Reviewing The Sequel To a Cult Film That Turned Into a Kick Ass Franchise – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Seven years after the release of Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day is released to a very appreciative audience. This film is worthy of examination as it’s a rare case of a sequel possibly surpassing the original. Somehow, James Cameron managed to get everything right. He brought back Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton and even Michael Biehn appears in a dream sequence although his scene was cut in the final version but is included in the uncut version.

This film is set 13 years after the events of the first film and some really important events have happened in that time. Sarah has given birth to John (Edward Furlong) and began training him in weapons and survival skills that she has picked up from various men over the years. But John and Sarah’s relationship suffers when Sarah tries to blow up a computer factory (it’s not mentioned which one) and is arrested. She was stupid enough to tell the authorities about the coming war and is locked up in a mental institution. John is placed into foster care and is not allowed to see his mother. Now we’re all caught up, let have a look inside.

This film is tailored in such a way that maybe you could get away with watching it without having seen the first film but it does help, especially with the probably the biggest change in the film. Arnie is now the good guy, although the audience is not let on to that straight away. There is a new villain in town in the form of the shape-shifting robot, the T-1000 played so beautifully by Robert Patrick. When he emerges in the present, he steals the uniform of a police officer so he is perceived as the good guy and when Arnie shows up, he ravages some bikers and steals a guy’s clothes and bike. Because Arnie played the bad guy in the first film, it is naturally thought that that would
continue in the second film but only when both the T-1000 and Arnie both find John at the same time, is it revealed that he was sent back in time by John’s future self to protect him.

Here’s something that I just thought about whilst writing this. Let’s assume that future John sent back Arnie to protect his younger self because the enemy realised that the original assassination attempt on Sarah Connor failed. Why wouldn’t the enemy just try again with Sarah Connor? Kyle Reese has already been sent back in time and was killed so there would be no-one to impregnate Sarah and John wouldn’t exist. Seems perfectly logical to me but then again, one can think too much about these things especially when time travel is involved and it wouldn’t make a very good sequel. Anyway, back to T2.

The T-1000 is trying to locate John and knows that he will try and spring his mother from the mental house and here is where we meet up with Sarah Connor once again. She is under the care of Dr Silberman and is consistently having nightmares about the end of the world. Being locked away from her son and being reminded of what’s to come, she’s becoming more paranoid, more aggressive and more buff. Not only has Sarah Connor’s personality changed since the first film but her physical demeanour has changed also. Her body has become tighter and fitter which is consistent with the events between 1 and 2. As she has been training John, she has been learning herself and can protect herself against even the most unthinkable of adversaries. I think that deep down, she knew that another Terminator would be sent back in time to kill her son and she has been preparing for that day. When she is told that another man who looks
remarkably like the Terminator she faced 13 years ago has come back and her son is missing, she kicks her crazy into high gear and comes pretty close to escaping too until John and the Terminator come to the rescue.

T2 also sees the Terminator becoming a fully fledged character as John and Sarah re-program its CPU so he can learn different ways of behaving. John experiments by teaching him different phrases when interacting with humans. There’s a really funny deleted scene where John tries to teach the Terminator how to smile. I would really recommend looking this up on YouTube, it’s solid gold. John also tries to teach the Terminator how killing people is wrong. In fact, I don’t think the Terminator kills one person throughout the whole movie. I’m not saying no one was seriously injured, but I don’t think anyone died. John may have learned that killing people is wrong but he didn’t get it from his mother as he and the Terminator have to stop Sarah from killing Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton), he man who creates the neural net processor (a learning computer) that would be used as the basis for Skynet. The Terminator goes through the
sequence of events that leads to the apocalypse and concludes that Mr Dyson is solely responsible. Sarah takes it upon herself to terminate Mr Dyson and therefore prevent the war from happening but at the crucial moment, she can’t pull the trigger. Instead, they settle for blowing up Cyberdyne, the company the Miles works for therefore all of the information regarding the neural net processor will be destroyed and no one can finish the project.

