Movie Review | Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Movie summary: 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. (IMDb)
Before I get started on the movie, I just want to note that the version of Terminator 2: Judgment Day I watched for this post was labelled as the 'Directors' Cut', but I've seen about four different cuts of T2 and I know at least one of them was re-named, so this cut could be any of the multiple out there. All I know is that it had every scene I remember seeing before and wasn't lacking anything else I could remember, so I'm just going to assume that this is the longest version of the movie available to watch right now.
As for the movie itself, the biggest superficial thing I took away is the time it was made and set. It was made in 1991, but set in 1995 to allow John Connor (Edward Furlong) to be more than a little kid and also place the movie near the date of Judgment Day itself in 1997. Four years might not sound like much, but I think it is worth talking about.
First off, the clothes and hairstyles are still very much reminiscent of the earlier date, with the Eighties having only ended a couple of years earlier and the varying looks of a lot of the cast do look like this movie could've taken place just a couple of years after The Terminator. The reason I said 'superficial' in the previous paragraph is because the clothing and hair are about the only thing that look or feel dated.
Honestly, you could pretty much update how the cast look and have them use mobile phones rather than landlines and it wouldn't really change that much at all. T2 feels very much like a modern movie, which is a huge compliment to James Cameron for making something so brilliant almost thirty years ago - it just shows how good a director he is that this film has lasted so well.
He's aided by some incredible effects work too, with the T1000 (played by Robert Patrick) still looking damn good for a CGI character from decades ago. I think the effects are helped by the new terminator being the only truly fantastical thing that the VFX has to display, meaning that there is nothing else as prominent in the movie to expose any flaws.
Don't get me wrong, it's not quite at the level you'd expect today, but it's shape-shifting abilities are used so well and complemented by some genuinely mind-blowing costuming and physical effects that any real flaws are incredibly well-hidden. There are movies released in the past few years that haven't handled a CGI-heavy character as well as the T1000 is here.
As for Patrick's performance, he's absolutely great in the role. It was fun to think about how the T1000 must've been programmed, considering how easily he switches between emotionless killer and helpful cop. Hell, near the end of the movie he even tells someone to leave rather than killing them (although the fall they take would leave them seriously injured at best), which was something that hadn't registered with me before.
Another thing to praise Patrick for is his physical performance, which is very machine-like when in pursuit of John, but also nothing like Schwarzenegger's Model 101 Terminator. Patrick's T1000 is very fast, efficient and clinical, while the Model 101 is slower and more reliant on using raw power to its advantage - let's just say that neither actor could have played the other character.
Arnie is also at his best here, starting off very much like his character from the original movie, but slowly learning to become more human and even capable of joking when appropriate. When you watch T2, just pay attention to how his voice changes as the story unfolds - everything is very cold and precise at the start, but there is far more emotion and warmth by the end. It's a very subtle piece of work by someone usually derided for his acting skill.
John Connor himself is a strange character that I think is hampered a little by being so young as the experience isn't there - and that goes for the performer too. Furlong isn't bad by any means - far from it - but can't really match up to the over-powering screen presence of the others. At the very least, he's talented enough to make John an enjoyable character to watch rather than an irritant like many other child characters in movies like this.
Then there's Sarah Connor, played once again by Linda Hamilton, who got into truly phenomenal shape for T2. You completely accept that this is someone who pushed herself maybe a little too hard after the events of The Terminator because Sarah's clearly been doing everything she can to prepare for the war to come.
In fact, Arnie's probably the only other person in better physical shape than her, which at one point does lend Sarah the appearance of a female terminator - which, considering where her character is by that point in the movie, is entirely appropriate. Maybe it was Cameron being demanding of Hamilton, but it's strange that we haven't seen more female characters with this obvious level of physical training in this age of superheroes.
As for her performance, Hamilton is even better than in the original. There are moments when her younger self shines through, letting you know that this is absolutely the same young woman, but the events of the first movie and knowing what's to come have almost completely broken her. It's testament to the actress that she walks the line between badass and broken so well, letting us see both sides while never going too far in either direction.
As for the story, it's split up into what is basically three parts. The first section is Terminator v Terminator as the two machines attempt to track down John, dealing with each other when necessary. It's harder for the Model 101 to carry out its mission with someone as initially unwilling to go along with it as John when it knows the T1000 has access to the exact same files it does.
The second part is a fugitive story, with the central trio laying low as we follow them to what they believe is safety. This is where the biggest changes in the film happen, with the amount of action reduced and giving the characters a chance to develop - how they all view each other at the end of this part of the movie is almost entirely different from how the felt when first getting away.
The last chunk of T2 is where the big showdown occurs as the T1000 - surprisingly absent for a big chunk of the movie by this point - finally tracks them down as Sarah, John and the Model 101 attempt to change the future by stopping Skynet from ever being 'born', which is a pretty nice inversion of the story from the first movie.
As the action continues, it slowly becomes smaller in scope and more personal, leading to another face-off between the two terminators. Honestly, this section contains the best action for me, with some well thought out use of the T1000's shape-shifting abilities while also acknowledging the implacable nature of Arnie's machine.
T2 is one of those movies that is so densely-packed with details that it can take multiple viewings to notice how much is really going on - which makes it a shame that a lot of people will dismiss it as 'just' an action movie. James Cameron movies are always incredible experiences, made to the highest of standards and this is no exception.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day still stands as one of the greatest action movies of all time despite now being almost thirty years old. Arnie is at his peak, so is James Cameron, and Linda Hamilton reinforces just why Sarah Connor is up there with Ellen Ripley as one of the best big-screen female action heroes ever seen. A great story, fantastic characters, VFX that pushed the bar at the time and still look good decades later makes for a fantastic movie.
Why a 10/10? Well, how about the story or me watching this movie again for this review? I initially thought I'd just put it on in the background and pay attention when scenes I particularly liked happened, knowing what to listen out for having seen this movie so many times before. That plan lasted about ten minutes.
At that point, I started paying more and more attention to the movie, eventually ignoring everything else to happily sit there and give Terminator 2 my undivided attention. I'll just repeat: I'd already seen this movie plenty of times, yet it still sucked me in and refused to let go until the credits began. And I can guarantee that whenever I get around to watching T2 again in the future, the exact same thing will happen, because it's just that damn good.