Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sci-Fi Action and Violence, and for Language
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron & William Wisher
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong & Robert Patrick
In the grand scheme of sequels that manage to be better than the originals, TERMINATOR 2 ranks among the very best. The original TERMINATOR was a little sci-fi actioner from the 80’s that managed to surpass the modest expectations of audiences and studio execs alike. James Cameron returned to the script and screen to craft a sequel to his surprise hit in 1991. JUDGEMENT DAY is one of those very rare cases in which a sequel manages to outdo the original in every possible way. Not only that, TERMINATOR 2 has earned reputation for being one of the best action films ever made. It wears that crown proudly and holds up perfectly to this day. This is easily the best entry in the series and, in my humble opinion, the only great TERMINATOR flick thus far.
Years have passed since Sarah Connor first encountered the Terminator. Since then, she has wound up in a mental institution, because who would ever believe crazy stories about killer robots from the future? While his mom wastes away in the loony bin, future resistance leader John Connor is a troubled 13-year-old in foster care. Skynet has decided that if at first you don’t succeed, then give it a second try and send the advanced T-1000 back in time to off teenage John. Luckily for John, a reprogrammed Terminator (once again played by Arnie) has also been sent back to protect him. It’s Sarah, John and the Terminator vs. the T-1000 in a new game of cat-and-mouse.
TERMINATOR 2 finds James Cameron using a duplicate plot device to a much greater effect. Besides bringing in the time-traveling robots trying to off a future leader in the past, Cameron and co-writer William Wisher use every available opportunity to their advantage. This is a far more ambitious film than the first one was. Besides the obvious Terminator vs. Terminator conflict, John forms a friendship with robo-Arnie. While this might have come off as cheesy in any other movie, their bond has real emotion placed into it. Then there’s Sarah Connor struggling to accept that a Terminator identical to the one that caused her so much grief is actually there to protect her and John. Finally, there’s an attempt to stop Judgement Day from ever happening and this subplot takes the movie into a number of bold places (including a heart-pounding hostage sequence).
This would all be a bit meaningless if the performers came off as dull as they did in the first movie, but everyone plays a well fleshed-out character. Sarah Connor is brought to life as one of the best bad-ass heroines to ever grace the silver screen (alongside Ripley from ALIENS and Furiosa from the latest MAD MAX). In any other movie, teenage John Connor’s childish attitude might come off as annoying, but it works perfectly as Furlong brings the character to believable life. Arnold Schwarzenegger is given more wiggle room to develop as this good Terminator shows more of an emotional range (all explained through various plot points), even if he still delivers his lines in appropriately mechanical fashion. So while Arnie gets to play the hero this time around, Robert Patrick plays the chilling T-1000. This silent, intimidating villain dispatches his prey in gruesome fashion with razor-sharp elongated fingers.
While 1984’s TERMINATOR didn’t skimp on action, it was definitely focused more on the chase than actual conflict between man and machine. That’s not the case in this sequel as the conflict happens to be between a machine aided by a mother and son vs. an even deadlier machine that happens to be aided by naïve authority figures wielding very big guns. The stakes are increasingly heightened as the running time moves along. It certainly helps that special effects bringing each action scene to life hold up flawlessly. Before James Cameron was wasting his time on clichéd romances (TITANIC) and expensive blue aliens (AVATAR), he helped pioneer the technology that brought a liquid-metal T-1000 to life. Every car chase, shoot-out and conflict sticks out in its own way. No frame is wasted and no scene is pointless.
There are a number of movies that I wish I could have experienced on their opening weekends, but TERMINATOR 2 is near the top of that list. This movie must have been even more spectacular, mind-blowing and exciting with a packed audience of fans who didn’t know what they were in for. TERMINATOR 2 is not only among the rare breed of sequels that outdo their predecessor, it’s among the very best action films ever made!