- Directed by James Cameron
- July 1, 1991 (Los Angeles) / July 3, 1991 (United States)
Skynet sends another Terminator into the past to kill the young John Connor, but this time John’s future self sends a familiar looking model to be his protector against this new threat.
Judgment Day is an absolutely fantastic film that while not as good as the original, is among the best sequels to any film ever. I know the majority opinion is that this is a better film than the original, but this movie had a significantly better budget and more advanced special effects and is able to do more things that make you go “Wow!” than its predecessor could. That does not make it a better film. What the original has going for it was a much tighter story and a detailed development of a brand-new universe and characters before the end. It is a much more intense and completely original story. It does so much with much less and created a desire among fans for more.
What is a Terminator film without the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a, well, Terminator? The Terminator is the movie role that made Schwarzenegger an icon. Conan the Barbarian may have turned him into a star but being the Terminator made him iconic. This is probably the role (even before this movie) that he was most identified with. While I think he could have possibly skipped latter films (that notion becoming stronger with each of the sequels) he NEEDED to come back for this one.
We all know Linda Hamilton returned here as Sarah Connor. I am glad she was not portrayed the same in this sequel as she was in the first film. She had to be a much tougher individual by this point being fully aware that her son was the savior of humanity and that doomsday was coming. Living it up in suburbia or being a working mom would have seemed rather questionable. Carrying on with life as normal would have been ridiculous. She was damaged and angry and hurt and lashing out of the world. Her fear of tomorrow made her obsessive over prepping her son as much as possible to fight the future enemy.
In the first film John Connor just gets talked about. We do not even get an actor standing in for him in a future shot but strangely John became a well-defined character in that film having never appeared on the screen. We understood the man he is and by the end understood the difficult decision he made to send his own father to his death. That really is a messed-up decision to be forced to make. He sent his dad to certain death!
Here we finally get to see John. Edward Furlong stars in the role that for a time made him a household name. You can see this John becoming a leader even if the character necessarily cannot. He does draw others to him and is a creative and quick thinker. His ability to inspire loyalty in others is shown with his friend that puts himself in the figurative line of fire by trying to distract Robert Patrick as well as warning John. It would have been a very short movie without that character.
This is a sequel that upped the game by introducing the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). This liquid metal Terminator could be anybody and because of its nature was not a machine that could merely be smashed or shot up. How do you stop something that can pull itself back together after it has been shot and even shattered? Interestingly the freezing that it experienced in the finale seemed to have damaged it a little bit. I watched the extended cut ladies and gentlemen so there are a few things in there that did not make it to the theatrical release.
This film made Robert Patrick a star. According to him he was living broke in an apartment having done very little in the way of screen work. Schwarzenegger was all big and brawny while Patrick was thin and athletic. A smart move rather than casting two bodybuilders to face off against each other as many Terminator knock off films do.
Judgment Day is a film that gets everything right as a follow up. It extends the concept in new and logical ways. It ups the stakes. It does that by allowing the possibility of a better tomorrow if the characters succeed in the final act.
James Cameron created a very good film here. This film made that future uncertain. It also opened the door for numerous sequels to follow. Whether he realized it or not, Cameron unleashed a monster. I do not think the immediate two that followed were that bad, but the first Terminator film created a finite time loop and a definitive future. If you continued with the time loop idea there were only so many films you could make since the future was set.
This film made that future uncertain. By making the future and extension time in this fictional universe very fluid he allowed for an open-ended narrative with endless continuation of diminishing returns. Genesys was mediocre at best and Dark Fate was just terrible.
With a better budget the action was certainly bigger. That truck chase down that canal is one of the best chases in film even if you could see it as mimicking the finale chase from the original. It just crashes through the barrier and charges at our heroes.
And who can forget that song? Guns N’ Roses was at the height of their fame in the top of their game and they delivered one of the great film songs even though “You Could Be Mine” has absolutely nothing to do with the movie it’s in. Still it just is still very identifiable with this movie. Listen to the lyrics. The song talks about band member Izzy Stradlin’s relationship with his girlfriend as well as a legal situation with Axl Rose which at the time the song was written nothing was happening with. At least that is what I took with the latter. The former is confirmed.
Sarah is haunted by her knowledge of the future. John thinks his mother is loony until proof walks right up to him. These two individuals have to patch up their relationship. Sarah has been treating John like a commodity to be protected rather than an actual child to be loved. This has created a division and while John wants the love of a mother, he does not necessarily want the love of HIS mother until he realizes that she was telling the truth.
This film also benefits from the use of what was then groundbreaking special effects. Admittedly they do not look as polished now as they did then, but the level of CGI used in this film was unprecedented. You could not have done the liquid Terminator in practical effects. Reportedly The Abyss was what convinced people to include the T-1000.
On the occasions you see the T-1000 impersonating a human in the exact same room that is actually a shot of twins. For years I thought it was split screen. Linda Hamilton’s a twin sister Leslie Hamilton Gearren (who has since passed) doubled for her as her evil doppelgänger. Just proves the old ways still have a place in film.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the best sequels to any film ever. It ups the game and extends the concept in new and exciting and logical ways. It is a worthy successor to the original. Watch it!