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Sequel to Terminator. Skynet, the 21st century computer waging a losing war on humans sends a second terminator back in time to destroy the leader of the human resistance while he is still a boy. His mother is the only one who knows of the existence of the Terminators, human-like robots that exist only to kill and are nearly indestructible, and Sarah, the boy's mother is currently in a state mental hospital because of her 'delusions'. A second protector is sent back to the past by the Human resistance to protect John Connor, their future leader, at all costs.

James Cameron
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton
Writing Credits:
James Cameron, William Wisher Jr.

He's Back
Box Office:
Budget $100 million.
Opening weekend $52.306 million.
Domestic gross $204.843 million.
Rated R.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Visual Effects; Best Sound; Best Sound Effects Editing; Best Makeup.
Nominated for Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
English, Spanish, French

Runtime: 139 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 10/21/1997

• Theatrical Trailer
• Cast & Crew Biographies
• Production Notes

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 4, 2003)

One weekend I decided to take in a couple of Schwarzenegger flicks. For my pleasure, I selected 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day and 1990’s Total Recall. Interestingly, they make a nice set because they share a number of similarities above and beyond their inclusion of Schwarzenegger. Both are action films with a fairly strong science fiction bent, and they both capture Arnie at what was clearly the apex of his success as a motion picture icon at the start of the 1990's; his follow-up to T2 would be the unfairly-maligned but nonetheless spectacular failure known as Last Action Hero.  

Of the pair that I watched that weekend, T2 is far and away the better movie. Say what you want about James Cameron, but for my money he's the best action director working today, and a strong candidate for best ever. Even his weakest picture - probably True Lies - still outdoes the vast majority of the competition. T2 isn't his best film – Aliens will likely always maintain that spot - but it's a strong second or third, depending on how I feel about Titanic that day.

T2 also belongs on that short list of sequels that surpass the originals. (Aliens also qualifies - maybe Cameron should only make sequels.) The first TerminatorTerminator was a fine, groundbreaking film, but it doesn't hold a candle to T2. Begrudge Cameron's enormous film budgets if you like, but the guy deserves credit: all that money shows up on screen, and his movies are genuinely better for the extra expense. Cameron uses the bucks to push the cinematic envelope, especially in regard to special effects.  

Speaking of which, the effects for T2 are legendary because they were really the first to use strong computer graphics as an integral part of the film. Cameron's The Abyss hinted at their potential with the water tentacle, but T2 took these effects to another level. T2 also started the short-lived "morphing" craze of the early 1990s, but I won't hold Cameron responsible for that.

More than a decade down the road, the effects of T2 are showing their age, but they continue to hold up reasonably well. What looked absolutely, picture-perfect realistic in 1991 seems much more artificial in 2003, but at no point do any now-recognizable flaws in the graphics negatively impact upon the viewer's enjoyment of the film.

That latter fact probably stems from the overall level of quality found in T2. It's a nearly-perfect example of how to make an action movie. While the focus has always been on the effects and the pure action of the film, what many neglect to recognize is that the characters really drive our interest in T2; without strong participants with whom we identify and sympathize, all the spiffy graphics and cool explosions mean little. Cameron doesn't qualify as a real "actor's director" - too many of them seem to hate him for that to be the case - but he does seem to know how to evoke the best work from his actors; though his characters tend toward stereotypes, somehow Cameron manages to get his cast to make them into real people.

Probably the best indicator of how strong a package Cameron creates can be seen in how easily the may plot inconsistencies and flubs can be ignored. T2 isn't a "turn off your brain" movie from the point of view that it's dumb, but you're better off simply letting yourself go with the flow instead of picking nits. If you want to do the latter, there are many flaws to be found; heck, they can't even keep plot points and dialogue from the first movie straight! I don't see the point in doing that, however, because the charms of T2 easily outweigh the faults.

The terminator remains the perfect role for Schwarzenegger: an artificial, largely emotionless killing machine. Back to back viewings of Terminator and T2 will show that he actually did grow as an actor during the seven year interim - he's much more stiff and rote in the first film - but we're not talking any kind of quantum leap here. I'm sure Arnie does the best he can, but his true value to a movie is simply as a presence, not as a person. That's why he's so good as the Terminator; he's there more as a force than as a character, and all of his many weaknesses as an actor mean nothing. The guy should be flat and mechanical, so the part really plays into Arnie's talents.

The rest of the cast also work tremendously well. Linda Hamilton really shows growth from her work in the first film; she still plays Sarah Connor, but this is a completely different person than the rather meek victim we saw in 1984. The Sarah of T2 easily could have degenerated into a slightly more human version of the Terminator himself - Sarah'd really buffed herself up in the interim - but Hamilton brings a strong sense of fear and doubt into what could have been a one-note psycho-chick part. Sarah's really the glue that holds T2 together, and Hamilton holds up her end tremendously well.

