Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★

"Its big-budget sequel adds only one ironic paradox to 'The Terminator''s mix: in 'T2,' we learn that the 'radically advanced chip' on which Skynet's CPU is (will be) based actually came (comes) from the denuded and hydraulically pressed skull of 'T1''s defunct Terminator...meaning that Skynet's attempts to alter the flow of history bring about not only John Connor's birth but Skynet's own, as well. All 'T2''s other important ironies and paradoxes, however, are unfortunately unintentional and generic and kind of sad.

Note, for example, the fact that 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day,' a movie about the disastrous consequences of humans relying too heavily on computer technology, was itself unprecedently computer-dependent."

I had David Foster Wallace's anti-Terminator 2 screed at the back of my mind while revisiting the film, and I must admit that he makes some valid points, even if it's impossible for me to really take either of the Cameron Terminators seriously. That is unless the nostalgic cinematic high elicited from the Hollywood blockbusters of the late '80s-mid '90s counts (i.e. the stuff that makes for effusive movie essay fodder for sites like AV Club and The Dissolve or what have you). On one hand, all of these years later, Terminator 2 still does give off that cinematic high via its elaborately crafted set pieces, but what surrounds all of that is by and large rubbish.

Ironically, I used to find the "human" aspect a crucial backbone to what was great about Terminator 2. It is generally this aspect of the movie that people sing the praises of, especially when arguing that it is significantly better than the original. Watching Terminator 2 now, the whole John Connor/T2 bonding (along with cyborg's learning curve in being human-like) reeks of pandering, and is almost worse than the tacky love story subplot of The Terminator. It's possible that the maudlin nature and lazy comic relief would have been easier to stomach if John Connor wasn't such an obnoxious character and if they didn't rely on utilizing Arnold's penchant for one-liners.

Noting Wallace's irony for how the movie uses extensive FX within the framework of a technological cautionary tale of sorts, I can't say that I have an issue at all with this. It all comes down to how they are utilized, and never (save for T-1000's death scene) do the effects showboat the action of the film. It is the human element that delivers the visceral impact of these scenes. In particular, the character evolution of Sarah Connor (especially in relation/contrast to The Terminator) is notable here. That is not to say that the special effects within the context of Terminator 2 are inessential, but rather that they are not the film's anchor, unlike a number of effects-heavy blockbusters that are artificial to the point that even all of the actors come across as props.

A part of me feels bad for not shrugging off the goofy and lazily sentimental trappings of Terminator 2, but at this point I am too tired of the whole "a little something for everyone" approach to mass market entertainment to ignore it. But I still enjoy this one, and I likely always will.

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