US Release Date: 07-03-1991
Directed by: James Cameron
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, as
- The Terminator
- Linda Hamilton, as
- Sarah Connor
- Edward Furlong, as
- John Connor
- Robert Patrick, as
- Earl Boen, as
- Dr. Silberman
- Joe Morton, as
- Miles Dyson
- S. Epatha Merkerson, as
- Tarissa Dyson
- Castulo Guerra, as
- Enrique Salceda
- Danny Cooksey, as
- Jenette Goldstein, as
- Janelle Voight
- Xander Berkeley, as
- Todd Voight
- DeVaughn Nixon, as
- Danny Dyson
- Colin Patrick Lynch, as
- Don Lake as
When it comes too Teminators, gun size matters.
With a much bigger budget (The Terminator cost $6,400,000 while Terminator 2's budget was $104,000,000) and advanced special effects, Terminator 2 broke new ground and continued the saga started by the first sleeper hit.
This film takes place nearly a decade after the first film. Sarah’s son is now a bratty adolescent living in foster care, while Sarah is imprisoned in a psych ward under the care of Dr. Silberman, who is the only character to appear in all of the first three movies. Two Terminators show up this time around. One is the same kind as in the first, T-800 (Arnold). He is assigned to protect John. The other Terminator is a T-1000. It is an advanced model that is made up of liquid metal. He is assigned to killed John.
The new Terminator allowed the special effects team to get creative and probably took up much of the budget. Played steely faced by Patrick, the new Terminator is extremely threatening and fascinating to watch as he dispatches anyone in his way. However, his appearance contradicts one of the big rules established in the first movie. When Reese is being interrogated, he explains that only living organisms can go through time. Thus the Terminator had to be surrounded by living tissue, and they always go through naked. He also said that the time machine was destroyed so no one else could come through and he could not go back. According to the rules established in the first movie, the T-1000 should not be able to travel through time, as he is not flesh, but a liquid metal that can mysteriously take the shape and color of hair, flesh, skin and clothes.
If you can overlook that questionable plot hole, you will be satisfied with a huge action packed film with some over the top adrenaline pumping moments. The two Terminators start fighting each other in a mall and then continue in the street with Arnold on a motorcycle and the T-1000 in a semi truck. I remember first being impressed when he drives the entire rig off an overpass and continues the chase. My son’s favorite action scene is when the T-1000 is in the helicopter and says to the pilot, “Get out!”
Both films were written by Cameron and he recycles several lines. In the first movie, Arnold says, “Get out!” to a passenger in a truck he just took control of. In the first movie, Reese says to Sarah, “Come with me if you want to live.” In this one it is Arnold who says it to her. Of course Arnold also gets to repeat, “I’ll be back.”
Hamilton in the first film was pretty unremarkable. Any number of actresses could have played the role just as well. In this sequel however, she comes into the role in a big way. Her early scenes in prison show that Sarah is now one very toned, badass bitch. My favorite scene of hers is when she runs down the hallway with the guard's nightstick. She looks like a wildcat about to strike, light on her feet but able to kill.
The first film had Reese as the lovelorn virgin, who travels through time to save a woman he only knows through stories and a photo. No such emotions exist this time around. What this movie lacks in heart, it makes up for in humor, something completely lacking in the first film. At one point John teaches The Terminator how to swear and use slang, “Chill out, dickwad.” “Hasta la vista, baby.” My favorite piece of dialogue is when John yells at The Terminator after he beat the crap out of someone, “Jesus, you were gonna kill that guy.” Arnold responds, “Of course; I'm a terminator.”
Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
While the special effect budget was hugely increased from the first movie to this one, a good portion of the larger budget went to paying the cast and crew, particularly Cameron and Schwarzenegger, both of whose reputation and star level had risen dramatically over the intervening years. Cameron's salary for this sequel was almost equal to the entire budget of the first film and Schwarzenegger's pay included an $11 million Gulfstream jet. However, with the sale of overseas rights, video rights, and television rights, the studio had nearly recouped all of its costs before the movie had even hit theaters. It would go on to become the highest grossing movie of the year, earning more in its opening weekend than the original had in its entire theatrical run. Clearly it was money well spent.
From the very beginning Cameron and Schwarzenegger had discussed making a sequel, but due to the tangled ownership rights of the franchise it took nearly 7 years to get the next one released. In a way, that delay was a plus for both filmmakers and audiences alike. The intervening years allowed technology to advance to allow Cameron to bring his vision of the T-1000 Terminator to the big screen. Anyone who has seen Cameron's The Abyss will have seen an early prototype of the technology he would use for the liquid metal in this film. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the technology used is just how well it holds up even compared to today's advanced CGI. There's very little that looks dated about this movie. It has aged incredibly well.
Eric mentioned the question of how it is that the T-1000 was able to travel through time since only living flesh is supposed to be able to do that according to the rule established in the first film. A quick search of the internet reveals that he's not the first to ask and there are message boards filled with people debating that very topic. A favorite theory, and one that I chose to believe even though nowhere in the movie is it mentioned, is that the T-1000 too was covered with living flesh in the shape of Robert Patrick when it was transported through time. That flesh covering was destroyed the first time the liquid metal shapeshifted, but it still retains the memory of that shape as its default, which is why it keeps returning to it despite being able to look like anyone it has touched.
