FILM Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Posted 09 March 2012 - 04:02 PM
Terminator (1984) was the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger the most bankable star of the 80's. And in 1991 there was a sequel. This time Arnold would play a "good" Terminator. Unlike the first film is would have a hugely inflated budget, the first time any film went over 100 million. And John Conner, hero of humanity would be seem, but as a loud-mouth kid.
It actually looks like it could have gone horrible wrong. A useless big budget sequel designed to milk people's money with more of the same.
The film certainly has many of the same elements. Start out the same, even finish the same. Yet for some reason it's a bonus rather then a distraction.
Cameron assumes that people have seen the first one, and starts out with Arnold being seemingly the evil one and an unknown being the good guy, sent to stop Arnie. He plays with this nicely. I still remember I saw this film for the first time, and the moment the role reversal was revealed, it was really a shocker. A genuine surprise in a big budget action film? Well done!
But what makes this film rather extraordinary is that from the moment it starts. Those scenes of traffic, and a playground, underscored by those synth chords, there's a feeling of impending doom.
The first film ended with Sarah Conner driving towards clouds of doom. This film picks up with that.
The visual motif of the destruction caused by Skynet is a playground and children. seen in the opening, seen in Sarah's nightmares. It could have been a very corny angle. But when we see that dream displayed in full. It's terrifying. That scene is still the one to beat when it come to nuclear destruction in films.
The prospect of destruction is ingrained so deep into this film, that the few scenes with comic relief (Ah'nuld learning to speak jive, learning how to smile etc...feel like a relief rather then a distraction)
Paramount to the feeling of dread is Linda Hamilton's portrayal of Sarah Conner.
She was great in the first film, but basically played the standard role of normal girl being stalked by an unstoppable killer. (much like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween).
In this film she reinvents her character, picking up were Sigourney Weaver left of in Cameron's Aliens and create a character who is fully capable to kick ass, shoot, beat and kill, and look dangerous and imposing even when standing next to Arnold.
But her Sarah Conner is also a woman haunted by knowledge of a future she knows will come to pass. And it's eating away at her. While she is not paranoid as the shrink that put her away thinks. (you aren't paranoid if your fears are true) she certainly is mentally ill.
It's a performance that has inspired similar "strong women" riles in many other films, and TV shows like Star Trek, Buffy, Doctor Who etc etc... But very seldom has it been rivalled. I wonder if she won any acting awards?
Edward Furlong is very well cast as John Conner. He starts of as an annoying brat, but slowly he reveals depths to his personality. He actually makes the concept of a "good" Terminator believable. The way he talks to him, like a sort of imaginary friend made real... And he actually shows some sighs of someone who one day can become a great leader (unlike Nick Stahl in the third movie). I actually just checked my Blu-ray cover and noticed that they did not even list Furlong's name on either the front or back?
Arnold's name is on it, above the title, as the big star.
But actually he's sort of overshadowed by both Hamilton and Furlong. Or he knew that the character he was playing only had limited potential anyway.
He is good though in this film. He acts like a sort of straight man for Furlong, and underplays his character's emotional growth rather then making it the main focus. And he looks great with that leather jacket and shades.
Robert Patrick is a revelation here. His T-1000 is like the shark from Jaws, totally unstoppable right until the end. A sleeker. faster version of Arnold's terminator with a blinding stare, flat, monotone voice and a distinct way of moving. He's totally believable in a role which requires him to have blades for hands and go mano-a-mano with Arnold.
Of the rest of the cast Joe Morton is surprisingly moving as the man who will oneday kill billions.
We have talked a fair deal on this forum about Cameron's Aliens, and how dated the film now seems both visually and spiritually.
Apart from a few 90's haircuts by a few extras and things like that, the film looks like it could have been shot today.
This was one of the movies that ushered in the CGI revolution. But the technique was so new and expensive that Cameron used it only when he really needed too. Much of the stunts, explosions and special effects were done traditionally. And strangely enough it's that what makes the film look modern still.
The action scenes are well mounted. I especially love the first chase scene in the dried up canal and the big truck/helicopter chase.
Many action films end in a warehouse or abandoned factory. Usually because it's easier to shoot there and cheaper. Cameron makes the steel factory in the final part of the film a real environment
The CGI used for the T-1000 still impresses today.
The film looks great on Blu-ray. but that's not a surprise. Somehow it's always been a handsome looking film. Even on VHS it looked somehow better then most films out their. Adam Greenburg's cinematography is excellent. From the vibrant sunlit daylight scenes, to the blue-tinted scenes at night to the orange and yellow hell in the steel factory. And there's an amazing sharpness to everything.
Brad Fiedel re-uses his Terminator theme from the previous film, but little else. The more stanrard 80's synth is replaces by screetchings, moaning and groaning noises, tapping percussion and clanging anvils sounds. The score is a bit like Vangelis' Blade Runner. It creates an almost seamless atmosphere combined with the sound design and camera work. But on it's own it simply does not work.
Cameron's script is actually good. It features many of his familiar elements and pet peeves, but doesn't hit you over the head with them. Of course one has to completely ignore the temporal improbability of the ending.
This film is more then 20 years old, but it's still one of the best in it's genre. I'm not sure I can think of an action film made since then that is better?
**** out of ****
Posted 09 March 2012 - 04:07 PM
Posted 09 March 2012 - 05:04 PM
Posted 09 March 2012 - 09:57 PM
I watched T2 again recently on blu-ray, and realized how much it pisses all over (and from a great height) recent action movies. The stunt work back then was mindblowing - they simply don't make 'em like that anymore. Some of the set-pieces STILL bring me out in goose-pimples. Great music too - which IMO does hold up on it's own.
The blu-ray also contains Cameron's commentary (with co-writer William Wisher) which is well worth a listen, really insightful. I had to chuckle when he tells of how the camera crew refused to film the helicopter flying under the bridge (safety fears) - so he had to do it himself!
Posted 09 March 2012 - 10:09 PM
Posted 10 March 2012 - 05:32 AM
Whatever flaws Cameron might have, the knows how to set up action sequences.
He's brilliant at putting films together. Sometimes he puts one of his quirks here and there and makes the film a bit more fun.
Posted 10 March 2012 - 08:58 AM
The special effects too for that time period were really well done, especially for the T-1000.
It was cool to that John and The Terminator basically bonded after they reset his CPU chip so he could learn and adapt to understand humans better. The ending with John and Sarah lowering The Terminator into the molten metal was in a way a bit of a tear jerker but still very well done.
I remember reading an article a few years back that Terminator 2 was the first time a movie actually truly showed what would actually happen in a nuclear blast.
I also agree that even after 20 years the film holds up pretty damn well.
Posted 10 March 2012 - 10:32 AM
Posted 10 March 2012 - 02:13 PM
I love stuff like Sarah becoming a terminator on the side of the humans, or the somewhat risky things the film does with John and the old terminator. Wonderful.
Posted 10 March 2012 - 02:47 PM
Whatever flaws Cameron might have, the knows how to set up action sequences.
...and STILL does it better than anyone else on the planet (take note, Mr Bay).
Posted 10 March 2012 - 06:37 PM
Posted 10 March 2012 - 08:37 PM
Posted 10 March 2012 - 08:51 PM
Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:45 AM
Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:22 PM
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