TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (3D) [1991] review

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Oh god, here comes the absolute WORST of the Terminator films… said NO ONE, EVER!!! Holy shit, and I almost forgot that this was coming out!

Heads up for those who haven’t seen this movie. First off, SHAME ON YOU!!! Second, I’ll be talking spoilers, so if you have an interest in seeing this movies and you don’t know the twists and turns, then don’t read any further. But seriously, get on it. The first two films are classics.

I have been a fan of the Terminator franchise for as long as I can remember. THE TERMINATOR (1984) may not always hold up in its special effects or score department, nor does Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hair-do, but it’s a horror classic and it was slick and cool. A sci-fi grim reaper… man, James Cameron had fucking vision and it paid off incredibly well.

I’ll nerdgasm about T2 in a minute, but the impact from its successors have been… lackluster. Let me be clear, I do actually enjoy TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003) and TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009), but even I know that these movies are no JUDGMENT DAY. TERMINATOR 3 threw away a perfectly great and ambiguous ending that JUDGMENT DAY provided and its own ending was almost bleak. Plus, they also got rid of John Connor’s pluck and determination. Some will argue that the ending is actually what saved the film, and I agree, not to mention that it was great to see Schwarzenegger back as the Terminator who didn’t miss a beat, and I really did like Kristanna Loken as the TX, but there are too many aspects that felt both forced and unnecessary. While it’s been awhile since I’ve seen SALVATION, I remember loving Christian Bale as John Connor, but finding Sam Worthington’s character a bit unnecessary and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Kate Connor to be criminally useless as well. But I loved the post-apocalyptic setting and the late Anton Yelchin (may he rest in peace) as Kyle Reese was pretty good too. But why did director McG proclaim this as a prequel to THE TERMINATOR? Who the hell would have pieced that together, especially in a franchise leaning heavily on time travel?

But how about the best of the franchise, GENISYS (2015)? Yes, I’m kidding. But I do have to confess, I didn’t hate this movie either. Obviously, it’s the weakest of the franchise and by all accounts, not good. While I blame that on the marketing more than anything, it’s hard to deny how poorly written and constructed it was. Making John Connor a bad guy? Excuse me, while I wipe that spit off my face. But not even that, they made him essentially a T-1000, but nano-bot version. He operates like a T-1000, can shape-shift, and regenerate damage. So yeah, T-1000. The nano-tech is just an aesthetic, nothing concrete that affects anything. But all that said, I enjoyed Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. She’s no Linda Hamilton, of course, but this was a different interpretation of the character and I thought she did fine. I loved Pops versus the original T-800, and I thought the recreation of Kyle’s arrival in the past was pretty well-done. But yeah, this wasn’t a good film. I guess it was easier for me to separate from this from the official canon because… well, shit, JUDGMENT DAY is still king and trumps whatever retconning GENISYS was attempting and failing at.

But here isn’t the best place to talk about JUDGMENT DAY. All I can say is that because this film came out when I was two years old, I was never able to see it in theaters. There must be a God because I’ve been graced with this opportunity and I do not intend to miss out. Even if it is in headache-inducing 3D. I’m not going in for the three dimensions. I’m going because it’s TERMINATOR 2 in the cinemas, bitches!

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Arnold Schwarzengger (TERMINATOR: GENISYS, THE EXPENDABLES 2 [2012], JINGLE ALL THE WAY [1996], and the upcoming AFTERMATH [2017]), Linda Hamilton (DANTE’S PEAK [1996], CHILDREN OF THE CORN [1984], and TV show CHUCK [2007 – 2012]), Edward Furlong (THE GREEN HORNET [2011], THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER [2005], and AMERICAN HISTORY X [1998]), and Robert Patrick (BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA [2007], WALK THE LINE [2005], and TV show SCORPION [2014 – ongoing]). In support, we have Earl Boen (TERMINATOR 3 [2003], THE SCORPION KING [2002], and video game PSYCHONAUGHTS [2005]), Joe Morton (BATMAN V SUPERMAN [2016], AMERICAN GANGSTER [2007], and SPEED [1994]), and Jenette Goldstein (CLOCKSTOPPERS [2002], LETHAL WEAPON [1989], and ALIENS [1986]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is the great (and possibly difficult) James Cameron, known for AVATAR (2009), GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (2003), and TITANIC (1997). Co-writing the script is William Wisher Jr., known for THE 13TH WAR (1995), JUDGE DREDD (1995), and THE TERMINATOR (1984). Composing the score is Brad Fiedel, known for TIMECOP (1997), JOHNNY MNEMONIC (1995), and TRUE LIES (1994). Finally, the cinematographer is Adam Greenberg, known for SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006), THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 (2002), and GHOST (1990).