Of course that's not the biggest plot hole in the movie. Like many time travel movies, the plot creates a paradox. A Terminator is sent back in time to help Sarah and John destroy Skynet, which they succeed in doing. This means that in the future there's no Terminator to send back in time to help Sarah and John destroy Skynet, which means that it never gets destroyed and so a Terminator is sent back in time to help Sarah and John destroy Skynet, which they succeed in doing. This means that in the future there's no Terminator to send back in time to help Sarah and John destroy Skynet, which means that it never gets destroyed... and so on, and so on.
Honestly though, this movie is so damn entertaining and action packed that it's doubtful you will be thinking about these things while watching it. Cameron, who co-wrote the script, knows how to direct action and build suspense. The first hour, from the moment the Terminators arrive, until John and the Terminator rescue Sarah, is flawless. The action and the tension build at the same time without ever giving you a chance to catch your breath. This is especially true of the chase scene Eric mentioned in which a semi is driven off of an overpass. It's a scene that is helped by the fact that it really happened, albeit with wires, but with a real truck off of a real overpass. You feel every crunch of it.
Eric also mentioned Linda Hamilton's transformation and it is remarkable. She is indeed toned up and badass. However, that's not the only way in which she comes into the role. She also delivers an incredibly intense performance. The knowledge she possesses that the world will be destroyed has clearly driven her to near madness. Cameron was so impressed by Hamilton's acting that he lobbied (unsuccessfully) to get her a supporting actress nomination and I applaud his efforts. She was deserving of one. The movie was nominated for 6 Oscars, but all in the technical categories, of which it won 4.
I disagree that this movie lacks heart. John's relationship with Schwarzenegger's Terminator is like an odd father-and-son combination. Sure, it's a little over done with the talk of "Why do you cry?" and that damn final thumbs-up, but it's still there. And it's also there in the relationship between Sarah and John. Her fanatical devotion towards him softens as the movie goes on into something closer to love. Of course all of the relationship stuff takes a backseat to the action, but it is there. Much of the heart, and much of the film for that matter, is carried by young Edward Furlong who does a great job for someone so young and in their first movie.
I also disagree that the first movie lacked humor. It's there in small ways, such as Arnold's "Fuck you, asshole." line. However, it is much more prevalent here. This is obvious from the moment Arnold emerges from the biker bar clad in leather accompanied by the song, "Bad to the Bone." Cameron is wise enough to never let the comedy get too broad and it never undercuts the action.
Most sequels are unnecessary and do little besides mar the legacy of the original film (see every Terminator movie made after this one for examples). This is that rare sequel that enhances the franchise. Instead of feeling like a rehash of the original, it feels fresh and new. It's action packed entertainment and it stands the test of time, being just as entertaining over 20 years later as it was when it was released. Maybe every sequel should have to wait 7 years to be made.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe Morton and Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
As sequels go this is certainly one of the better ones. In terms of special effects its impact far surpassed the original Terminator but as a movie it isn't quite as perfect. Despite the almost non-stop action, at 2½ hours there was room for trimming. Especially during the movie's second half. The T-1000 should have been destroyed by the liquid nitrogen after Arnold delivers what would become the movie's catchphrase, “Hasta la vista, baby” (in Spanish speaking countries it was changed to “Sayonara, baby” to retain the humor of the line). The T-1000's final destruction by fire is anticlimactic and only serves as a convenient way to destroy both Terminators. But these are very minor complaints.
Edward Furlong made a remarkable movie debut as the young John Connor. Like Scott wrote, he provides the emotional center of the story through his relationships with his mother and with the T-800. Furlong was technically too old for the part. John Connor was born February 28, 1985 and this movie takes place in 1994. In 1991, when it was being filmed, Edward Furlong was thirteen playing nine.
Production on Terminator 2 took a long time, including 171 days of filming. Over the course of these months Edward Furlong was growing up. He appears younger in the desert scene than anywhere else in the movie for example. He also hit puberty and his voice changed. This was so noticeable that in order to give the film unity, Cameron had Furlong dub all of his lines in post-production. The only exception being the scene Scott mentioned, where John and the Terminator discuss crying. The director felt that a more childish sounding speaking voice better suited the nature of the conversation.
I couldn't agree more as far as Linda Hamilton goes. She's a revelation. Her Sarah Connor ranks with Sigourney Weaver's Ripley and Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa in the pantheon of great female action stars. Watch the scene in the truck where instead of sitting passively by she immediately picks up a weapon and starts firing at the T-1000. But her performance is more than just strutting muscle. Like Scott, I think she deserved an Oscar nomination for making such an absurd situation seem so real.
The paradox of the time travel aspect of the story is interesting to ponder but better off not being dwelt on. One thing I thought of was that if Sarah and John Connor had succeeded in their mission both of the Terminators would have vanished into thin air at that exact moment, since they would never have been created in the first place.
Scott mentioned the extended director's cut that includes an epilogue that contradicts all of the subsequent sequels. It also includes one factual error, although I'm probably the only critic ever to mention it. Sarah narrates how August 29, 1997 (Judgment Day) passes and life goes on as normal. She mistakenly claims that Michael Jackson turned 40 that day. Well they got the day and month right but the wrong year. Jackson was born in 1958 so he turned 39 in 1997.
The action never lets up and no other role has ever suited Arnold Schwarzenegger better. This was the absolute peak of his career. The special effects hold up better than many movies made more recently. All three movie buffs agree that Terminator 2: Judgment Day has stood the test of time.
Photos © Copyright TriStar Pictures (1991)