Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day


On the exclusive list of 'worthy sequels', but the first is still my favorite.

As action movie sequels go, T2 wrote the rules that would be used -- for better or worse -- for years after. Build bigger and more elaborately-staged action set-pieces. Throw in some call-backs. The humour beats are standard practice for sequels, which I could do without in T2 but it doesn't ruin the film. Sequels do it on a regular basis, and there's some rationale to it; returning to the same world loses some of the thrill, so add levity. Just ask Freddy Krueger.

Easily the biggest stroke of genius Cameron did was to make Arnold (T800-M101, for those of us keeping track) a good guy Terminator this time around, and send back an upgrade as the antagonist. Less inspired sequels, the standard escalation would just be to send back multiples of the same robot: simple arithmetic. In this sequel, Sarah and John Conner have the nearly unstoppable & unkillable Cyborg from part 1 on THEIR side...but he's obsolete. There's a shiny new shape-shifting metal poly-alloy model coming up behind him. Ain't that just a great thematic statement for a sci fi movie about machines?

With the passing of 25 years since this movie redefined what cinematic action spectacle could be, one problematic thing can be traced from it, that runs right through to the modern blockbusters; spectacle escalation through special effects never ends. I still prefer part 1 because the story is written around the limitations Cameron had, and the effects had to better serve the story.

With T2, we had the most expensive film ever made circa 1991, but those same spectacle elements don't seem so impressive when you see what millions of dollars and state of the art effects can get you today. The only way to continue impressing audiences in the game of spectacle is to go even more elaborate. T2 was groundbreaking, but it's also technically obsolete, just like Arnold's character in the film. Good enough yesterday, not today.

I won't discuss the whole 'how did the T-1000 travel back in time without living skin?' problem. In short, it's a plot hole if you're going by the rules Kyle Reese set up in part 1, and the theories are many, but the short of it is they just disregarded the rule. It is what it is.

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