It would appear that since the first movie, a conspiracy has taken place that started at the factory where Sarah crushed the first Terminator. The smashed up body was taken by God knows who and dismantled. The broken CPU was then used for as the basis for Miles design of the neural net processor. That’s why Sarah couldn’t prove what had happened at the factory because there was no evidence. A new rule is then introduced, All future technology must be destroyed to stop things being fucked up.

I would say that the two most emotional scenes in the film happen during the final confrontation at the steel mill. The first is after John is nearly duped by the T-1000 who is posing as a wounded Sarah when the real Sarah appears behind the impostor and shoots it with a shotgun. Due to her wounded right shoulder, she is forced to pump the shotgun one-handed. This section is seriously bad-ass as she pump shell after shell into the T-1000, forcing it closer the edge that is over a vat of molten steel. When I watch that scene, I can see the anger on Sarah’s face as she becomes closer to killing one of the things that ruined her life and killed the man she loved. But sadly, it’s not quite enough. She did a great job though.

The second and probably most emotional scene in the film comes after the T-1000 is blown into the molten steel by a one-armed Terminator. John proceeds to throw the CPU and the robot arm that he stole from Cyberdyne into the vat, destroying them. But unfortunately, the Terminator must be destroyed also. He has succeeded in his mission and protected John from the T-1000. It’s heartbreaking to watch John beg the Terminator not to go. I can’t really blame him. When I was a kid, I would have loved 6-foot robot that could beat people up as a friend too. But the inevitable must happen and the Terminator is slowly lowered into the molten steel by Sarah. With the nightmare finally over, John
and Sarah are free. Or not, depending on what ending you get.

The original ending to T2 showed an elderly Sarah with an adult John and her granddaughter playing in the park from her nightmare that would always get wiped out in a nuclear blast. Through a narration by Sarah she says that everything is pretty much cool now and proposes that ‘If a robot can learn the value of human life, then maybe we can too.’ I can only presume that this ending was scrapped because it would tie up the series and leave no room for a sequel. So a new ending was filmed which showed a road and Sarah saying something along the lines of how they maybe free for now but the war is not over. That’s not a direct quote because I can’t remember the original quote and
can’t be arsed looking it up. It’s been a long week.

T2 was far ahead of it’s time in the old CGI department using state of the art graphics that was mostly used for the shape-shifting of the T-1000. Once again, Stan Winston returned to do the make-up and prosthetic effects for the Terminator and did brilliant work with the gradual degradation of the Terminator as it sustained more and more damage. His work did not go unheeded as mentioned in the article for the Terminator (1984), Mr Winston plus the make-up and visual effects team received two Oscars for their work on T2.

As the T-1000 is a shape-shifter, it can replicate other humans and that means that two representations of the same person must be of screen at the same time. Whilst I’m sure a bit of split screen was not beyond the CGI FX department, this effect was used with … are you ready? … casting actors who had an identical twin. I’m not kidding. During the scene in the mental hospital where the guard is getting coffee and the T-1000 comes up from the floor and morphs into an exact copy of the guard, that’s his twin!. They are Don and Dan Stanton whose film credits together also include Gremlins 2 (1990). Another set of twins used in the film is Linda and Leslie Hamilton. Oh yes, Linda has a twin and she is mostly used on-screen when the T-1000 impersonated Sarah in the steel mill. She was also in another scene that ended up being deleted from the final product.

With an inflated budget of $102 Million, T2 raked in the big bucks by taking a remarkable $519.8 Million at the box office. The success of this film hardly needs examination but what I will say is that this sequel took on the challenge of turning the bad guy into the good guy with infinite success but also to turn a somewhat machine into a fully fledged character, capable of understanding what it means to be a person having been taught by a child who is still trying to accept his future. This more emotional and sentimental tone gave the audience something to cling onto and has given this film a rare accolade as being one of the only sequels to surpass the original.

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