Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a rare film. Featuring breakthrough computer animation and an incredibly quotable script, director and writer James Cameron managed to evolve the simplistic story of his 1984 film to create something that rarely occurs – a sequel that surpasses its original.
Set in 1995, a T-800 cyborg (Schwarzenegger) is sent back in time to protect 10-year old John Connor (Edward Furlong in his debut role), the future leader of the resistance. However, the pair, along with John’s mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton), are pursued by the highly sophisticated and incredibly dangerous T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a robot made of liquid metal that has also been sent back in time but to kill John.
The introduction of 3D has allowed older films such as Terminator 2 to be brought back into cinemas, enabling older fans to enjoy it on the big screen while entertaining younger audiences. While there are concerns that the special effects would be overemphasised by the 3D, the latter is actually quite subtle and doesn’t distract viewers from the film itself.
One of the great things about Terminator 2 is its element of surprise. The 1984 film had a very simplistic plot: a cold killer stalking the damsel in distress with a rugged, handsome soldier to protect her. However, its sequel delivers various twists and turns throughout its multi-layered story. While he posed as an enemy in the first film, Schwarzenegger is now the protector while the supposed cop is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing as he is unrelenting in his pursuit of Connor. It makes viewers alter their perception of T-800, now seen as a badass with a wry sense of humour, and allows further franchise development.
Terminator 2 also hints at a deeper corporate involvement behind the creation of Skynet. It was briefly mentioned in the first film but here, through engineer Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), it becomes a relatable entity that enables the uprising of AI. Its introduction allows further development into the franchise, as well as provides the opportunity for Cameron and SFX expert Stan Winston to incorporate amazing computer animation. The idea of a robot that is not only agiler than the T800 but also made of liquid metal and can easily manipulate its body into a weapon or another human, is chilling. In one of his early roles, Patrick succeeds in playing such a cold character, whose emotionless state helps reinforce the idea that he is a robot.
In comparison to Patrick, Schwarzenegger is the unintentional comic relief. The idea of changing an initially monotone persona into one with the wry sense of humour (thanks to John) allows the actor to add complexity to the role, as well as incorporate comedic moments and compassion to other characters. This also helps to develop the relationship with John, whose eagerness to teach the T800 to be more ‘human’ enhances his role from that of a protector to more of a guardian. Furlong’s performance embodies a sense of innocence and naivety, as John looks past the living tissue of the T800 to see it as the one thing that has been missing all of his life; a father figure.
On the flip side, Sarah is a far cry from the confused, mousy character in the 1984 film. Now muscled and emotionally hardened, her experiences with the Terminator have caused her to become incredibly driven to prevent Skynet from succeeding, no matter what the cost. She is also a more confident character, thanks to Hamilton’s controlled and brave performance, making her a force to be reckoned with.
While Cameron is known nowadays for his deep-sea work and ambitious cinematic projects, Terminator 2 is a prime example of his visionary talent in special effects and reminds audiences that he can not only create a superior sequel, but also an exemplary sci-fi action film.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is out in UK cinemas on 29 August.
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, Joe Morton