E Parker’s review published on Letterboxd:
When people discuss the best movie sequels ever made, it’s inevitable that Terminator 2: Judgment Day gets brought up. Taking the simple ideas of the first movie, and putting a new spin with that general formula: T2 is a more robust, action-packed offering than the first one, making it in my, and many people’s eyes better than the first, but both films have aged wonderfully and are blockbuster classics, yet there are many other things than just expanding on the ideas from before that makes this film spectacular.
Adding on to the cat and mouse formula from the first movie, every character has more dramatic scenes that flushes everyone out much more than before. This in turn makes the film feel more real and personable, with relatable characters and a somewhat wholesome tone to the relationship dynamics from before.
The only returning main character from the first film is Sarah Connor, who is still dealing with the immense trauma from her original encounter with the T-800. After having John and being a nomad for a long while to help train John to become a future leader for the inevitable Judgement Day, Sarah gets captured when trying to destroy the company that soon becomes Skynet and is taken into a mental hospital, leaving John on his own. Sarah’s defeat is really noticeable with how she acts, and it’s a tragic thing to see, seeing how she’s separated from her kid and how the outlandishly sounding story of killer robots from the future coming to kill her keeps her from living her life and helping out John. It’s easy to see the tragedy of the character while also sort of understanding why she’s there; frequent violent outbursts and multiple escape attempts only add to the belief of those who run the facility that she’s completely bonkers, yet when she gets out she embodies all the awesome action hero traits possible to become one of James Cameron’s best protagonists.
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns for another terminator role but is instead one of the protagonists of the movie. The idea of taking Arnie’s role and reversing it for this movie leads to some interesting character dynamics later on in the movie, and shows that while the future sucks, there is some hope for it down the line if it ever came to be as bad as it looks like it’s going to be. What’s great about Arnie in the film is how his character interacts and grows with John. John Connor never really had a father figure, and finally having one in the form of a machine is interesting. The relationship that forms between the T-800 and John feels genuine and sweet, so when you see the small bits of what’s supposed to be a literal death machine begin to show bits of a human personality, it’s rather touching.
The last of the major performances is from the aforementioned John, played by Edward Furlong. T2 was Furlong’s first film and it unfortunately shows, easily having the worst performance in the film. Furlong has many excellent moments in the film, and while his performance is overall solid, there’s a few lines delivered here and there that sound awful; I don’t know why those scenes in question didn’t attempt to have a better take thrown in, maybe because of a short shooting schedule or they really had used the best possible take, but with the many good moments Furlong has, the bad ones stick out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate what happened to Furlong and how his acting career never really recovered since his struggles with drug abuse. Furlong has shown many other good performances, but he sadly never truly came back after the late 90’s.
Once again Brad Fidel returns with a new score for the film, and it is leagues better than the already fantastic music from the first film. More than likely due to a larger budget, the score feels much more fleshed out with more interesting tracks with a more complicated composition. The synth style from before thankfully returns and gives the film an extra dash of personality, which is great whilst viewing the film, and is still wonderful to listen to on its own.
Like the discussion everyone has about T2 being one of the best sequels ever made, it’s also a frequent topic of discussion when speaking about having some of the best visual effects for the time, and again, that’s for good reason. Industrial Light and Magic returns to work on the effects, and they are breathtaking, even today. While some of the CGI feels a little dated in pieces, it still largely holds up. The best scenes of note to show the true nature of the digital effects are when the T-1000 walks away from the explosive truck crash, when the T-1000 forms into a duplicate of one of the mental hospital guards from sprouting from the ground, and the entire end battle between the T-800 and T-1000.
Practical effects still take up a large majority of the effects for the movie, though. The combinations of spectacular stunt work, miniatures, animatronics, and pyrotechnics make this film a true visual treat. Even almost 30 years later, these action scenes are still some of the best I’ve ever seen, delivering iconic, memorable moments you soon won’t forget. Fantastic moments such as the tow truck chase, Sarah’s Judgement Day nightmare, and the last 20-25 minutes of the movie are the real highlights for me.
Overall, the pacing of the film is rather fantastic for the theatrical cut, which is what I watched for this review, but I do feel that the final act slogs a little big, with an admittedly fantastic action sequence that I feel goes on for just a little too long. There are a couple other slower moments of the movie like when Sarah, John, and the T-800 are hanging out in the desert, but they never last too long, and the pace quickly picks back up again. I hear that while the “Special Edition” cut of the film adds a lot more story beats to the film for better, the pacing does hamper quite a bit, and at some point I’ll be checking it out to see for myself how the film is affected overall by those changes.
While on the subject of negatives, I have some mixed feelings on Sarah’s few inner monologues she has in the film; they don’t appear too often but when they do, they feel a little too corny for whatever situation the characters are in. I understand why they’re there: basically, to give quick bits of exposition to the viewer from Sarah’s perspective, but that’s all they offer, and they’re pretty tacky when you realize why they’re actually there.
Despite those few problems I have with the movie, Terminator 2 is still brilliant, and has aged just as well as its predecessor, still holding the title as one of the best action blockbusters to ever release. It’s a bit of a shame that I hear the next 3 movies to bare the Terminator name are a bust to most people, but even though they may not be considered “main canon” anymore, I’m still going to give them a go and see for myself what the fuss is all about.
Sexual Content/Nudity: 3/10
Drug/Tobacco/Alcohol Use/References: 2/10
Intense/Horrifying Content: 4/10
Personal Recommended Age: 13+
Original rating: R for strong sci-fi action and violence, and for language