Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick.
Plot: A shape-shifting cyborg is sent back from the future to kill John Connor before he can grow up to lead the resistance; a protector is sent, too.
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Awards: Won 4 Oscars - Best Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Makeup. Nom. for 2 Oscars - Best Cinematography, Film Editing.
Runtime: 152min (director's cut)
Rating: NC16 for strong sci-fi action and violence, and for language.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
"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."
There can be no argument that Terminator 2: Judgment Day represents an undisputed landmark in the science-fiction action thriller genre. Quite simply one of the most entertaining films ever made, Terminator 2, like Aliens (1986), is an example of a great sequel that exceeds expectations yet does not overshadow its prequel, The Terminator (1984), which not only made Arnold Schwarzenegger an action star, but was the career launching pad for a filmmaking genius called James Cameron.
Cameron, arguably the leading science-fiction visionary in Hollywood with films such as Avatar (2009), Aliens, and The Abyss (1989), writes and directs a very human story in a world that is on the verge of being ravaged by machines. Two 'Terminators' are sent from the future - one to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong), the other to protect him. Schwarzenegger plays T-101, the latter 'Terminator', while Robert Patrick creates one of the most frightening villains in movie history - the T-1000.
Schwarzenegger will forever be known for his roles in the 'Terminator' films. In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone else in that role. The Austrian bodybuilder-turned-actor may have limited acting capabilities, but his weakness is his strength here, giving a consistently expressionless display that is a perfect match to the cold yet cool persona of the 'Terminator', if it ever had one.
The action sequences are loud, brash, Michael Bay-esque, but are bolder and are executed to nail-biting perfection. The T-1000 is a brilliant creation by Industrial Light & Magic, winning an Oscar for best visual effects. Terminator 2 raised the bar for CGI technology in the early 1990s, and the effects still withstand the test of time in this day and age, intriguing viewers even on the umpteen viewing.
Strip down all the mind-blowing action set-pieces, explosions, suspense, violence, and brain-twisting science-fiction elements such as time travel, and you get a Hollywood blockbuster with a strong (and rare) emotional core that is the essence of Cameron's vision for Terminator 2. "I know now why you cry. But it's something I can never do," a simple line uttered by Schwarzenegger's character that rings startlingly loud with emotional truth.
Terminator 2 is also a commentary on how Man always seeks to be destructive instead of being constructive. To destroy what we create. And ultimately to destroy ourselves. Toying with the ideas of Man vs. machine, Man's over-reliance on machines, and the prospect of a horrifying nuclear holocaust, Cameron wants us to know that the fate of humanity lies strictly in our hands.
Terminator 2 comes very highly recommended, and is in my opinion the greatest film of its genre ever made. Cameron will probably never do a film as insanely good as this.
Verdict: The greatest of all sci-fi action thrillers, and the best film James Cameron has ever made.
GRADE: A+ (10/10 or 5 stars)