Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★★

(The Average Joe’s Movie Club Cast Episode 13)

The ultimate killing machine learns the value of human life through the friendship he develops with the boy he has been programmed to protect.

"Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him."

Director James Cameron's T2 is not only one of the most iconic action movies ever made, but also among the best sequels of all time, right alongside another one of his films, 'Aliens' from 1986. This masterful film starring the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers the perfect combination of great action set pieces, compelling characters, special effects, a fantastic musical theme and score, and even delivers a new and improved Terminator model as the villain.

Terminator 2 has had a huge influence on my love for movies. And from time to time my Dad who rewatches it with me every few years loves to quote the line "Hasta la vista, baby." I saw bits and pieces of it on cable growing up and I remember being really freaked out by that scene when the T-1000 stabs the foster dad through the head while he is drinking from a milk carton. I finally saw it all the way through when I was in middle school, and have seen it countless times since. And for being an over two-hour movie it really flies by with its great balance of action and character moments.

Also, it is fun to think about how T2 may just have more home video releases than any other movie, with all the format and special edition upgrades they have pushed out over the years. Since I last watched the movie at the start of the year and did this rewatch for The Average Joe's Movie Club Cast ... I decided to go ahead and pick up the much-hated 4K release, to check it out for myself. And I thought this latest release looked great, and I liked how Cameron had the noticeable stunt motorcycle driver's face CGIed over with Arnie's face.

Alright, let's get back to why this movie is so awesome! And I must dare to say that I think T2 is the ultimate version of the boy and his dog story ... but in this case, the dog is a massive badass Terminator.

Spoilers...

The movie kicks off with a bang as we get these images of a nuclear blast destroying everything in LA, which leads to the war with the machines. We are then quickly transported to a futuristic battle filled with laser blasts, as the iconic metal terminator soldiers wage war against the human resistance, complete with those sweet battle jets and vehicles. Next, we get narration setting up the story about how two Terminators were sent to the past, with one programmed to protect the leader of the resistance John Connor, and the other sent to destroy him ... as the shot transitions to a wall of flames that is paired with Brad Fiedel’s masterful musical theme that mixes metallic-sounding percussion with orchestral rhythms to create this intense and epic soundscape.

The special effects hold up so well for an early 90s film, especially all the moments when the T-1000 shows off his liquid metal abilities. The best one is probably when he is rising out of the floor in the mental hospital. I would say the only special effect that does look a little dated is the black portals that appear when the Terminators arrive.

Robert Patrick was an excellent choice to play the lean villainous T-1000, to contrast Schwarzenegger's muscular Terminator design. The T-1000’s blade weapons almost make him feel like the killer in a slasher movie, and I love that dinosaur-like screeching noise he makes when in distress. And the effects for his character get better as the movie goes along as we get the scene when he gets blasted apart after being frozen, and a short time later when the souls of all those he copied seem to scream out as he violently thrashers around while being melted into the hot liquid steel.

“Come with me if you want to live!”

Early on in Schwarzenegger's career, he was given some perfect roles that really showed off his talent. At the beginning of T2, it is so fun to watch him be a badass as he gets clothes from the biker bar, and throw these super intimidating stares at people. Other great Arnold moments from this movie include:

- When he steps on that rose just before the reveal that he is John’s protector
- Him spinning the shotgun to reload while driving a motorcycle
- The Gatling gun scene always makes me smile with how awesome it is, and how he registers no kills to comply with John’s order
- Him becoming more human-like during his enduring character moments with John
- Him rising up to fire that last grenade at the T-1000
- And watching this as an adult, I cannot help but get teary-eyed when he gives the thumbs up while being lowered down into the hot steel

Linda Hamilton is also fantastic in the story as she has grows into this hardened warrior, determined to do all she can to stop Judgment Day regardless of what anybody including her son feels. Her starting off locked in the mental hospital enables her to have this arc that begins with her as this cold crazy woman, to then later going out solo to kill the scientist responsible for Skynet being launched.

"The whole thing goes: The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves."

All the action set pieces are stunning to watch from the motorcycle and semi-truck chase in the canal, the escape from the mental hospital, the attack on Cyberdyne Systems, which then perfectly leads to the finale at the steel factory. My only complaint is that the action scenes are so fast-paced and seamless, that you could miss a major development like a helicopter crash if you look away from the screen for just a moment. Heck, the story of John and Arnie coming together to stop the T-1000 and prevent Judgement Day is so entertaining that I barely even think about the whole paradox of the time travel stuff.

I could go on and on even longer talking about all of the great little moments I love from Terminator 2. I have seen the film so many times including twice this year, so I think it would be good to hold off at least a decade before revisiting it again, so I can try to make my next awesome experience watching it feel as fresh as possible.

“The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”

Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!

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