reduce the following scenes:
  • The biker being thrown onto the stove. In the uncut version, this happens in two shots. In the cut version, the start of each shot was shortened.
  • The biker being stabbed in the shoulder. The shot of him lying on the table was shortened at the start to remove the impact (this is very subtle and difficult to notice).
  • Sarah picking the lock on her door. The shot was shortened at the start to remove the insertion of the paperclips; what remained showed her wiggling the already-inserted paperclips in the lock.
  • Lewis being stabbed in the face by the T-1000. The close-up showing him juddering in pain was shortened at the start, with the rest being slowed down to cover the missing footage (before this compromise, the BBFC initially requested that an alternate take be used, which didn't exist).
  • The guard at the hospital gate being shot in the legs by the T-101 was reduced so that he's only shot once, instead of twice as per the uncut version. Both gunshots are contained in a single camera shot, which was shortened at the start in the cut version.
  • During the rescue of Sarah, the warden having his face slammed against the wall by the T-101 was removed. The close-up showing him traveling towards and slamming into the wall was shortened at the end to remove the impact.
  • The sight of the policeman having his face slammed into a concrete pillar by the T-101 was removed.
  • The kneecapping of the S.W.A.T. team by the T-101 was reduced from seven shots to four, with the second, fourth and sixth impacts being removed.
The 1992 Laserdisc was (unusually for the time) passed uncut with an 18 certificate, and the cuts were fully waived or 15 in 2001. All UK releases from the Ultimate Edition DVD onward are uncut with a 15 certificate.


Soundtracks

And This One
(uncredited)
Written by
Dwight Yoakam
Performed by Dwight Yoakam

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Action | Sci-Fi

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