Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★★

When it comes to sequels, the question always arises, which are the best ones? A few always come to mind, but the one that sticks out more than the others for me is the sequel to The Terminator. With Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron went bigger and better than before, and the result is a near-perfect blockbuster of epic proportions.

Set 11 years after the original, Sarah Connor is holed up at a mental facility, while her rebellious son John (Edward Furlong), the soon-to-be leader of the resistance, lives with foster parents. Meanwhile, two different Terminators arrive from the future with different goals, the T-1000, which has been sent by Skynet to kill John (thus eliminating him in the future), and a reprogrammed model of the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that has been sent by John's future self to protect him. As the T-800 attempts to keep John from being assassinated, the accompanying Sarah wants to prevent the impending Judgment Day by taking out Miles Dyson, a scientist at Cyberdyne Systems whose research led to the creation of Skynet.

With a much higher budget than before to work with, Cameron also went all out with the action. Every big set-piece in T2 is a relentlessly thrilling onslaught, from it's dirtbike/semi-truck chase through the spillways of Los Angeles and the break-in at the Cyberdyne Systems facility (which features a minigun spouting Arnold clearing a horde of police cars without killing anyone), to the final showdown inside a burning hot steel mill. With a diverse use of locations, vehicles and weapons, along with a heavy dose of explosive mayhem and gunplay, it's clear that Cameron spared no resources in bringing the action sequences to life.

Notably, T2 was also considered groundbreaking for its use of special-effects at the time, notably in the realm of computer animation. Regardless of what you think about the heavy use of CG in movies today, there's no doubt that Cameron was inventive with its usage here. It makes the liquid-metal-based T-1000 a formidable creation that's even more of an unstoppable force than the T-800 in the original, with its ability to take on the appearance of other beings, morph it's way through tight spots, form lethal weaponry out it's limbs and survive practically anything striking it. It's presence is only made scarier by it's ordinary-looking appearance (that of the brilliant Robert Patrick), as opposed to the heavier-built T-800.

Between all the explosive, larger-than-life action however is a good deal of emotion and heart. At some point, the pace slows down and it becomes a road movie of sorts, showing the bonding between John and the reformed T-800, the latter acting as a protective father figure and the former teaching him the ways of being more "human". Some think the idea of making Arnold the good guy was a bad one, which I disagree with. He still remains a force to be reckoned with and it's a choice that fits the narrative more (as well as Arnie's more heroic image at the time). I also like how the movie does a good job of setting up how Sarah has changed since the events of the original. Compared to the average, vulnerable young woman she was before, she is much more rugged, battle-hardened and prepared.

While it tends to be for better or worse (depending on who you are), somewhat lighter than its predecessor, a bleak and foreboding tone is still retained throughout, especially when it comes to the implications of Judgment Day (that nightmare sequence still remains disturbing to this day). Brad Fiedel's scoring work has never sounded better than it does here, downplaying the minimalist, electronic-based work on the original for something more industrial-based and bombastic, the pounding steel-drums perfectly embodying the hopelessness of the war-torn future that potentially lies ahead.

Over the years I've been watching movies, it's been hard for me to call any movie truly "flawless", and while I can't say I can reserve that label for T2, it's definitely up there. In my personal view, this is not only one of the best sequels of all time, it's also one of the best action films ever, period. Again, some may prefer the smaller-scale and grittiness of the original, which I completely respect. However, it's this one that slightly gains the upper hand for me.

As far as I'm concerned, the series ended here. No further follow-ups were really necessary after this one set the bar so high.


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