Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★★

"The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves." - Edward Furlong
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The first Terminator film presented the unique concept of a robot killer sent back through time to assassinate a specific target to affect the outcome of a futuristic war. Even though the characters overcame the terminator, Judgment Day still beckoned. Nuclear war is coming. Robots will march over the dead and annihilate the living. They are still looking to alter the past to win over the future.

T2 hits the ground running with a similar plot structure as the first film: a terminator appears to terminate somebody, and another figure appears to protect the target. This time, the protector is a terminator reprogrammed to be the good guy. While there is plenty of fighting and chasing, what follows is not just another retread, and it's not all about running away from the threat. This time, the characters turn the tables with massive firepower to try and change the future. This makes for a number of impressive action setpieces: the attack on Cyberdyne Systems is a loud, explosive splurge of mass carnage. The final showdown in the steel mill is a thrilling and iconic sequence, especially when it shows the epic smackdown between the two terminators. Various sequences here and there are just as exciting. It's all made even more memorable and innovating for featuring the T-1000: a terminator made entirely of liquid metal, which is not only a great feat in special effects, but also one of the most menacing villains in cinema.

There is a ton of big action in the film, making it a satisfyingly badass experience. It's made even better with a solid plot structure, and a cast of deep, well-developed characters. Sarah Connor is fully fleshed-out at this point, as a heroine who is both hardened and traumatized by the events of the first film. Despite being a little annoying, John Connor shows enough heart to be relate-able. Even the terminator himself is humanized to a point. All the characters show remarkable pathos, and combined with the story, they serve to underscore key themes concerning humanity's destructiveness. By the film's end, the message is clear: the future is not written, and it's up to us to determine our own destiny.

The film looks very slick and stylish, with photography that's steady, but also moves in thrilling ways. Editing is superb. Acting is great: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return to offer great performances, while Edward Furlong does the best he can (despite being a little annoying with his constantly-cracking voice) and Robert Patrick does his best to be menacing. Writing is good, in my opinion. This production spares no expense on the sets, props, costumes, and special effects. Music is pretty cool at times.

T2 is still one of the most exhilarating, most imaginative, most epic action-movie experiences I've seen. Best of all, and it still tells a phenomenal story with great characters. Even after all these years, between the harrowing visions of future war and the tender focus on human frailty, I find that many of scenes are still heart-wrenching.

On home video, there are not one, not two, but three possible versions you can see. The theatrical cut is certainly always a pleasure to watch, but the Special Edition cut does feature about 15 minutes of new scenes which adds an emotionally-strong dream sequence, a little more concerning Sarah's incarceration, an intense scene where Sarah wants to kill the good Terminator, a little more to the T-1000 phone call scene, a little more to the Dyson family, an amusing scene where the Terminator learns to smile, and a little more to the ending steel mill fight. Not every new scene is essential, but a lot of them do add a little more to the experience and are worth seeing once. The third version of this movie features all of this plus an alternate ending, which is also very fascinating and worth seeing.

5/5 (Entertainment: Perfect | Story: Perfect | Film: Perfect)

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