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Saturday, 25 March 2017

Retro Review: Terminator 2 Judgement Day (1991) #Schwarzenegger

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick
Genre: Science Fiction Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $519 million

Plot: A cyborg identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from a more advanced cyborg

'He's Back, & Bigger & Badder Than Ever'

In the future, a man going by the name of John Connor is the key between the ongoing battle between man and machine and in preserving the lives of humans. With this, one cyborg is sent to kill him, and the other is also sent to protect John. Rebellious John Connor is the son of Sarah Connor: the same woman who managed to survive the onslaught of the T-800 and Skynet in the first Terminator movie. 

Terminator 2 Judgement Day is a sequel that many movie sequels - but for James Cameron's 1986's Aliens - wishes it could be as good as or be it surpass the original. Visually, aesthetically, narrative and plot-wise, with twists and surprises at every corner, it delivers at every front. As the reprogrammed and reformed Terminator, though some people may deem the role reversal, heel-face turn of Arnie as the T- 800 to be a cop-out and a further attempt to pigeonhole and typecast him as yet another good guy hero in a film, this decision is a pay-off, just by making his nemesis tougher and difficult to defeat. And the made of liquid metal T-1000 is no slouch either, as he goes gunning for them. The T-800, Sarah and John have to fight harder than ever, until this cyborg goes down and to prevent a cyborg holocaust from manifesting. Reprogrammed by John, the T-800 is under orders not to kill people, as well as to free Sarah, who has been imprisoned in a mental institution.

Sarah Connor herself undergoes a startling transformation, similar to that of Ellen Ripley of Aliens: Ellen wasn't much to write home about in the first film, but come the sequel, layers of her personality and demeanour, vulnerability, but also heroism come to fruition. And with that, she fought the Queen Xenomorph. The same happens with Sarah Connor against the more technically advanced and trickier adversary in T-1000. She looks more physically ripped and toned, and that transpires in her edgier, feistier and much-hardened character. Sarah also wants answers into finding out where John is and to get him back. James Cameron was probably inspired by the audience reception and acceptance of Ellen Ripley in Aliens that he further capitalised on this idea and took it to a slightly different level with Sarah, whilst maintaining her responsibilities and duties as a mother to her son, John. 

Whilst it technically remains as a science fiction action film throughout, thanks to the incredible and jaw-dropping special effects and action set-pieces, much like with 1990s Total Recall, Terminator 2 has a well-written if complex plot and narrative that delves into the characters motivations, feelings, behaviours, actions that unravel within the film. It's not just great insofar as the action sequences, but the story has merit, urgency and thrives towards the end, culminating in the ultimate battle of wits, strength and survival between the T-800 and T1000. Terminator 2 is also heralded as the first real film of the 1990s, where the advent of CGI first came to prominence in the cinematic front. Total Recall also had computer generated effects, but that film was produced in 1989 and was released the year after. 

Canadian James Cameron had shown what he was capable of achieving as a director, insofar as action - based films go: Rambo: First Blood, Terminator 1 and 2, True Lies, Aliens and the vastly overlooked, Strange Days, which he co-produced and written for then- wife and director, Katherine Bigelow. With Terminator 2, not only did he make the ultimate Terminator film and sequel that its follow-ups have failed to live up its excellence, but in contrast to Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous movie offerings prior to this film, Terminator 2 was a Schwarzenegger movie that was universally praised and accepted by almost everyone. Kindergarten Cop, Twins, Junior showed he has a penchant for comedy- yet most of his fans weren't too keen on the family-friendly tone and humour they evoked. Predator, Commando, Red Heat were hits but for the former never made the massive impact for Arnie's career. Whereas with Total Recall as wonderful as it looked, visually and with a more deeper story, general audiences were turned off by Dutch director, Paul Verhoeven's over-the-top, excessive and bloody violence and shock scenes. 

Yet much like with True Lies, Terminator 2 Judgement Day has that commercial, mainstream feel that is not too bloody, violent and is a film that families can enjoy as well. The performances are fantastic, with Arnie's T-800, as stoic and robotic-like as he is, there appears to be advancements made to his character that wasn't touched upon in The Terminator that veers towards his behavioural tendencies, as he switches from bad guy to good guy and with his relationship and bonding with John Connor. 

And despite the complex plot, the events and scenes that unravel within the film, are utterly absorbing, at times enthralling and engrossing. The special effects of 1991 still hold up and help galvanise and aid the narrative and drive it forward.

Final Verdict:

Unsurprisingly, Terminator 2: Judgement Day became the highest grossing film of 1991- a terrific year for movies, in general, I may say so myself - and with chase sequences as great as in any other great action movies, special effects and developed characterisations, it is a must-see action film for action movie fans and movie fans in general. 

The ultimate and definitive Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of all-time? It's up to you to decide. Louder, bolder, far more accessible than the original Terminator with more developed characterizations and plots, Terminator 2 absolutely hits the spot. 

Personally, it is the trifecta of Arnie action movies, with True Lies trailing not far behind in second place. 


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