After writing about The Terminator, the great film by James Cameron released in 1984, how can I not write about its sequel Terminator 2: Judgment day released seven years later and directed by the same director? It’s yet another exceptional film, something that shouldn’t surprise anyone since James Cameron had already proved himself capable of making sequels of good first chapters of sagas with Aliens (1986), a fantastic successor of Alien by Ridley Scott (1979). Hey, I’m only realizing now that seven years passed between the first and the second installment in both cases!
And how to write the sequel to the perfect The Terminator? Cameron decided to recycle the idea of time travel but doubling the number of Terminators: one is an old model, the T-800 played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the other is the new T-1000 (which for most of the time has the features of Robert Patrick) made of liquid metal, practically indestructible. The latter is sent by Skynet to kill the adolescent John Connor in 1995 in Los Angeles, while the former is sent by John Connor in 2029 to protect the young version of himself. The amazing thing is that at the beginning of the movie it’s not clear which one is doing what and we all remember the impassive face of Arnold trying to kill poor Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) only a few years before: is he back to finish the job that he wasn’t able to complete the first time?
We soon discover the missions of the two Terminators, and we also get to know the young John Connor (Edward Furlong, it’s his film debut), a problematic teenager who spends his time having fun with friends and breaking the law in various and imaginative ways. His foster parents cannot control him (the mother is the legendary Jenette Goldstein, that is Aliens’ private Vasquez) and his real mother Sarah Connor is locked up in a psychiatric hospital. Ah, one important thing: she’s very different from the Sarah Connor of the first movie, as she’s now prepared for the upcoming war and knows about martial arts, weapons, and various survival techniques! She also taught all this to young John: it wasn’t easy for him to grow up in a normal way with such a mother.
Needless to say, this movie is absolutely spectacular. The rhythm of the first part is unstoppable, with the T-1000 who looks for John and, when he finds him, it has to fight against the T-800 now in the role of the protector. The next step is the attempt at freeing Sarah from the hospital, which is as logical as it’s tense and adrenaline-fueled. And then things almost get to a halt with Sarah, John, and the Terminator fleeing into the desert and trying to decide what to do. Should they continue to run away, I think the T-1000 would have no hope of finding them again, and the film could almost end here… So Sarah decides to kill the creator of Skynet, Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), who’s unaware that his research (based on the rests of the microchip recovered from the T-800 that Sarah terminated in the hydraulic press in The Terminator) will lead to the almost total destruction of humanity. John then orders the Terminator to stop this assassination plan, and the three together will convince Dyson to storm the Cyberdine Corporation to avoid Skynet being created. But the T-1000 will be waiting for them…
And again the rhythm of the movie goes back to the initial levels, with spectacular action scenes and a fight to the death against the T-1000. By now you may have guessed that, contrary to the majority of the world’s population, I believe that Terminator 2 has a flaw (the loss of rhythm in the central part) that the first film of the saga (saga that in my world is only made up of these two films) doesn’t have, and for this reason I prefer the first one to the sequel. We are still talking about two masterpieces, but after I don’t know how many times I’ve seen them both, I continue to prefer The Terminator to T2: Judgment day.
Despite this, there are so many amazing things in this film that it’s hard to list them all. The special effects, for example, are nothing short of revolutionary: not only Cameron relied on the usual mix of practical effects with animatronics, models, and projections, but he innovated with cutting edge computer graphics giving life to the T-1000 thanks to his experiments in The abyss (1989). And did you know that the scenes of the double guard in the hospital and the double Sarah Connor in the finale were simply filmed using twins (Dan and Don Stanton and Linda and Leslie Hamilton, respectively)? Sometimes doing things in a simple way is the way to go!
Everything is taken care of down to the smallest detail: the realistic use of weapons, the plot details (such as the dog barking in the background during the first visit of the T-1000 to John’s adoptive parents), the costumes and make-up, the soundtrack (once again composed by Brad Fiedel and his iron pans, but enriched with songs like Bad to the bone and You could be mine), the finely chiseled dialogues… everything is excellent! As for the dialogues, there’s an infinite amount of one-liners perfectly usable in every situation: Hasta la vista, baby, No problemo, and once again Come with me if you want to live, but this time it’s the T-800 who says it, not Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). And this highlights another difference with the first film: there’s much more humor, but it’s used in the right moments and not excessively. In Terminator 2, the romantic element that worked great in The Terminator is completely missing, and this is compensated both by the excellent sense of humor and by the well-made development of the themes of parenthood and family. The relationships between Sarah Connor, John and the T-800 are really well written and I challenge anyone not to be moved in the final climax. Of course the usual theme of nature versus machines/corporations/progress is also there, as it’s normal in a James Cameron’s movie!
And finally, here the budget is considerably higher and it’s easy to tell: explosions, traffic accidents, and fires are everywhere! Cameron spends a lot but also gets a lot, every penny can be seen on screen. And luckily the bet of throwing 100 million dollars in this film paid off, with more than 500 million earned worldwide. Something which, by the way, allowed the Canadian director to spend 200 million dollars to make his next film (Titanic, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it…) which earned even more! Ciao!