SPOILER ALERT – THERE’S NO T-1,000,000
Terminator 2: Judgement Day 3D
Review by Paul Preston
Where’s the hype on this one? Arguably the best action movie of the 1990s is back in theaters and I had to remember it was happening as opposed to getting stoked for weeks in advance. Needless to say, I went, but I’m concerned the audience of newbies this movie deserves may not make it out to see this behemoth of action/adventure. Consider this your nudge.
Is it fair to say Terminator 2: Judgment Day is James Cameron’s masterpiece? They guy made the original Terminator and Aliens as well as Avatar and Titanic. He’s got a penchant for pushing the boundaries of fantasy and movie magic. He’s had a streak of excellence that I wish was matched by a streak of short waits between projects, but Cameron shoots big, so there’s often a long stretch between films (it’s already been eight years since Avatar). In shooting big, his team often finds itself at the request end of technology that simply doesn’t exist, like how to make the liquid metal T-1000 in T2. But Cameron pressed the crew until he got what he wanted (they create technology where there wasn’t any, in order to accomplish goals), and the result is an effects-filled tour de force that visually holds up twenty-six years later (and is his masterpiece).
Of course, what makes T2 fantastic isn’t just the never-seen-before effects, there’s a weighty story at the core and great performances from Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Edward Furlong is also there. Cameron has a knack for guiding his leads to Best Actress nominations (Sigourney Weaver in Aliens and Kate Winslet in Titanic), a ball was dropped in bypassing Hamilton’s emotional turn as Sarah Connor – wracked with awful dreams and saddled with the knowledge of an inescapable future, she’s magnetic. Not to mention the character arc she’s pulled off between the two films. I do believe both Thelma and Louise were nominated that year, you could’ve slid one of them aside for Linda Hamilton. Also, I don’t think I’m making much of a statement to say that James Cameron is the man who has directed Arnold the best. Between the Terminator films and True Lies, Cameron always successfully captures Arnold’s cool factor and he also never saddled him with more than he was capable of pulling off. His Terminator is robotic but the gravitas with which he speaks of (and delivers) the future never play corny.
If you’re unfamiliar with the film (go see 1984’s The Terminator), it’s the ongoing timeline towards nuclear destruction at the hands of the machines (due to happen in 1997). T2 picks up with Sarah Connor, previously targeted by machines from the future looking to kill her before she gave birth to her son, who becomes a human resistance leader. Now she’s had her son and the machines come back in time again to kill him, with one robot (Schwarzenegger) sent back to protect him. Cameron and co-screenwriter William Wisher, Jr. balance thrills with humor (arguably not his strongest point), decent handling of time travel timelines (always hard to pull off unscathed) and a complicated thruline to destroy the evil Terminator and perhaps Skynet himself.
Along the way, I find the Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton) storyline very sad – an accomplished man faced to look at the future he creates and takes steps to erase it – and the threat of nuclear holocaust very scary – punched up by fiery visual effects. Robert Patrick somehow brings personality to the T-1000, which itself has no personality, and the overall production is now brought to you in 3D. So, it’s called Terminator 2: 3D, the same name given the ride that ran for decades at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando, and this now acts as a precursor and companion piece to that short film which also included Schwarzenegger, Hamilton and Furlong. The 3D conversion is pretty flawless (the print didn’t take much of a hit, darkness-wise) and this film was made before 3D was all the rage so there isn’t any goofy throw-stuff-at-the-camera 3D which could distract from the solidly told story.
With a story that’s better than Aliens, less corny than Titanic and as far as Avatar goes, one word – Unobtanium. Yes, Terminator 2: Judgment Day might just be Cameron’s masterpiece. I don’t know what the occasion, most re-releases don’t happen for a film’s twenty-SIXTH anniversary, or maybe it’s Arnold’s 70th birthday, but whatever the reason, go see it while the overwhelming theatrical experience is waiting for you.
Directed by: James Cameron
Release Date: August 25, 2017
Run Time: 156 Minutes
Distributor: Distrib Films