One other potential disaster involved the young actor cast as Sarah's son John. He also plays a pivotal role in T2, and had the actor chosen not been very good, it seriously would have damaged the film (hello, Jake Lloyd!). Although it was his first film, Edward Furlong performs like a seasoned pro as John. He comes across as a natural performer and John seems like a real kid actually reacting to circumstances; at no point does he seem coached or prompted. We see John's progression from somewhat wild, overwhelmed kid into someone who we believe could be a future world leader take place slowly and subtly; Furlong doesn't resort to any showy theatrics to make the changes known. When you factor in his age, Furlong probably does the best work in the film.

Also fine in their supporting roles are Robert Patrick as the T-1000 and Joe Morton as engineering whiz Miles Dyson. Patrick functions as the bad guy, but it's to his credit that he kept away from mimicking anything we saw Arnie do in the first film. The T-1000 is a much smoother, more fluid - literally! - creation, and Patrick nicely embodies this sort of artificial form.

Morton's one of those actors who has never really received his due over the years, probably in part because he seems to be stuck in supporting roles like this and his role in Speed. He deserves better, as he's one of the more elegantly understated yet powerful actors around, as we see in his fine performance as Dyson. Cool footnote: a trip to IMDB indicates that one of Morton's earliest gigs was as a character on Grady, the Sanford and Son spin-off. Gotta love all the bizarre info you can find on the IMDB!

Cool footnote number 2: in the "things I never noticed before even though I've watched this movie at least ten times" category comes my realization that at the end of the movie, a certain inanimate arm appears to be giving a certain socially-inappropriate gesture. Maybe I'm just reading something into it, but it sure looks that way to me!

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio A- / Bonus D

Terminator 2: Judgment Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions.  As a whole, this was a fine presentation that only suffered from a few flaws. The image remained quite sharp from start to finish. I saw only a few instances of a little softness, as the movie mostly looked detailed. I saw no problems with moiré effects or jagged edges, but edge enhancement created a few minor issues. In addition, the image displayed a few examples of speckles and grit and periodically looked slightly noisy.

Black levels were quite deep and rich, and contrast seemed strong; the dark tones never seeped into any form of haze or muck. Shadow detail was terrific, as all dimly lit shots came across clearly and smoothly. Considering the dark design of the film, that's important, so it's great that the DVD handled these areas so well.

Overall, colors seemed accurate. The production design of T2 cast much of the movie in a metallic blue tone and this came across properly. In addition, whenever other hues appeared, they were bright and bold; we saw some excellent reds at times, for instance. However, I've always thought the picture appeared vaguely oversaturated; it didn't look grainy but a kind of haze seemed to mar the image from time to time. This clearly was a production issue and didn't relate to the mastering of the DVD; I've seen three different laserdisc renditions of T2 and they all looked this way. Overall, I felt the DVD merited a “B+” for visuals.  

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Terminator 2 provided a robust soundfield that encircled the viewer during most of the movie. The forward spectrum sounded especially lively and active, as I heard audio from all three front channels nearly all the time. In addition, the mix provided nicely integrated sound, as the audio in the front blended and panned between channels very cleanly and smoothly. The surrounds kicked in with a great deal of ambient information; they didn't quite keep up with the forward channels, but they held their own and added a nice dimensionality to the track. All in all, it was a fine mix that really helped involve the viewer in the experience.  

Quality also seemed excellent. Although much of the dialogue had to be dubbed - and further altered, in the case of Furlong, since his voice changed during the shoot - speech always sounded natural and distinct, with no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Brad Fiedel's excellent score appeared very crisp and warm, with all aspects of it clear and well-defined. Effects were clean and realistic - or hyper-realistic, when appropriate - and they showed no signs of distortion, no matter how loud the track got. The entire package kicked in some taut and strong bass throughout the film, and the result was a very impressive soundtrack.  

The T2 DVD offers very little in the way of supplements. We get a terrific teaser, a good trailer, fairly interesting - though brief - production notes, and some perfunctory cast and crew biographies. Note that the biographies and filmographies cover the actors and Cameron; filmographies alone are given for some other crewmembers. A promo reel for other Live Entertainment DVDs also appears. These extras beat nothing, I suppose, but not by much.

Despite the lack of extras, Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains a winning package because the movie’s so good. It remains Schwarzenegger’s best film, and it also stands as one of the top action flicks ever made. The DVD skimps on supplements, but it provides solid picture and sound. Terminator 2 is a movie that belongs in the collection of every action fan.

Note: since this original 1997 DVD of Terminator 2, Artisan re-released it twice. In 2000, we got the Ultimate Edition of the film, and in 2003, we received the Extreme Edition. The former includes the most substantial set of extras and strongest audio, while the latter offers the best visual reproduction of the movie. Is there any reason to get the 1997 disc anymore? Nope, unless you a) can get it for very little money, b) don’t care at all about supplements, and c) only want to see the theatrical cut of the film. (The “Extreme Edition” presents just the extended version.) Unless all three of those criteria apply for you, pick up one of the other two DVDs instead.

To rate this film visit the review of the Ultimate Edition