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! 

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  • I_am_better

    Furlong does definitely become more annoying as you revisit the movie now. But; great action scenes, great villain and mighty clever plotting going on here. For me, it’s the same deal with this one as it was with Aliens and The Abyss – I tend to like the special editions more. Here it gives Dyson more to do, adds the memory chip-scene and actually fixes a plot hole in the end as we see T-1000 start to malfunction after it puts itself back together post getting frozen and blown to bits

    • The memory chip scene fascinates me. Solely for the reason of how it was constructed. On the DVD I have it describes the way it was done and it’s pretty mindblowing.
      There was NO glass in that mirror! It was just a square hole in a wall separating two actual hotel room sets that were built in mirror image of each other. Arnold Schwarzenegger was sitting the other side, with a double for Edward Furlong and Linda Hamilton’s twin sister Leslie (who makes a career doubling for her in her films).
      On our side was the real Edward Furlong, the real Linda Hamilton and a mannequin of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The innards of the Terminator’s head built into it for them to open up and fiddle around in.
      I was really intrigued by the techniques used to make that scene happen. Especially as when you watch it you don’t even think about it.
      I’d love to have been a fly on the wall on the day that scene was filmed. Movie magic right there.

  • The Magic Hunter

    Seeing this film was a seminal moment in my formation as a movie lover. (I think it was at a small theater in Petaluma, north of SF, to which my one best friend who had moved to the east coast the year before and was back visiting and I took the bus from Oakland to visit our other homie, who’d moved at the same time). I’d seen plenty of fun films before (I think for one of my Jr High B-Days, the three of us saw the first “Batman.”) But until T2, I’d never known a film could be so edge-of-your-seat gripping.

    In the same way that the characters in the film were almost dumb-founded by the possibilities of the T-1000, I was awestruck by the achievements James Cameron put up on the screen: the morphing, the aqueduct showdown, the motorcycle into the helicopter… This film set the standard for taking it there, and then taking it to a whole nother level.

    As usual, though, I have to wonder: Are the 14 and 15 year-olds of today feeling just as inspired and bowled over when they walk out of their first big screen “Fast and the Furious” experience?

    To be honest, I can only say I felt the same level of thrill that I did while watching T2 one other time, or I should say three other times: during the Matrix movies. During the first one, because obviously so much of it was ground-breaking; during the freeway sequence in the second (a loop built on an old navy base in Alameda, next to Oakland), which of course owed a lot to the aqueduct scene in T2; and the assault on Zion scene in the third. But I’ll say no more, since I’m sure at some point Stu will give us an official forum to discuss that trilogy ?

    • The Matrix movies eh? Challenge… ACCEPTED!!! Stay tuned! 😉

      • The Magic Hunter

        Awesome — I’ll have a lot to say!

        As an aside, I think it’s remarkable that in all the discussions of “John Wick 2” (which, admittedly, I’ve only skimmed lightly, since I’ll be seeing it this afternoon), I don’t think I’ve see the Matrix films mentioned once (except back when they announced Laurence Fishbourne would be in the cast). There was a time when we all would have assumed that that role would follow Keanu everywhere he went. But I guess we said the same earlier about “Bill & Ted,” eh?

        • Reeves shows remarkable resilience that way. As for The Matrix discussions – it’ll be a while as a lot of my site is well planned out in advance. I don’t want to say exactly when it’s coming cause I want to keep it as a bit of a surprise – you know?
          But rest assured. I’m planning something pretty special about The Matrix!
          You’ll have to just stay tuned! 😉

        • He’ll always be Johnny Utah to me.

    • I love the Matrix trilogy as well, SO MANY great things to see and wonder at in those movies.

      • The Magic Hunter

        So much to enjoy there: surface visuals, symbolic names (God, I just flashed back to hogging a library computer to research the Mervogingians!), and deep thoughts about both philosophy and what could really happen in our future.

        • I just started reading Dune and “the machines of the ancients” has to be talking about the Matrix, right? 😉

          • The Magic Hunter

            I’ll have to give that a try when I have a lot of time. My wife couldn’t believe the other night when I said I hadn’t even seen the movie.

          • It’s good. It’s a little ham-fisted with the exposition but it’s clever nonetheless.

          • The Dune movie? Really? You liked that?

          • No, I’ve never seen more than a few minutes of the movie and I was totally mystified (the giant brain alien floating in a tank of gas). After the news broke that Denis Villenueve was starting on his own Dune project I decided to read the first Dune book and see where it goes from there. This is also because my nearest used book shop didn’t have any Ian Fleming in stock so my plans to read a few Bond novels is on hold for now. So far I’m a few dozen pages into Dune and it’s clever but ham-fisted as hell. Also the main villain of the book sounds EXACTLY like fuckin’ Turd/Gravy, over at that other place.

          • The Magic Hunter

            Ha for the last part!

            I hope you’ve seen “Storks” by now, because the annoying pigeon character sounds JUST like Booby Bro.

          • I haven’t yet but it’s funny you say that because my nephew kept imitating him after they watched it, “How ya like me now, bro?” and all.

          • Ah, my mistake.thought you were talking about the film ?

          • You ain’t missing much.

          • I read that a couple of years ago and I found it really difficult to get into. Bit of a struggle I’m sorry to say.

        • You seen The Animatrix?

          • The Magic Hunter

            I think so… more than a decade ago, so it’s probably time to take another look.

      • I love the first one but I hate the second and third. Two of the most abysmal sequels I have ever seen.

        • Really? Man I was so into them! Looks like I’m gonna get my comments featured in those talk backs! :p

        • President of what?

          AGREED!!

  • Hands down my favorite James Cameron movie and my favorite Terminator movie. No exaggeration, I was gripping my armrests watching this one. From the moment the T-800 and T-1000 started jiu-jitsuing each other in the mall service corridor, this movie did not let up. What a ride and absolutely, the emotional core made it even more thrilling.

    • I’ve just shown my ten year old girl the first one. It’s pretty tame and I was her age when I saw it. She’s a smart kid so what the hell (fast forwarded through the romantic bit though). She liked it and was pretty blown away by Kyle Reese being John Connor’s Dad.
      The only bit that freaked her out was at the end when the Terminator is just reduced to that metal skeleton and is following them in the factory. It is pretty freaky though I suppose.
      I think her mind is going to EXPLODE at Terminator 2! I can’t wait to see her face when she realised Arnie is the good guy! 🙂

  • The bit where Arnold climbs out of the tiny Chevy’s cab, balances across the bed, jumps onto the hood of the nitrogen semi and fucking UNLOADS that rifle on the T-1000’s face…holy shit, that gets my heart hammering every single time.

  • President of what?

    Although T2 was a great film, I still prefer the original Terminator overall thanks to it’s mesh of horror and nihlism.
    T2 was more of a chase film than the first however, there were great scnes which dealth with character progression and one scen that stood out was Sarah witnessing Kyle playing with the T-1000 followed by her voiceover narration;
    “Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The terminator, would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.” Another excellent excample of Cameron’s writing although Avatar was lacking that craft.

    The deleted ending was good because it was very cathartic as oppossed to the “dark highway” which left possibilities for yet another sequel and now here we are.

  • jackcolton

    terrific film, no need for me to describe why, it’s all been covered I’m sure. couple of things I don’t like … bad to the bone playing to arnie and his leathers, shades and bike scene, not as bad as elton johns sunglasses in 3 but still a slide into self parody, which I’m not a fan of. can you imagine that song or one similar playing in T1 when he kills those punks at the beginning? it’s a bit silly. and Edward furlongs screaming and yelling irritates me. other than that a great sequel.