#39: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


It's a shame that so much of this film's magic is due to Arnold Schwarzenegger delivering his lines with his pained expression, attempting, furiously, to demonstrate gravity. Without him and his famous lines (brought along with his from The Terminator), we might all have passed over Terminator 2 without even a cursory glance. Don't get me wrong - this is a great film. It's just sort of great for the wrong reasons, which makes me feel guilty for liking it so much.
The first half an hour or so of Terminator 2 consists mianly of fire montages and Sarah Connor's (Linda Hamilton) monotone explanation of this film's sci-fi premise. I'm assuming you know it all - terminators sent back through time with the mission to either terminate or protect the young John Connor (Edward Furlong), future leader of the resistance against the machines which (will, in the future) attack humanity en masse. Time travel, big machines, fancy science-y words: check, check, check. Stand off between Schwarzenegger as the T-800 and the creepy-as-hell T-1000 (Robert Patrick), check. We've got all the nova we need (read my review of Alien, where I bored you with an explanation of this). Like nova do, all these (usually masculine) sci-fi features make for a real good watch - I was squirming at the (dated) gore and actually pretty impressed by some of the special effects which director James Cameron and team deliver.
What saves Terminator 2 from being just another sci-fi movie (aside from Arnie and the hype of the franchise, which again relies heavily on him) is ultimately Cameron's input. I say input, he did co-write, produce and direct. I think the best way to explain my point is to compare Terminator 2 to Aliens, which Cameron also directed. In Aliens, Cameron puts a heavy emphasis on the action elements - overwhelm the audience and they'll love you for it. This works for much of Terminator 2, with some truly remarkable set pieces; but then, unfortunately, we get to the bits where the characters try to express depth. Again and again we endure Sarah's monotone conjectures on the concepts of time and causality, but we'd rather just get back to the explosions - they're done to much better effect. So essentially, when Cameron stays on task, he succeeds; it's the same in Aliens.
Also like Aliens, we have the skinny but strong leading lady, who's less than feminine and oh boy do you have to respect her. I find this refreshing - we don't judge them by their breasts for once. Maternal (and paternal) issues dominate the film's thematic structure, but as Cameron largely leaves this within the fibres of the characters' relationships themselves, rather than parading it before the audience in his usual 'look at me being deep' way, it's largely palatable.
Overall, this film offers a generally great viewing experience, but feel free to go make a cup of tea when the characters are talking around their burnt-out get-away car. I'd advise watching The Terminator first too, so you don't have to pay too much attention to the agonising narration.

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