Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

21 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

In 1984, we had “The Terminator,” a violent yet effective sci-fi/action thriller which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as a killer cyborg from the future sent back in time to kill the mother of the future leader of America who will lead the human race in a fight against the machines that learned to overrule us and take over the world. That film was a huge hit critically and commercially so a sequel was expected. So, in 1991, there is “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” a sequel just as thrilling as the original and somewhat better, thanks to solid acting, excellent special effects, and gripping action sequences.

In “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the future is out to kill young John Connor again while he is still a child. The kid is ten years old (the movie is probably set in 1995) and separated from his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton), now confined in a mental institution because of her accurate warnings of a nuclear holocaust in 1997 which will follow in the machines ruling the world. Sarah was chased by the Terminator in the original film, when John wasn’t even born yet. Not even John believes his mother’s warnings.

But two Terminators have traveled back from the future—one to protect young John from the other. The twist here is that Schwarzenegger plays a good Terminator this time. He has been reprogrammed by John of the future to be the protector of John of the past. Out to kill the kid is a T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a Terminator even more advanced than Schwarzenegger.

The Terminator and John save Sarah from the mental hospital and together, they race to prevent the nuclear war from ever occurring and therefore will stop the machines from taking over. This is where tension really mounts and director/writer/producer James Cameron dares us to relax during all of this. There is a fresh father-and-son relationship between John and the Terminator—sometimes, John plays the father. He orders him not to kill people and the Terminator doesn’t. Amazingly enough, having this Terminator to not kill people works.

This movie is jam-packed with action sequences, all of them very impressive. The opening chase scene in which the T-1000 tries to run down the kid with a semi (the kid is on his dirt bike through the alleys of Los Angeles) is done skillfully. I know it’s a cheap move to show a kid in peril but the scene is so well-made that throughout the whole movie, we fear for this kid, well-played with convincing energy by Edward Furlong. There are many scenes like that; the stuntwork is impressive, the chase scene near the end is handled well, and the special effects are just plain excellent. You really have to see this movie to understand that this T-1000 is really one of the best movie villains in any action movie. Played by Robert Patrick, he just looks like an out-of-town tourist who took the bus instead of a taxi. But underneath that human body is liquid metal, which causes him to change shape. He becomes liquid to fit through small spaces, his arms transform into knives and stabbing weapons, and he is very hard to kill. Very impressive special effects here—you shoot him, it leaves a hole which closes back up; you slice him apart, he comes back together again; you blow him to pieces, the pieces form back together like mercury. No matter how many times you try to kill this thing, he is repaired and ready for more action.

The acting is strong here. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to find the right balance between humor and tension. His lack of emotions—he doesn’t understand why humans cry—make him an interesting case for an action hero. He plays it almost like a straight man in a human drama. I like how he reacts to the kid telling him how people talk. Then when the action occurs, Schwarzenegger is convincing as a heroic machine doing what he was programmed to do. Naturally, there must be a showdown between the Terminator and the T-1000. With these two machines squaring off against each other, Schwarzenegger still has that balance. He’s enjoyable to watch in this movie. Linda Hamilton has a strong presence as Sarah. She’s a strong action heroine to go along with Schwarzenegger’s lack of emotions and the kid’s energy. They become an unusual but effective family unit.

I can see a lot of money spent into this project, all of it put to good use. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is an extraordinary action movie, complete with actual character development, a splendid villain, spectacular visual effects, and well-executed action. 

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