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Terminator 2: Judgement Day

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Canny Cooksey, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley

Review by John Beachem
3 stars out of 4

It's been ten years since the first terminator came from the future and tried to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of John Connor (Edward Furlong), who will grow up to lead the human resistance against the machines. Now, two such machines have come to the past. One, the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), has been sent by the resistance to protect young John Connor. The other, an advanced prototype called the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), has been sent to kill John. At this point in time, John is a juvenile delinquent, living with his foster parents (Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley), who he can't stand. Sarah Connor is locked in a mental institute, under the "care" of Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen). Now that the machines have returned, Sarah realizes there may be only one way to defeat them once and for all: kill Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), the man directly responsible for the creation of the machines; or destroy Skynet, the massive computer, now in its infancy, which will one day control the world.

Even now, nine years after its release, the special effects in James Cameron's "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" are astounding. In honor of its recent re-release on DVD, I've decided to write a review for this classic film. This was a film released just at the end of the really special special effects era. Back when we could still be dazzled by what was on screen. Now it's grown quite impossible to do that. After all, most people weren't particularly impressed by the latest "Star Wars" film, and that featured some of the most dazzling effects ever. Still, because it was released when it was, people will always remember spectacular shots of the T-1000 reassembling itself after Arnold blasts it into a million pieces, or turning into liquid, squeezing through a window, and changing back to human form. These are the kind of astounding scenes that, if released today, would be viewed as nothing new. Is that a testament to how far we've come, or to how much we've come to expect from our movies? End of philosophical moment.

"Terminator 2" is a Schwarzenegger movie, through and through. It hides behind a fairly intelligent plot, but when Arnold gets lines like "Hasta la vista, baby," you know what kind of movie this is. If you're not a fan of Arnold, in all his cheesy glory, stay away from this movie. Otherwise, you'll love seeing him in his prime. Robert Patrick gives a remarkably good turn as the T-1000, but he's no Arnold (as if you needed to be told that). Linda Hamilton plays Sarah Connor more than a little differently this time around. In the first film Sarah was obviously confused by what was happening. In this one she's so prepared it's almost frightening. She has hidden gun caches, training in the use of every weapon imaginable, an insanely high tolerance for pain, and a mean streak that would scare Hannibal Lecter. Finally, we have newcomer (at the time) Edward Furlong. He actually gave a fairly good performance for a first time actor, only overdoing it on the emotion every now and then. I'm not sure if this is a sign of real acting talent from Furlong, or directorial ability from Cameron (back before he sold out to the man and made "Titanic"). Whatever it was, I've been sorry to see Furlong wasted on useless movies since his debut ("Detroit Rock City", anyone?).

I have only one major complaint with "Terminator 2", but it's a doozy. In the first "Terminator" film, the story revolved entirely around Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese trying to escape the killing machine. There was nothing that could stop it, nothing that could slow it down. It just kept coming and coming. This filled that movie with a wonderful sense of dread and foreboding, as we watched our heroes try in vain to stop their enemy. In "Terminator 2", the story shifts drastically. It's no longer about trying to escape the terminator, this one is about trying to stop Skynet and change the future. Now I know they couldn't make this movie about the exact same thing as the first one, but I think if you compare the two the first script is superior. That's not to say this one is bad, it's just not as dark, twisted, and (frankly) entertaining as its predecessor. Through most segments of this movie, all I could think about was wanting the T-1000 to come back on screen. I really didn't care about a computer factory being destroyed.

Special effects aside, there are a few other really great things about "Terminator 2". The action scenes are marvelously shot, both gun fights and the hand to hand combats. There are two really well done car chases in the film: one involving John Connor on a motorcycle and the T-1000 in a semi; the other involving a helicopter and a police van. Both these chase scenes do a great job building suspense, and Cameron knows exactly when to call them to a halt. The film's score, by composer Brad Fiedel ("True Lies") is simply perfect. It uses a lot of the same music he created for the first film, but it sounds more metallic and machine like this time around. The film does run a long 137 minutes (152 for the director's cut), but the action seldom lets up and it shouldn't feel half that long. I'd recommend "Terminator 2" to those who enjoyed the first one, and to fans of science fiction in general. I wouldn't recommend it to those looking for a movie about time travel because Cameron generally ignores all the traditional arguments regarding paradoxes and such (rightfully so, I might add). I give the movie four out of five stars.

Copyright 1996 John Beachem

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