TERMINATOR 2:JUDGEMENT DAY
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Try this: Get in a discussion with a sci-fi / horror fan about sequels. Make the statement that you think sequels are never better than the original. I bet you $20 that, if they disagree, the two examples they give are, "ALIENS was better than ALIEN, and TERMINATOR 2 was better than TERMINATOR." This is so common it was included in an argument between film students in a scene in SCREAM 2 (which was NOT better than the original).
TERMINATOR 2 opens like its predecessor, with the arrival of two time travelers from the future. One is the familiar Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger: THE TERMINATOR, TOTAL RECALL, END OF DAYS, THE 6th DAY), the other turns out to be an even more advanced Terminator (Robert Patrick: THE FACULTY, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2) who is made of a bizarre liquid metal that allows him to assume any form he wishes. Both begin searching for John Conner (Edward Furlong: BRAINSCAN, PET SEMATARY II), the teenage son of Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton: THE TERMINATOR).
Things have not gone well for Sarah. She's a patient at a mental institution, sentenced there after she was caught trying to blow up the Cyberdyne computer company building the company that will eventually build the SkyNet computer that starts WWIII. Her son John has become a disillusioned juvenile delinquent, raised by foster parents and constantly in trouble.
The two Terminators converge on John, both finding him at the Galleria mall. They find each other as well and this is where we see the true power of the shape changer. Any damage done to him is instantly healed. We also see that Schwarzenegger's character is here to protect John.
John and the "good" Terminator escape temporarily and this is when John faces the fact that his mother isn't crazy. Everything she said about Terminators and time travel was true. And in a good example of the kind of causality loops time travel can cause, John finds out that his future self sent the good Terminator back in time, just as his future self sent Kyle Reese, John's father, back in time in the first movie. Which brings up the idea that if you receive information about something you will do some time in the future, what happens if you reach that point in your life and do something else? Does your past then alter to fit your actions?
Sarah has become a very different person from the first movie. No longer a naive, young woman, she's now bitter and tough. We first see her doing pull-ups in her hospital room at the mental ward.
In charge of her care is Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen: THE TERMINATOR, THE DENTIST), the same police psychiatrist who we met in the first movie. He believes her to be a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic (is there any other kind?) and keeps a respectful distance, since in her last escape attempt she stabbed him in the knee with his pen.
Her eventual escape is handled beautifully, because in spite of being pretty muscular she is a small woman. But the hand-to-hand is well done and believable. And then comes my favorite scene in the movie.
Her escape attempt is almost successful, but is interrupted by the arrival of the good Terminator and her son John, bent on rescuing her. The evil Terminator arrives at about the same time and the two machines fight once again, in full view of the skeptical Dr. Silberman.
What must he be thinking, now that he knows that all of Sarah's paranoid rantings are true. The Terminators are real, which means the end of the world she's always talking about is real as well. I imagine he'd be on the next plane to Easter Island.
Which brings up another issue I wished the movie had covered: the media. Imagine the events of the first movie, especially one man wiping out a police station full of cops. The tabloid stories, cable documentaries and made for TV movies such an event would generate would turn into a cottage industry of it's own. Then the stories from the events in this movie would come out, about the unstoppable machines, the silvery shape-shifter, all the deaths and all the destruction, etc. The time-traveling-killer-robots angle would make this a cult right up there with Big Foot and UFO's.
For more science on the other Terminator movies, go to THE SCIENCE MOMENT/T2 page.
Unfortunately, TERMINATOR 2 also gets a
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
Finally, I have to say something about the "Director's Cut." This contains lots of extra footage, and plenty of new scenes and most of them suck. I've never seen a director's cut of anything that was better than the original, and this is no exception. There was one small part of the extra footage that was interesting, and I thought should have stayed in the final version.
After the evil Terminator is frozen solid by liquid nitrogen, shattered and then reassembles himself, the director's cut includes several scenes that imply some damage was done. At one point he grabs a railing that's painted in black and yellow stripes and his arm takes on those colors up to the elbow. He looks confused when he notices this, as if he's losing control of his shape changing ability.
Cameron may not be King of the World, but he definitely rules the sci-fi action universe, and easily earns another 5 Shriek Girls.