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Terminator 2: Judgment Day

James Cameron's 1991 sci-fi film and the second film in the "Terminator" series.

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T2: A Personal Judgement

  • Nov 28, 2013
The Terminator is one of the most iconic characters in popular culture, but his track record is rather bumpy. He had a strong start in a debut movie that is a classic of science fiction. He followed it up with his defining moment in a movie that became a classic across all genres. After that, there were two more movies and a TV show which make the argument for The Terminator existing on a split timeline.

T2: Judgement Day was the last unequivocally great movie the robot who will never stop starred in, and arguably his defining moment. Yes, the original Terminator movie is one of the all-time greats in action sci-fi, and a monumental piece in the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It also created the titular role of The Terminator as a very terrifying bad guy. While the entire spectacle was cloaked in a thick veil of action, writer/director James Cameron was still able to use the movie to explore the ideas of love and fate. James Cameron, the big time action director, basically wrote a love story about a woman and the man who brought her child into the world while dying to save her from a very nasty stalker. In the process, he threw the theme of fate into the mix by making the stalker a nigh-invulnerable robot, the woman a person who gave birth to the savior of humanity, and the man a time-traveling soldier sent back to protect her (by the kid they conceived). T2 is still one of the most thrilling action movies ever made, but it's even heavier than the first Terminator.

Central to T2 is a coming-of-age story running amidst themes about the possibility of changing the future and what it really means to be human. The future robots are at it again - they're sending back another almost-invincible killer robot back to the past to knock off a person who later became a little bit of a problem for them in their own time. They didn't get any smarter about doing it, though; in fact, if anything, they did something a lot dumber: Instead of, say, sending a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Conner the schoolgirl, they aimed their new terminator right at John Conner, her boy. This gets to be a little bit of a problem for the new terminator prototype, the T-1000, because John has an attitude problem. He's been in trouble with the law many times and has the street smarts to make the T-1000 really work for it. As if that's not enough, Sarah herself made the mistake of blabbing about her experience with the original Terminator. Maybe that wouldn't have been so bad in itself, but she also went about training herself and John for survival for the impending robot war, which effectively got her locked in the looney bin. John is with foster parents who don't know what to do with him, so he has survival training and a chip on his shoulder.

Oh yeah, the T-1000 has an even bigger problem: The T-800 model Terminator that was busy chasing Sarah in the first movie has been reprogrammed and sent back in time to be John's protector. His new mission is to ensure the survival of John, and just like the original movie, he's not going to stop, ever, no matter what's thrown at him. And that's saying something because the T-1000 packs a real punch. He's made of liquid metal that can form simple weapons, morph its shape, and even transform into and imitate things it comes into contact with. At one point, it even morphs into a floor.

What's really horrifying about this whole scenario is that there's not much John and The Terminator can do in a survival situation here except run. It could have been easier than it turns out to be for them, but John misses Sarah and insists on springing her from the nuthouse, not much of a problem since Sarah has attempted to escape many times, often violently. While the chase goes on, a large techie conglomerate is performing research that will allow the machines to become self-aware and wipe humanity out. When Sarah tries to take it upon herself to stop him, the odd trio is forced to make its last stand against the T-1000.

One of the ironies of The Terminator as a series is that, despite The Terminator being the icon and titular character, the series is never about him. The Terminator always serves as more of a peripheral character, and usually there's varying characters who take center stage. Even the first movie was about Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner. This movie squarely places the focus on John. John Conner in the universe of The Terminator is the pivotal character of the whole saga, and T2 is the all-time establishment of that fact. T2 is about John Conner and his forced growing up and taking responsibility for the person his mother is raising him to become. The oddity of John's life is that the two people who tried to give him a stable home are just side characters who get knocked off in short order, and the two people who get charged with bringing John to his ultimate mission are a woman who was considered insane and a reprogrammed killer robot from the future. It's noted in Sarah's voice-over narration that The Terminator is a better father to John than any human might ever have been, and John spends a lot of time teaching The Terminator what it's like to be human. John does develop a truly human attachment to The Terminator, which culminates is a very touching emotional climax in the movie's final scene.

In many ways, T2: Judgement Day marked the official arrival of the 90's movie. It contains many of the common archtypes of 90's movies: John is clearly a skilled computer hacker. He also carries a defiant attitude, but he's also still an outcast kid. The archtype animal that outcast little kids from 90's movies were always befriending is taken in this movie by the robot. There are also a handful of ridiculous EXTREME!!! stunts. Wait, my bad: I meant to write XTREME!!! since everyone forgot how to spell in the 90's. It's ironic that T2 managed to create such an outstanding movie out of all the most stereotyped - and in many cases, worst - aspects of movies from the 90's.

