This is not so much a review as a reminder that James Cameron’s 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still one of the most perfectly paced and high-energy action films ever made, and this week it’s also being re-released, having been expertly restored and carefully converted into a 3D experience, which certainly succeeds at amplifying both the good and the bad in this offering.
Made seven years after the original Cameron-Arnold Schwarzenegger killfest, the agenda was a bit different. In addition to going bigger, the filmmaker took note of criticisms of The Terminator that it was nothing but his cyborg villain killing police officers by the dozen. With a storyline more directly linked to the apocalyptic future talked about in the first film, Cameron brought back the Schwarzenegger character, but this time as a protector of teenage John Connor (played by then-newcomer Edward Furlong), who will grow up to lead the human resistance to the robot takeover. They also breakout John’s mother, Sarah (the returning, jacked-up Linda Hamilton), from a mental hospital, and the three head to kill the man who invents the artificial intelligence system Skynet, which eventually takes over the weapons of the world.
T2’s most memorable element is, of course, the T-1000 (an impossibly young-looking Robert Patrick), made of liquid metal and capable of impersonating just about anything it touches, organic or not. The effects built around the T-1000 remain impressive, and I love the sly humor that Patrick manages to almost sneak into the performance. Also, the 3D looks its best when the liquid metal is in full effect and getting stabby with innocent bystanders.
Schwarzenegger and Hamilton had also become a better actors since the 1984 original, and it comes as no surprise that because of that, some of Arnold’s most quotable lines come from this film. Sadly, the film also reminded me that Furlong was not a very good actor at the time (he certainly got better), and his line readings actually hurt my ears a few times. Thankfully, later in the film, Cameron (who co-wrote the movie with William Wisher) introduces Joe Morton as Miles Dyson, the man who would eventually create Skynet, and what becomes an assassination plot turns into something much more creative and emotionally driven.
But Terminator 2 is a pure, uncut gem of an action film, featuring level of pacing—heightened by a few false endings—that only serves to ramp up the intensity, the tension, and the payoff. The explosions are many, the stunts are mind-blowing (and slightly cleaned up in this new version), and the effects are nothing short of groundbreaking (thanks to ILM and Stan Winston Studios). And for those wondering, the version being re-released in 3D is the original theatrical cut. Presumably, you’re not reading this to hear if it’s a good movie or not—you know it is; the question is: Is it worth checking out in 3D? If you’re caught up on the best of the newer films, absolutely. Now where is Cameron’s 3D upgrade of Piranha Part Two: The Spawning? The world is waiting…