Dan’s review published on Letterboxd:
SPOILERS HINTED AT AHEAD.
I can’t believe I’ve never expressed my love for Terminator 2: Judgement Day on here before. Let’s change that!
Where to even start? You know what? I’m gonna start with Robert Patrick as the villain. The T-1000 is actually one of my all-time favourite villains. I remember watching this as a kid and genuinely thinking ‘I do not know how our heroes are going to defeat this thing’. He can seemingly overcome any amount of gunshots - even close range ones that split his head in two, survive any amount of fire/explosions, and get out of any situation by shapeshifting.
The shapeshifting not only helps this liquid metal being appear near-indestructible, but it also makes for a greater threat, as he impersonates John Connor’s foster mum, other police officers and just about anyone he can in order to get close to or deceive John.
The visual effects were also really good at the time, and some of these liquid metal effects hold up well 30 years later. On the flip side of the same coin, Cameron wanted to do many of these effects practically, which has also helped the film to age well. It also allows for really creative set pieces and helps the villain stand out from the rest.
The action in the movie is really heart-pounding stuff, from the shootouts to the truck chase. It even has back to back action sequences! It’s awesome.
This being a sequel, Cameron takes the characters and tone of the first film, and changes them all up for the better. Arnie as the good guy. Sarah Connor as a badass. Replacing the horror elements with action. IT ALL WORKS.
T2 is also home to many iconic lines/scenes/moments. From Arnie’s intro scene to “I’ll be back,” to “hasta la vista baby,” to the thumbs up at the end.
Which by the way, still gets me to this day. Not that I want to admit to crying at a movie 2 reviews in a row, but this is literally known as the movie that makes even big manly men cry (which we all know is what I am). And most of that is down to the relationship established between John Connor and the T-800. There’s a line/moment in the film that sums this up perfectly, and it’s when they’re all in the desert loading up on ammo, and Sarah looks over at John playing with Arnie, and says something like “of all the shitbag boyfriends I’ve had that tried to have a connection with John, who knew that it would be a machine that ended up being the closest thing he ever had to a father?”. And you really feel this too after seeing their relationship develop. It starts off with John being scared of the T-800, to realising the terminator has to do anything he says, to John teaching him about humanity, and then even teaching him to smile (which is so hilarious by the way), then it reaches a point where they’re friends, and when John feels protected by and trusts the T-800, he finally feels like he’s his Dad.
The film is also thematically rich, from exploring the differences (or similarities) between humans and machines, to artificial intelligence and the future of the human race, to the moral dilemma involving Miles Dyson. There’s this whole thing in the movie whereby if Sarah Connor kills Miles Dyson, he can never invent Skynet, so the terminators can never take over the world. But if she kills an innocent man, isn’t she just as bad as the terminators he accidentally ends up creating?
I know earlier I said it ditched the horror elements from the first film, and for the most part it does, but there’s some really haunting imagery in here, like the playground on fire as Sarah stands by screaming and shaking the fence. The dire music and slow-motion cinematography really underscore this.
The pacing is nonstop too. The film starts, you’re along for the adventure, it continues at a solid pace for 2 hours, and then it ends with an emotional gut punch. I guess technically there are “down moments” in the story, but they never really slow the film down or leave you feeling like you want the pace to pick back up. It just flows so perfectly.
The music is great too, and helps the emotional scenes to land, the action scenes to be enthralling, the sci-fi elements to work, and so on. It’s one of those scores where when I hear it, I immediately just want to watch the film.
Linda Hamilton deserves a mention too, for her performance as Sarah Connor. In the first film she’s this innocent young woman, and in the second she’s a bonafide badass. So not only does she show range within this one character, but she’s not just badass in that one-note way. While you do completely buy her ability to beat up/outsmart guards, and to have the balls to stand up to and spray bullets at our villain, you also feel the damage that’s been done to her, both physical and psychological, as she’s had to bear the burden of the knowledge of the future on her own for so long, with no-one believing her.
It’s just an amazing action film where every element comes together perfectly to create one of the staples of the genre. It mixes action, science-fiction and thriller elements, and blend them all seamlessly, and as if the nonstop action thrills or complex themes weren’t enough, the film will almost certainly make you cry! Add to that an unstoppable villain and a bunch of memorable moments, and you’ve got a film so good it spawned 4 more sequels and a TV show, none of which managed to get near that level (The Sarah Connor Chronicles is okay though if you’re into this franchise).
In terms of flaws the only thing I can really think of is certain elements of Furlong’s performance, but it’s essentially a child performance and it’s mostly fine, so I don’t wanna knock too much off its overall score for that.
Soul review (video and written) coming this week, and my 10 most anticipated films of 2021 video coming next week!