Written and directed
by James Cameron.
Cinematography by Adam Greenberg.
Music by Brad Fiedel.
Special effects by Stan Winston and Dennis Muren.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong,
Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley.
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|Terminator 2: Judgement Day
By Jim Emerson
James Cameron's sensational Terminator 2: Judgement Day isn't
just the best action movie of recent years -- though it certainly is that, hands down. If
you don't count other Cameron pictures (The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss) you'd have to go back -- past Die Hard,
all the way to 1982's ultra-high- octane The Road Warrior -- to find a picture as
kinetically exhilarating as this one. But genre considerations aside, Terminator 2 is
simply the most visually dynamic and imaginative American movie to come out since GoodFellas.
Like Cameron's previous action/science-fiction thrillers, Terminator
2 pushes the outside of its genre envelope, and the payoff is awesome. This sequel
does to 1984's The Terminator what Cameron's Aliens did to Ridley
Scott's Alien: It siezes the original premise with both hands and then runs
(wild) with it. In some ways, this movie is almost the antithesis of the first film, an
Anti-Terminator. Although structurally similar to its predecessor (it begins with
similar scenes of the Terminators' arrival, and climaxes with a tanker-truck explosion and
a showdown/chase in a huge factory), Terminator 2 doesn't just repeat a formula.
It uses these familiar touchstones as a foundation for something bigger and more complex
than the first movie.
A T-800 model Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), like the
one featured in the first film, again returns in time to find future rebel-leader John
Connor (Edward Furlong), now 10 years old. But this time the T-800 is programmed to
protect young John against a more sophisticated T-1000 model Terminator (Robert Patrick),
who, like Schwarzenegger's T-800 in the earlier picture, is out to exterminate the kid and
thus claim the future for the machines.
Cameron loves to toy with genre conventions,
turning them inside-out or upside-down just to make things more interesting, less routine.
So in this one, he has John insist that the T-800, who is programmed to obey him, refrain
from killing anybody. What? An Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in which Arnold is
forbidden to blow anybody away? You can almost hear Cameron cackling perversely behind the
scenes. But that twist -- which results in a much lower body count that your average
action picture -- is just one of the paradoxes that makes Terminator 2 so
remarkably inventive and enjoyable. Cameron, a superb stylist who really knows how to put
images together for maximum effect, is also smart enough to realize that action movies
don't have to be stupid just because they're action movies.
The sub-title of the picture is Judgement Day and
that's what it's really about. The heroine and Terminator target of the first movie, Sarah
Connor (a now exceedingly buff Linda Hamilton), has spent 10 years in a mental institution
knowing that on August 29, 1997, a computerized defensive sattelite system called Skynet
will go berzerk and vaporize 3 billion people.
That Judgement Day -- prefigured in a dream
sequence that contains the most terrifying, hallucinatory nuclear- armaggedon imagery ever
filmed, outside of documentary footage -- is what Sarah acts decisively to avoid. Instead
of impotently accepting the fate of the Earth, she chooses to rewrite history as she goes
along -- and in doing so faces her own ethical dilemma, her own day of judgement.
Along the way, there's a scooter, motorcycle and semi- truck
chase through some labyrinthine LA river canals that joins the ranks of the great ones in Bullit,
The French Connection and To Live and Die in LA. But what's going
to blow most people away about Terminator 2 won't be its chase sequences or its
clever time-travel plot or its pacifist message, but its villain. The shape-changing
liquid-metal T-1000 isn't quite like anything else that's ever been realized on screen --
probably because the computer and film technology to create him hasn't existed until now.
This guy is truly state-of-the-art in the special effects department. The T-1000 is a
chameleon killing machine that looks human most of the time, but can also assume the shape
and density of solid objects. Projectiles may blow holes right through him, but he seals
up again in seconds.
Similarly, there are a few story
holes riddling Terminator 2 -- mostly involving properties of the T-1000 that are
only selectively deployed -- but the movie keeps hurtling along at such a breakneck pace
that it sails right over them. At last: a blockbuster summer movie that doesn't
disappoint. Terminator 2: Judgement Day does more than fulfill expectations; it
actually surpasses them.
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