The one big problem with T2 is the same problem that plagues all of James Cameron's movies: As a director, Cameron is an outstanding director. As a writer, Cameron is an outstanding director. Yeah, the dialogue is monumentally terrible again, and watching the scenes - especially in the case of John - makes you think, my god, who the hell could ever be stupid enough to think people talk like that? John is meant to sport a 'tude, but the way it's written makes him come off more like a sheltered nerd trying to speak the way he thinks cool kids speak. It's another one of the ironies of T2 that the movie managed to spawn a number of catchphrases because James Cameron wrote a bunch of really bad phrases into the script that he seemed to think people would really use. His writing improved after T2, but not by very much.

If The Terminator as a series would have ended here, it would have gone out on a strong note. The end leaves Sarah Conner optimistic about humanity's future. Unfortunately, though, a few of the involved parties needed money, and the series ended up selling out later, betraying one of the overall messages of T2 completely. So it's good to go back and watch T2: Judgement Day every so often, just to remember what The Terminator once was. The third movie was fun, and the fourth movie made a plausible effort to return to the franchise's roots, and the TV show was good, but T2 is where the whole thing reached its greatest potential.

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December 03, 2013
this is one of my favorite movies ever. and perhaps one of the 10 best sci-fi movies for me. Your review is pretty awesome, man,.
December 07, 2013
More Terminator 2: Judgment Day reviews
review by . October 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I judge thee awesome
It's been a long time coming but I'm finally going to talk about the movie I most remember from my youth, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  It's the movie I've seen probably more then any other, the movie that I always looked forward to seeing even if I'd seen it 3 times earlier that week, and a movie that I'm finally talking about cause I really don't have much to say, but I'll try.  Much like when I reviewed Star Wars it's hard to say things that everyones …
Quick Tip by . October 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Super sized sequel and Arnold's most famous movie about two cyborgs that fight each other over a young boy who will help save the world. Fantastic
Quick Tip by . October 19, 2010
I liked the intriguing take on time travel that began to appear in this, and the way appearance and character were kept at odds.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Super Duper sized follow up to the original 84 sci fi action movie has Arnie "back" as a good guy to protect a young John Connor from the newly created T-1000 played with cold menace by Robert Patrick for one of the most unbeatable badguys ever. Full of action and keeps the themes of the first film. A classic and Arnold never made a better movie.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Very rare that a sequel surpasses the oringal. One of the best action movies of all time.
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Did not meet up to the first one, my opinion though
review by . November 27, 2009
An amazing sequel to the film that started it all...
While Terminator  set up the beginning of John Connor and created  a new  era in FX and unbrash action and suspense   this  no holds bar sequel Improves on the first  and  pushes the special effects further  than ever for it's day. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  is smart, taunt,  stylish, dark  and oh so much fun.  It's the perfect action sequel  and  one of the best films  of the '90s.         …
review by . October 29, 2009
Seriously, it doesn't get any better. Vintage 90s action, way ahead of its time!
Quick Tip by . September 29, 2009
Fantastic follow up to the original Terminator with Arnold returning to protect John Connor and take on a nearly invincible foe. A Classic.
review by . June 26, 2009
The original Terminator was something very special and was the film that kick started the career of one of the biggest action movie stars in history. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Terminator was the definitive bad guy; violent, emotionless and unstoppable. That same character returned for the sequel, but this time he joined the defending team and was sent back by future John Connor to protect the past John Connor. Arnold is still a T-101 but was reprogrammed by future Connor to fight on …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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A decade after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) destroyed the original Terminator, a second unstoppable killing machine (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives from the post-apocalyptic year 2029. But this time his mission is to stop an even deadlier Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), made entirely of shape-shifting liquid metal and determined to kill young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the future leader of the human resistance. Sarah, John, and the Terminator counter by going after the scientist responsible for developing Skynet, the computer system fated to destroy humanity, leading to an explosive and spectacular clash with the fate of humanity in the balance. Whereas James Cameron's original THE TERMINATOR was a low-budget marvel of efficiency and speed, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is an action-packed blockbuster with some of the most amazing stunts ever filmed and ground-breaking, Academy Award-winning special effects. Star Schwarzenegger was paid in the form of a $15 million dollar jet to revisit his mos...
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