Today I watched James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Some time after the events of the first film, Sarah Connor has been institutionalized because she can’t stop talking about the robot apocalypse and her now ten year old son John is in foster care. Of course he has become a precocious delinquent, his mother having taught him a host of anti-establishment tricks to get in trouble with. Unfortunately as the opening monologue informs us, there is a second Terminator coming back to hunt John as a kid, but also another warrior from the future. We see Schwarzenegger warp back first, possibly he is the returning Terminator? No the new assassin is a sleek modern model made of liquid metal! Arnie was actually the warrior from the future sent back to protect John as his future self managed to reprogram it to protect and serve him. With a new friend and the best pet in the world, John now realizes that his mother’s paranoid rantings were true and helps get her out of the mental ward. Now that the three have been reunited though, Sarah’s thoughts go back to something Reese had told her, something future John had told him to take back to her. He had told her that fate was what we make of it, that there was no fate and everything could be changed. So now the plan is not just to protect John but to stop Skynet from ever existing, by stopping it’s creators at Cyberdyne.
This film has deservedly become quite the classic, and it’s hard to argue with that considering how awesome the car chases are, how incredible the action is consistently, and the great special effects which have stood the test of time despite all logic. It also hosts Linda Hamilton playing a new and improved Sarah Connor, a performance that puts her in the upper echelons of female action heroes. The film evolves the Frankenstein style themes of it’s predecessor with strongly humanist ideals and hope for our race. Yet I find myself pining for the grim and extreme horror of the original, which has been replaced here with a boy and his robot narrative. Now, it’s a great one of those movies, easily in the top five a boy and his [blank] stories, I just miss the heaviness personally.
Really, objectively, the decision to go full action instead of retreading the horror elements is actually genius because it allows this film to be it’s own thing instead of redundant. Terminator 2 stands on it’s own as a masterpiece of American action, despite what misgivings I may have, it is simply, undeniably brilliant. It also serves as one of those determinations for one of my favorite action movie talking points, the changing of the guard from the Eighties muscle man to the Nineties’ lightweight style of dexterous action hero. This is personified in the battle between Robert Patrick’s flexible and liquid T-1000 and Arnie’s big, blocky, and heavy original model. I may not have as much love for this as I do the original, which is just such a perfect movie, but I cannot deny the greatness that is this amazing flick. 5/5