Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★★

My Top 100 Favorite Films - #39

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is not just my favorite film from the year I was born. It is also one of my all-time favorite action films and my favorite film in James Cameron's filmography. Where the original Terminator film introduced us to a gritty vision of the future plagued by war and powerlessness, the second builds upon that vision with further moments of despair and hope. Hell, the film even has some social commentary that is not beaten over our heads, which certain current filmmakers should have taken inspiration from. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a film that has everything I loved from the original film, and more!

As with the original film, the score by Brad Fiedel, along with Mark Greenblatt's cinematography, both create an atmosphere that conveys a bit of dour despair, along with glimmers of hope. The visual effects, with practical effects once again done by Stan Winston and CGI done by Industrial Light & Magic, are also brilliant as well. They add further impressive visual moments to the action, mostly through the T-1000 effects, but also emphasize the nightmarish trauma haunting Sarah Connor during her nightmarish vision of the titular Judgment Day, which is still an incredibly shot scene even to this day. Most blockbusters wish they could leave such a profound effects on its viewers through a simple explosion as James Cameron and his crew were capable of here. To further elaborate upon the individual characters, the acting from Linda Hamilton in particular has improved, as she is absolutely brilliant at showing us how damaged the events of the original films have left her, and she is easily the most interesting character in the film for me. She goes through a massive evolution in her character as she, rather ironically, regains her hope in humanity through the cyborg protecting her son, the same machine that traumatized her to begin with. Plus, Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempts at comic relief, and his gradually growing understanding of the importance of humanity, is surprisingly charming and moving for me, as it helped create hope amidst the dark impending chaos. Another machine that leaves a massive impression is the T-1000, played by Robert Patrick. He is simply cold as ice and such a menace to behold that you can't help but cower in fear whenever he shows up. Those eyes can kill, I tell you. It's impressive to see how much intimidation he can cause from just a few lines and his stone-cold facial expressions. Truly an antagonist worthy of a film of a scale this large.

The one thing, however, that stands out for me in the film after this rewatch is the implicit social commentary the film has. The institutions present in the film are only there to prevent our characters from stopping Skynet's inception, but that's mostly because the truth is so unbelievable and that they just don't know better. The same can be said for Miles Dyson, the eventual creator of Skynet. Initially, he seems to only create the basis for Skynet for profit, but also because he has not considered the long-term consequences of an AI operating most defense systems. It's a problem that most of us face, that it can be daunting to think of the consequences of our work, especially when we bills to pay and families to feed, and for that reason, I'm thankful that the film is never judgmental towards Dyson for his eventual actions. He's just portrayed as a man doing his job, until he becomes aware of the consequences his work causes, and by portraying him as such, he becomes a bit of a everyman character that everyone can put empathize with, as the film shows us that anyone could have been in his situation, because short-term concerns was his primary priority. On top of all this, I also love how both John Connor and Skynet are products of time paradoxes. In a film franchise where time travel is a central plot point, there's something beautifully poetic about the leading figures of the central war in the future are beings that should not possibly be able to exist. It highlights the exceptional nature of the film's central figures in an absolutely wonderful way.

Are there any problems with the film at all? Well, I do think I should at least address the film's biggest plot hole: the fact that the T-1000 could time travel, even though it did not have a layer of organic tissue to protect it. It was an established rule of the first film, and it does feel a bit cheap that Skynet had found an unexplored/impossible way of sending a machine of liquid metal back in time by breaking the established rules of time travel. Sure, it's a massive distracting contrivance when you think the least bit about it, but at the same time, I'm still not bothered too much about it. The internal logic might not make 100% sense here, but the T-1000 is too menacing and interesting as an antagonist that I wouldn't have the film any other way without its presence. Yes, you could include a short expository scene for it, but is it really that necessary in the grand scheme of things? I mean, we still have an amazing film with great action, solid social commentary and a fast-paced film with a highly engaging plot on both an intellectual and emotional level. So yeah, while it would be nice to have that plot hole solved in a more sensible manner, it still does not detract from my enjoyment of the film overall.

In conclusion, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still one of my all-time favorite films, and I'm happy that it still holds up for me after all these years.

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