Overall, my plans are set and I’m seeing this shit.

This is my honest opinion of: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY 3D

(SUMMARY)

In the year 2029, the human race survived a nuclear holocaust only to face a new nightmare: Skynet, the sentient computer system that destroyed the world and wages a never-ending war against John Connor and his Resistance. Using a time machine, Skynet sends back an advanced machine to kill the ten-year-old John Connor (Edward Furlong) back in the year 1995 before he gets a chance to become the great military leader he’s fated to become. In turn, the Resistance also sends a lone warrior to protect him.

(REVIEW)

Oh what do you think I’m going to say? This movie holds up unbelievably well. Okay, yeah, the visual effects for the T-1000 are a little dated, but honestly, it’s still such a cool and iconic sci-fi villain that it doesn’t matter in the least.

That opening scene with Hamilton’s narration and that big action scene between the Resistance and the machines never gets old. Despite lasting probably about two minutes, it’s so intense and action-packed, and somehow significantly more memorable than the entirety of SALVATION. Lasers flying everywhere, the T-800s that are physically there, dual wielding phased plasma rifles, likely in the 40-watt range (bonus points if you chuckled at my reference). Let me say that again, the T-800 Terminators were really there! They were really built! Practical effects! It’s such a dying art that you barely see it anymore. The closest we get to a machine-person that wasn’t completely CGI was EX-MACHINA (2015), and she still had more human flesh surrounding her. By the way, now that it’s in my head, Alicia Vikander as a Terminator. Alicia… Vikerminator? Terminander? Someone be more clever than me.

In fact, this is probably one of the more important reasons why this movie holds up so well. Because of our advancements in CG, most movies of this caliber are completely dependent on computers doing everything. Hell, even James Cameron himself has conformed to it with AVATAR. But even then, he did it with motion capture that kind of set its own precedence with how good the effects looked. Hell, the best that modern day films can muster is an impressive combination of special effects as well as practical, like THE AVENGERS (2012), which did both. Maybe indie films who dedicate their time to the practical stuff will do it for the sake of classic filmmaking, but it’s a dying art. Of course this movie wasn’t devoid of CG, the T-1000 was, but it’s so rarely seen. Even to this very day, the Terminator cutting the skin of his arm and ripping it off to show his skeletal machine-arm still gives me both the chills and my deepest admiration in not knowing how the fuck they did it.

And how about that score from Fiedel? Still iconic as ever and still stuck in my head.

Ha! And the Terminator’s intro at the bar scene. I mean, how much fun was that?! He just walks in, you’ve got this chick staring happily at a naked Arnold, a few others gasping, and a few others just confused. Walks up to the biker dude and is just… “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle,” prompted by laughter. Question, wouldn’t the boots be considered clothing? Eh, whatever. Then Arnold throws the man into the kitchen and on a burning stove. You know in any other action movie, his line would be, “You’re toast!” But nope, just some staring… and then… “Baaaad to the bone.” The most perfect intro for Schwarzenegger in film history.

And the T-1000. Patrick is just as intimidating as Schwarzenegger. Actually, he’s more impressively intimidating because he’s not as bulky as his T-800 counterpart. But because he’s even more silent, advanced, and less destructible… man, that is one machine that I wouldn’t want after me. But more disturbing than just the thing’s presence, there’s also a haunting realization that the machines are advancing and testing, a serious testament to how smart Skynet really is. They’re learning creativity. I mean, liquid metal? Shit, man…

