Upon its release the original Terminator was a modest success, but once available on home video did it become a really successful movie. In the meantime director James Cameron made the hit movie “Aliens” and the not quite a hit movie “The Abyss”. The groundbreaking computer generated special effects used in the latter, became the basis for the most talked about element of Terminator 2 in 1991. While the original movie was made on a low budget and has dated effects, even by the standards of that time, this sequel went so over budget it could have been a career killer should it have failed at the box office.
Then again, there are still people handing out enormous budgets to the Wachowskis, so maybe not that big of a career killer.
But the money was put to good use on a movie that not only had a good story, but could afford also had some truly ground breaking effects. The effects I’m referring to are basically all the scenes involving the evil cyborg T-1000 which is made out of liquid metal and has the capability to copy people and use parts of his body as stabbing weapons. Nowadays we’re spoiled but in 1991 we marveled at the screen and wondered how they pulled these effects off.
Terminator 2 is set around 14 years after the events of the original. After the failed attempt on her life in 1984 Sarah Connor has been traveling throughout North and South America with her son John, who as you might recall, is destined to become the leader of the resistance in the future. John is now a teenager living with his foster parents as Sarah is locked up in a mental institution for trying to blow up Cyberdyne, the company which will be responsible creating artificial intelligence and therefor the nuclear war. The first 15 minutes is a take on the original movie as we witness a series of recurring events: Schwarzenegger appearing nude and demanding clothes, after which he goes on a mission to find John Connor. Another bloke, who immediately has a run-in with the police like Reese had in the original, but quickly takes out the cop and uses the guise of a police officer to find John also. The unsuspecting audience will think that Arnold is once again the bad guy, which really is a fun twist if you’re one of those, but at the time of its release it was already known Arnold would be a reprogrammed Terminator sent back in time to protect John from the more advanced T-1000.
Like its predecessor this is primarily a chase movie. The main story line is about the T-1000 trying to locate John and kill him. There is a lengthy mid-section in the movie where they have escaped from the T-1000 and Sarah decides to kill Miles Dyson, a Cyberdyne employee responsible for inventing the same chip that controls the T-800. An invention based upon the remains of the original T-800 which Sarah terminated in the original movie. It’s fun how these movies work in a circle and makes you wonder if they can actually alter history. Despite its running time, the director’s cut clocks in at 2.5 hours, Terminator 2 never drags or feels overlong. Everything that happens helps the story and is at the same time a treat to watch.
While this was a perfect movie to me when I saw it for the first time at the age of 13, looking at it now it does have some flaws. Despite the cutting edge special effects which still look good, there are some scenes involving some obvious green screen. Debuting actor Edward Furlong is kind of annoying at times, especially when he’s learning the Terminator how to behave human and yammering about not killing people. There are also some inconsistencies concerning the Terminator himself: at one point he states that he has detailed files on human anatomy, but he apparently doesn’t understand why we cry. Crying is something that should have been in those files I recon.
Those are just minor remarks about a movie that is probably one of the best action movies ever made. A tour-de-force by the people involved, but mostly James Cameron, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick and Arnold. Terminator 2 is not only a solid action movie, but also one with a rather large legacy as it paved the way for Hollywood to start using computer generated effects on a large(r) scale.