#41: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

When and how did I watch this?

March 12th, 2017, on Hulu.

Had I seen this film already?

Only a few portions, including the conclusion.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Several years after seeing the end of this film, I watched The Terminator, which may have set the foundation for the sequel, but it was clear I was dealing with a boy among giants (David/Goliath exempted from this comparison).  I knew this as a revolutionary special effects monster, and a borderline apocalyptic screenplay.

What do I know about it now?

My first viewing was probably on some low resolution television; this round blew me away upon viewing it on a flatscreen with better sound.  I’m now truly sorry I missed this in theaters, though at ten years old I would’ve likely had nightmares about it for years to come. The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) reprises as a good android, now looking to protect John Connor (Furlong) and later Sarah (Hamilton), and appearing as a lower grade version of his adversary, the T-1000 (Patrick), a terrifying shape-shifting counterpart. The story itself is above par and the acting is fine, but it is what you see and hear that drives the movie into elite status.  What a feast. The action is almost constant — we’re relieved when we see our protagonists actually sleep or eat — for the T-1000 and his desire to eliminate John and company is relentless. It isn’t his morphing abilities or even his seeming indestructible nature that warrants fear, but his unassuming demeanor yet steel expression while in pursuit, running with tremendous determination, hopping into vehicles and tossing bodies aside and firing weapons with no discretion. The end of humanity is near, and this robot-man illustrates a momentum of fate that appears unstoppable, unless the power of family has something to say about it. Another interesting series of scenes involves an Oppenheimer-like character in Miles Dyson (Morton), a software developer who would eventually be the key to developing Skynet, an entirely automated military system that would eventually become conscious of itself and look to eliminate humans. This, along with horrific nuclear destruction, creates underlying tension in addition to the action at hand. Not unlike Back to the Future, there are some time-travel faux pas, but the movie ignores them and forces us to accept their rules.

What are some themes in the film?

Artificial intelligence, time travel, family, the role of humanity in technology, self-destruction and fate

Did this affect me personally?

Yes.  The opening shots creates some unexpected tension. We know the film’s title, and there are large agglomerations of people milling about, vehicles, everyone busy about their lives and little worlds. Cameron spends time on this instead of using it to set up a scene.  There’s a “moment” in Sarah’s dream of a nuclear bomb going off, a vivid and terrifying portrayal one won’t soon forget. I’ve almost always had a fear of a massive destructive end (flooding, meteor strike, nuclear bomb, rampant crime), and this one makes the scenario quite realistic.

Why is this ranked #41?

T2 is one of the best sequels ever released.  Arnold plays the rigid robot character to perfection, as if he was made to be this on-screen persona. The action is intense, the sound only amplifies its intensity, and we’re blown away with special effects, including some CGI way ahead of its time.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She started to watch it despite my warnings, and I eventually convinced her to walk away.

Would I watch it again?

Oddly, yes I would.  Despite its ability to make me sweat and get my heart racing, I’d get on board this ride again.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

If an apocalyptic future is a reality you’d rather not deal with beyond your imagination, this film is not for you. Otherwise, this is an action/sci-fi flick that shouldn’t be skipped, with the exception of those sensitive to quite a bit of violence and some profanity.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Another masterpiece, though one shouldn’t expect less at this height on the list. The director of Aliens and The Abyss strikes again with a vast and picturesque action film full of tension, managing to insert a treatise on humanity and our often ignored role in our own fate. Nothing is done halfway here, and while it risks some cliche moments, they’re interrupted with numerous perilous sequences featuring tremendous effects and sound production. It’s no Best Picture winner, but it’s probably more memorable and intense than most films ever produced.

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