“Listen, I need to stop by my house. I want to pick up some stuff before we leave,” says John Connor. The Terminator responds, “Negative. The T-1000 will definitely try to reacquire you there.” “Are you sure?” asks Connor. The Terminator replies, “I would.”
There were two big science fiction movies of great importance that were released in 1991. Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country marked the final voyage of the starship Enterprise featuring the entire original series cast (which was a part of the 25th anniversary of Star Trek). 1991 also saw the release of James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a sequel to his 1984 sleeper hit The Terminator. With a bigger story and budget, Terminator 2 would become a huge box office hit and a landmark film in the evolution of CGI technology. I had seen the film many times on cable, video, and DVD over the years, but I didn’t get to see the film on the big screen until I caught a midnight showing of it at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York City six years ago. Despite the condition of the old 35mm print (the sound wasn’t in the best condition), I enjoyed it very much (my only real complaint was that it wasn’t the director’s cut; that would’ve been even more awesome).
1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day picks up roughly 10 years after the events of the first film. Two terminators have been sent back in time, one (a T-1000) to kill John Connor (who will grow up to one day lead the human resistance against Skynet) and the other (a T-800, the same model as the one in the first film) to protect Connor at all costs. Once the T-800 finds Connor, he helps him break his mother Sarah out from a psychiatric hospital, and the trio try to find a way to stop Judgment Day from happening while being pursued by the more advanced T-1000. Cameron brought back some of the first film’s cast for the sequel: Arnold Schwarzenegger (as the T-800), Linda Hamilton (as Sarah Connor), and (in an expanded role) Earl Boen (as Dr. Silberman); the director’s cut also restores a significant cameo by Michael Biehn (as Kyle Reese). New cast members include Edward Furlong (as John Connor), Robert Patrick (as the T-1000), Joe Morton (as Miles Dyson), Jenette Goldstein (as Janelle Voight), Xander Berkeley (as Todd Voight), Castulo Guerra (as Enrique Salceda), Danny Cooksey (as Tim), S. Epatha Merkerson (as Tarissa Dyson), and Robert Winley (as the Cigar Biker).
Schwarzenegger gives an impressive performance as the T-800, who is now young John Connor’s protector. Thanks to a chip that allows him to learn human behavior, the T-800 struggles to learn human concepts, including emotions (which allows him to be funny without really trying). Hamilton’s Sarah Connor features the biggest character change in between films; Sarah is no longer young and naive but a strong-willed warrior who has acquired combat weapons training so that she can pass them along to her son. Patrick is icy cool and largely silent as the T-1000, who is relentless in his pursuit and will kill anyone who gets in his way. Furlong is impressive as the young Connor, a street-wise kid who hacks into ATM machines for money and despises his birth mother for being nuts (until he learns the truth).
Cameron’s direction draws strong performances from his cast and his action sequences are among the best in cinema. The screenplay by Cameron and William Wisher further explores the world established in The Terminator and incorporates unused ideas from the first film’s original screenplay (such as the liquid metal T-1000, which became possible thanks to advancements in digital effects technology). The themes of family and fate are explored, and the story arc involving the T-800 yields some surprising and moving results. Adam Greenberg’s Oscar-nominated cinematography sets the tone for the film with cool blue hues used a lot for evening scenes (which make up the majority of the film). The Oscar-winning makeup by Stan Winston and Jeff Dawn is amazing (the prosthetic work done for the battle-worn T-800 remains my favorite).
The Oscar-winning sound design by Gary Rydstrom adds a layer of intensity to the film (whenever I want to test a new home theater sound system, I play Terminator 2 because it sounds awesome). The Oscar-winning special effects play an important part of the story (particularly the liquid metal effects of the T-1000, although the miniature work is well done, too). The Oscar-nominated editing by Conrad Buff, Mark Goldblatt, and Richard A. Harris moves the film along at an excellent pace (even during the reflective moments). Brad Fiedel delivers a thrilling, action-packed score, filled with reprisals of his famous Terminator theme. James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a superior sequel that has held up well for the last 25 years. It delivers both the action and the drama, and has taken its place as one of the best sequels, science fiction films, and action films of all time. There is a director’s cut also available, and I would love to see that version on the big screen one day. Do not hesitate to see this film on the big screen if you ever get the chance!