Now let’s talk about John Connor. Kid characters, when you really think about them, are tricky to write well. They tend to either be ungodly annoying, or… well, John Connor. Especially these days, where kids are written as products of the time, but have no interesting character to them. Cameron doesn’t do that with John. One of my favorite ways for characters to be written is that you’re supposed to hate them at first glance. I mean, he’s a delinquent, refuses to listen to his foster parents, is pretty nasty about his lack of relation to them, “She’s not my mother, Todd,” steals a credit card to steal money to go play at the local arcade, it’s pretty easy to not like the kid. But it doesn’t take long for the audience to understand why he acts like he does. Over time, we learn how he was raised by his mom that in the future, he’s this great military leader who will save humanity. I mean, in the movie’s present, he’s ten years old. That’s still a good age to be soaking in what you are lead to believe are facts. He grew up around guns, electronics, a ton of other things that no other kid would. But then one day, his mom gets arrested after trying to blow up Cyberdyne and thrown in a mental institution, which is when John is told that everything is a lie. We obviously know it’s not, but because of this “revelation,” and his mom being labeled as insane, is anyone surprised by his choices? Kid’s got no parents, Janelle and Todd are likely not the first foster parents he’s had, so of course he’d do the things he does.

It’s only when he gets a face-full of the truth where the best aspects of his character start coming through. He doesn’t reject it. In fact, he comes to the realization really quickly when you think about it. After the harrowing chase with the T-800 and 1000, he tells the 800 to stop the bike and almost immediately puts two and two together. This is all happening in the span of less than an hour. He doesn’t freak out, break down, more than anything, he just needs an adjustment period. And once the truth has settled in nicely, his first reaction is go save his mom from the institute. The only person who truly knew what was going on before he did.

Now for arguably one of the greatest female characters ever written. Sarah Connor, arguably the only character in cinematic history who is haunted by her future, not her past. That’s an interesting twist. Oh fine, we’ve had the age-old tale of Ebenzer Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol” who is haunted by all aspects of time, past, present, and future, but if you wanted the penultimate character who is only haunted by the future, Sarah Connor is the character to end all characters of this type. Give John some credit, he was raised to be a bad-ass and proved to be one at ten years old. Sarah was a young woman, a waitress at a diner, and wasn’t really that good at her job. She was mild-mannered, going on dates, just a normal girl. But then a killer machine from the future tries to kill her, a soldier knocks her up, and she knows that the future is coming and she wants desperately to prevent it. Even before she’s introduced in her cell, looking like she could go into a boxing match with Schwarzenegger and hold her own, we can already tell she was trying to stop the future and make the world a better place for her son. At least, that’s what we can assume. But things went south and now she’s locked up, trying to escape and get back to trying to save the future, only to be thwarted at every turn. Even when she escapes, she’s not an easy woman to root for. She’s cold toward John, doesn’t even hug him, but rather checks his body for wounds. She doesn’t even express relief to be reunited with him. Granted, she’s not happy with being face to face with the exact same Terminator that tried to kill her and successfully killed her son’s father (okay, it’s just the same face, not the same machine), but still, it should be pretty obvious that if it was there to kill John, it’s had plenty of opportunities to do just that. She remains distant of him pretty much until she tries to kill Miles Dyson.

Speaking of which, I love that aspect of the scene too. I mean, yeah, after that we have Arnold ripping off his skin to show machine-arm, but simply for her actions and its resolution. She learns of how Miles is directly responsible for Skynet’s development, so it stands to reason that killing him will prevent the future from happening. She grabs some guns and sets out to kill him. Even when she pulls the trigger and misses several times, she doesn’t go through with killing him. My interpretation is probably an obvious one, but it’s in that moment when she’s looking into his eyes, telling him “it’s all your fault,” and his simple response is, “what” she realizes that she’s about to kill a man who has no idea what’s going on. But more than that, she’s also realizing that she’s about to kill someone with no intention of bargaining, or reasoning, without pity, remorse, or fear, and no intentions of stopping… gee, that doesn’t sound familiar in the least! She was about to become the very thing she was fighting and it’s such a defining moment for the character that there are lines as humans that we shouldn’t cross. No matter what the future holds, we can’t lose our humanity in the process, otherwise, what’s left to fight for?

At the end of the day, this is a modern day classic. Even in another twenty-something years, when the effects are laughably dated, this film will stand the test of time. Even for an action movie, it’s a beautiful film about the exploration of humanity’s value. It’s an all-encompassing story, full of action, emotion, meaning, bad-assery, just like any other great and timeless film. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor, and make the time. It’s beyond fantastic. It’s truly one of those movies that you need to see before you die. It’s a work of art.

My honest rating for TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (3D) [1991]: 5/5

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5 Replies to “TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (3D) [1991] review”

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