Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★★

A couple nitpicks went through my head during notable sections of James Cameron's masterful return to what is now the Terminator franchise. Ideas such as "If the T-1000 can melt into the helicopter, why didn't he do that when he attacked John in the car?" and "If the T-800 is said to know all about the human anatomy, then how come he doesn't know why John starts crying?" popped up, and they were things I just noticed with this viewing. For the past decade, all I cared about was the incredible action, the fantastic performances, and breakneck pacing. After so many rewatches, for the first time, I noticed these minor story problems. But as the end credits began rolling, only one thing was on my mind.

NO MATTER HOW MANY IMPERFECTIONS YOU FIND, THIS MOVIE IS STILL AMAZING.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day holds up today as one of the greatest films of the 90s, maybe even one of the greatest films full stop, in spite of those questionable story moments. This is because Cameron handles every single element at his absolute best, with none of the blind ambition that bogged down projects like The Abyss and the eventual Avatar. All that matters to him is execution, and you can see it by how he basically takes the plot of the original and does a completely different spin on it.

As stated earlier, the action setpieces are utterly breathtaking, each one of them having their own scenarios that Cameron takes advantage of with his assured direction. The editing perfectly cuts between the different characters, and creates a flow that rarely slows down even for dialogue scenes. Further enhancing the visceral impact is Brad Fiedel's iconic score, which flawlessly emphasizes perilous moments and knows when to be minimalist. A good chunk of why the action is so intense is because of that score, and the action would only be half as good if it didn't have such excellent music.

One thing consistent with the original are the great performances from the main cast, in which all convey their characters to perfection. Hamilton (in her best performance to date) shows off Sarah Connor's harder personality with ease, Schwarzenegger uses his limited range as an actor to perfectly slip into his iconic T-800, and Furlong, some bits of dialogue aside, really sells the unsympathetic and sympathetic sides of the young John Connor. Special attention must be given to Patrick's T-1000, who takes the challenge that Schwarzenegger took in the original of doing so much with so little.

I must go back and further praise the editing, which honestly makes this two hour and fifteen minute runtime feel like it was just half of that. On previous viewings, I always felt that the time spent in the desert was too long, thereby decreasing the intensity from the previous hour. However this time, I felt the character development between John & the T-800 and the absolutely horrifying dream sequence made that segment go by much faster. This also helps because the Theatrical Cut (the version I watched) maintains this pacing, while the Special Edition really pads this part out among other scenes.

I've spent a good number of words to describe Terminator 2: Judgment Day and ultimately reached the same conclusion as a lot of people: this is a masterpiece. I've lost count on how many times I've seen this film, and it still keeps its appeal and doesn't get dated like its predecessor. So to answer the old question "T1 or T2?", I won't hesitate to say T2, one of my favorite films of all time.

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