Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★½

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a melancholic study of what it means to be human. That doesn’t mean it lacks excitement – Judgement Day is more exciting than many action movies I’ve seen, including its predecessor – but it pairs the excitement with serenity, with a search for possibility, with humanity, and the result is more heartfelt than the word “Terminator” would indicate.

Judgement Day avoids being a retread of The Terminator with a twist on the same premise: an assassin and a protector are sent to the past to prevent/ensure the survival of human resistance leader John Connor. Except this time, both assassin and protector are cyborgs, the protector bears the face of Sarah’s former would-be killer, and there’s no middleman anymore; it’s John himself, presently 10 years old and alone, who’s the target. Sarah, meanwhile, is imprisoned in a mental facility because her knowledge of the future is taken for delusions.

Judgement Day looks at humanity through two distinct lenses: one that knows and one that discovers, both magnifying the human little things. A cloud of doom looms over, present most prominently in Sarah’s thoughts and visions. After her son and his protector break her out, she seems to wander in a world that revolves around the moments so easily overlooked. She wants to survive, she wants humanity to survive, but knows that the odds are scarce, so she prepares to say goodbye.

On the other end, the reprogrammed Terminator sent to protect John has to grow closer to humans in order to fulfill his mission. A change in programming makes him more pleasant to be around, but there’s much more to learn. Judgement Day develops a friendship akin to E.T. and Elliot’s between him and John, and John teaches more than he gives orders. What comes naturally to John is a revelation to the Terminator and leads to a complexity that a machine shouldn’t be capable of, to mercy and deliberate disobeying of orders. John gives him an appreciation for human trivialities, and he gives both John and Sarah an appreciation for life as more than surviving.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day tugs at the heartstrings, and it does so thoughtfully, with as much grandeur in its human scope as it has in its excitement. It’s cool to feel and to cry because cyborgs can neither feel nor cry, and it’s up to us humans to embrace life.

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