Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★★

Why is T2 such a masterpiece of mainstream cinema? It's because the film mixes outstanding action, flawless structure and genuine emotional weight.

The action speaks for itself and the strength of the structure doesn't need much explaining, just look at how the film is divided into different acts, each one serving a narrative purpose and compare it to the structural mess that you find in a lot of underedited modern cineplex fare (overlong scenes in Pirates 3 or an hour long battle in Transformers 3).

The final piece of the jigsaw and the one that elevates it above the competition is the emotional weight. I'm not talking about the film's sentimentalism which works together cringeworthy moments (no problemo, thumbs up in the molten metal) into a surprisingly successful idea (Terminator as father figure). I'm referring to the film's seriousness when it deals with the human cost on the band of few who are cursed with the knowledge of mankind's imminent demise.

Sarah Connor has gone from being an ordinary woman who has enough strength to survive with a little help from a horny future-man in the first film, to being someone whose ability to function in contemporary society is utterly broken but whose focus is completely on the future. She's what happens when you're the idiot wasting your time, and the nutter on the street corner shouting about the end of the world is the one who knows exactly what they're doing. How James Cameron went from writing this character to the misogyny of True Lies is anyone's guess.

John Connor bears the burden of a parent whose concern is on pure survival and step-parents struggling to deal with his emotions and despite THAT voice, Edward Furlong does a pretty good job here. Elsewhere we have a computer expert who manages to go from a worry-free middle class techie to going on a suicide mission in the course of one evening in a way that is completely plausible.

If the characters don't succeed, the world will end. Big deal, loads of films deal with the end of the world you might say. Well ask yourself if you cared about the world ending in The Avengers? Or whether mankind would be enslaved in Transformers? Because I never for a moment contemplated the true horror of those concepts during those films, because I didn't believe that the characters had contemplated them either.

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