The first Terminator was an effective combination of sci-fi, horror, and action, but its acclaimed 1991 sequel pitches the horror in favor of all-out, jaw-dropping action (sort of like Cameron’s Aliens, though that still had plenty of nightmare fodder). I’m sure it was tricky turning such an iconic villain into a force for good, but James Cameron did just that, earning Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 a spot on both AFI top Heroes list and their Villains list.
The film starts out with mounds of human skulls, so the audience will know they’re in for a good time. This bleak future provides a goal for the characters, namely to prevent it, and the setup with the two time travelers keeps it unclear who belongs to the dark side. Robert Patrick as the T-1000 acts human enough at first, leaving doubts as to whether he’s another cyborg or a freedom fighter like the first film’s Kyle Reece (though the trailers gave that away from the start).
The robots are perfectly cast, but the humans are less than ideal. Edward Furlong has the required leadership potential for John Connor, but he’s a foul-mouthed delinquent who doesn’t deserve termination but certainly prosecution. Likewise, Sarah Connor is no longer an attractive waitress but a haunted, violent nutcase whose tales of the future have gotten her committed. Their cause is admirable, but they’re hardly admirable as people.
The film itself has plenty of brief but deep themes (women create life while men tend to destroy; the potential and need to value human life), though it doesn’t even try to address the paradoxes they create in attempting to change the future. It’s also interesting how Sarah Connor’s extreme concern for life becomes a disregard for life when she sets her sights on Dyson, practically turning her into a Terminator before she remembers her humanity. T2 contributed some famous lines to pop culture, like the kick-butt “Hasta la vista, baby” while also offering a unique reversal of lines from the first film, such as “Come with me if you want to live,” which I actually attributed to this film before I was reminded that Reece said it first. Let’s face it: Arnold does say it better than Michael Biehn.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Oscar-winning, cutting-edge effects. The water column in The Abyss was impressive enough, but the malleable T-1000 is a true achievement in special effects and a huge leap forward compared with films even a couple years before. Honestly, the visual effects are still Oscar-worthy by today’s standards, even 23 years old. As with the first film, the chase scenes are a main focus but are ramped up to epic heights with helicopters and trucks carrying liquid nitrogen. The first half contains most of the objectionable content, including some shockingly violent scenes, but the second half is nearly perfect, with ultimate action, awesome explosions, and a lower body count.
Terminator 2 could easily have ended the franchise, and, as yet another reboot is being prepared for a 2015 release, it’s hard to imagine any Terminator film topping it. I’d much rather see it cut, but it’s one heck of a sci-fi joy ride.
Best line (avoiding the obvious): (Sarah, in a voiceover) “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.”Artistry: 8 Characters/Actors: 9 Entertainment: 10 Visual Effects: 10 Originality: 10 Watchability: 9 Other (language, violence): -6 TOTAL: 50 out of 60
Next: #115 – The Hunger Games and Catching Fire
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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