Arnold Schwarzenegger & James Cameron – Part 2 of 3: Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Special Edition (1991)
John Connor is now an adolescent. His mother Sarah is in and out of mental institutions and he is in and out of foster homes. Little does he know that his mother’s warnings about the future of the world are about to come true.
Now – a more sophisticated machine has been sent back to destroy him. The T-1000. Made of liquid metal and able to mimic anybody.
Luckily as before the Resistance has been able to send back a soldier to protect him. A reprogrammed T-800 – off the same production line as the Terminator that was sent back to kill his mother years before.
John and his new protector break his mother out of the mental institution where she is being held and the trio go on the run together. John wants to teach his new robotic pal how to be more human. Yet when Sarah breaks off from them to carry out a little mission of her own – John and The Terminator race to stop them. All this as the T-1000 closes in.
In the late 80’s/early 90’s Carolco bought the rights to the property enabling this sequel to go ahead. Schwarzenegger and Hamilton were eager to reprise their roles – and James Cameron was interested in writing and directing a new chapter for his story.
Edward Furlong was picked to play John Connor, Robert Patrick was cast as the T-1000 and Joe Morton chosen to portray Miles Dyson. Head of Cyberdyne systems and future creator of Skynet. The supercomputer responsible for the creation of The Terminators and for the nuclear war destined to all but destroy mankind.
Made with a budget 15 times the size of the budget for the original – the film would become well known for its groundbreaking CGI effects created by Industrial Light And Magic. Stan Winston would again receive high praise for his effective make up.
The shape-shifting effect pioneered in Cameron’s previous movie The Abyss was greater refined here – to make the T-1000 one of cinema’s most revered villains.
Upon release the film was met with overwhelming critical acclaim and record breaking box office success. Instantly cited as not only a great sequel but as a sci-fi masterpiece in it’s own right.
An ingenious ad campaign had already embedded the movie in public consciousness.
Thanks to the above teaser trailer – the simple letter and number combination of T2 came to represent what would become a cultural phenomenon around the world.
The film represents a unique achievement for Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular. In The Terminator he created one of cinema’s most iconic villains. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day he creates one of it’s most enduring heroes.
This switch from bad guy to good guy dovetailed perfectly into the pantheon of heroic roles Schwarzenegger had played after the original movie and no doubt helped with the film’s success.
The change doesn’t feel cynical, unnatural or forced. It creates a compelling story of a machine trying to break it’s programming and actually feel something. The extra footage in the movie’s special edition expands these themes greatly.
At the centre of the original was a romantic love story between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. At the centre of this one is a parental love story between The Terminator and John Connor. Despite being a machine he’s the closest thing to a father that the boy has ever had or ever will have. It’s powerful stuff and once again provides an identifiable emotional core to the film.
He’s a great hero. He can do things that Kyle Reese couldn’t. Shield his charge from bullets just by standing in front of him, crazy motorcycle stunts – and in one thrilling scene overturn a speeding tanker truck with his bare hands. This enables the sequel to operate under a different set of rules from the original. Cameron can make his superhuman protagonist literally do ANYTHING.
Schwarzenegger has always been more of a movie star than an actual actor and his charisma has always more than made up for his lack of range. The genius of these movies is that they use that quality to work for them rather than against. The one role that Schwarzenegger CAN play brilliantly is a robot. So whether or not he’s the good guy or the bad guy The Terminator is the role that good old Arnie was born to play.
Linda Hamilton also excels as Sarah Connor. The events of the first film have made her an embittered warrior. Gone is the mousy damsel in distress of the original. Here she stands shoulder to shoulder with Schwarzenegger as the movie’s action hero – whilst never losing her position as it’s emotional focus.
Robert Patrick puts in a star making performance as the T-1000. Equally as iconic a villain as Arnie was in the original – he’s not a guy you’d want to mess with. Funnily enough – despite all the abnormal stuff he can do his most frightening scenes are when he’s chasing our heroes through car parks and along freeways… all to the beat of Brad Fiedel’s pounding, clanging metallic score.
Edward Furlong almost lets things down a bit by making John Connor a little on the whiny side. Yet he makes up for it in the movie’s action scenes.
Joe Morton puts in an interesting performance as Miles Dyson. A man who learns from Sarah Connor’s aborted attempt to assassinate him that he’ll soon be responsible for the end of the world. It an interesting performance he puts in.
That plot element also highlights another trademark of Cameron’s which I believe started in this movie.
- The film starts of telling one story.
- It veers off into another story.
- The first story catches up with the second story and they combine into one narrative that rockets the movie to it’s finish.
If the original movie and Aliens announced the birth of an auteur then this movie confirms it.
With it’s strong female character, desperation to avoid nuclear apocalypse, blue colour scheme and themes of mankind’s eventual triumph over technology – it’s easily Cameron’s signature film.
A cinematic landmark and Cameron and Schwarzenegger’s most successful collaboration.
The Man Who Saved Movies. Hasta La Vista, Baby!