Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★★

I read once about how back in the 30s and 40s MGM executives would show Buster Keaton's The Cameraman to every comedy screenwriter and director on the lot, saying "this is what we want," and getting a steady stream of quasi-Cameraman remakes (including, for example, Night at the Opera) for their trouble. Now as far as I know, the filmmakers behind the current wave of scifi blockbusters aren't using Terminator 2 as a direct reference point, but they might as well be.

But why is this so much more effective than 99% of the movies in its wake? Especially when it has so many of the necessary evils of this kind of movie, like dopey catchphrases and music video tie-ins? Part of it is probably the physicality of it, the unfortunately bygone product of having real stunts, real crashes, and real explosions punctuating the (inexplicably still cool as hell) CGI. But I think it's also because of how HEAVY this movie is - one famous sequence is literally about what happens to the human body during a nuclear explosion (it turns into papery ash before disintegrating completely, FYI). You'd never see a scene like that in a comparable movie today, too depressing. But it's here, and it's just one scene of real darkness out of many, that never overwhelm the exciting and often quite funny tone that James Cameron manages to strike here better than he ever did before or since.

I was never a big fan of Linda Hamilton in either of these two movies, but this time around I learned to appreciate what she brings to the table - first of all, she seems legitimately out of her mind, in a way that, again, you'd never see in a big PG-13 superhero movie nowadays. For some reason I'd never realized how intense the scene where she attacks the Dyson home is, how insane it is to see a harrowing home invasion in a movie like this. Secondly, the way she talks in this weird military jargon - "John, you're on weapons detail" - I used to think it was cringe-worthy but this time I realized it's SUPPOSED to be cringe-worthy, and it also happens to be completely true to her character. She's John Connor's embarrassing mom!

Xander. Fucking. Berkeley.

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