Terminator 2 (1991) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

TERMINATOR 2

Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron, William Wisher
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

One of the greatest sequels ever made and rightfully up there with the likes of Godfather Part Two and The Empire Strikes Back. Terminator 2 takes place almost a decade after the events of the first film “The Terminator”. In reality, it was a long 7 year wait for the next instalment of the franchise and certainly one that was worth waiting on. The Terminator, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) must now protect her ten year old son, John Connor (Edward Furlong) from a more advanced Terminator, The T-1000.

Not so much as one of the greatest twists in cinematic history but certainly a brilliant and different approach for the sequel was making Arnold’s Terminator the protector in this one instead of the villain. I always thought it was a masterstroke by James Cameron to portray the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) as a Police Officer misleading the audience in thinking this was the good guy. When you think about it, the way the storyline goes up to the corridor in the galleria (Shopping Mall) until The Terminator shouts “Get Down” you are to assume Schwarzenegger’s role is the big bad guy.

1991 was another brilliant year for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Coming off the back of his successful run of the late 1980’s releases, the early 1990’s continued this good fortune in the release of Total Recall and Kindergarten Cop (1990) although in 1993 his Last Action Hero was received with mixed reviews his reunion with James Cameron in True Lies reconnected and affirmed Schwarzenegger was still in the big league. Schwarzenegger again with limited dialogue (but a lot more than the original) has some killer lines that are quotable 27 years later. I regard his physical condition in this movie was at his lifetime peak and at the age of 44 at the time was just as remarkable. His portrayal in Terminator 2 after playing the cold killing Terminator in the first movie breathed new life into the franchise and watching this machine playing a surrogate father to John Connor is tragic in many ways.

Although Arnold Schwarzenegger had many challenges in convincing the audience of his role reversal. More can be said about Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. Having suffered physically and mentally to the vicious killing machine of the first movie we now see Connor is institutionalised under heavy security. Having tried to eradicate all links to prevent the War against the Machines from ever happening. We now see Sarah locked up and unable to protect John from any incoming threat. I always loved Linda Hamilton’s transformation from a sweet young lady with a naive and positive outlook on life to a cold and focused almost like soldier and not only her mental transformation but physically she was up for the task. The Actress trained with a former Israeli soldier and a personal trainer for three hours a day, six days a week for thirteen weeks before filming began. Under both trainers, she intensely worked with weights and learned judo and heavy military training techniques. Her commitment to this role was clearly something she understood in creating such an iconic and memorable character and this is why this is one of my favourite roles in cinematic history.

Much of an unknown at this point was Robert Patrick who trained in a rigorous regime, particularly running in order to be able to appear to run at high speeds without showing fatigue on film. The actor also mimicked the head movements of the American bald eagle for his role as T-1000. As an actor now, I think the guy is fantastic. Back then he was that henchman in Die Hard 2: Die Harder. In fact, one of my most favourite roles I have witnessed him portray was in Television’s The X-Files as Special Agent John Doggett. His persona and delivery in this role and many others is always with a hint of arrogance and self assurance. He has that here in a different and more quieter way as the shaping shifting mimetic polyalloy machine. His screen time and dialogue is surprisingly selected for such an iconic character, but the same can be said for Darth Vader’s screen time in the Original Star Wars. In fact, the second third of the movie the T-1000 is missing for a good 30 minutes as we delve more into the characters of Sarah, John and The Terminator.

The pacing in this movie is amazing. One of my favourite chase scenes at the beginning involving a Harley Davison, a Dirt Bike and a truck is enthralling and frantic. There is a similar chase scene at the movies climatic end also that leads to some of the most amazing special effects in film history. That second third I was talking about is mostly set in the desert and it allows the audience to breathe and examine the main three characters. It is here we notice an obvious physical difference in Edward Furlong’s appearance as the young John Connor and I regard the best representation of the character to date. Furlong is noticeably younger in these scenes that were shot first and out of sequence. Interestingly his voice is also dubbed deeper as his voice broke during the production and the over dub was for continuity reasons. I like Furlong’s portrayal of the adolescent and troubled youth struggling to survive without his mother, who he didn’t believe and was institutionalised for reasons he couldn’t understand or didn’t want to understand. The child actor didn’t play the character in a typical child actor like way that a lot of them fall into the trap of trying to act beyond their years. Here we see a naive and a young boy yearning for a father figure.

Terminator 2 will always be one of my favourite movies for investment in character development but the visuals and special effects even to this day are phenomenal. I was totally blown away with what Stan Winston and his team achieved. Everything from the morphing liquid metal to the convincing and startling nuclear fall out dream sequence which to this day has never been topped. I still remember being haunted by those convincing sequences and troubling images of a burning Sarah Connor almost skeleton screaming whilst rattling the playground fence as if it was yesterday. Winston was such a genius in his field and is sadly missed by special effects fans the world over.

The movie would also not be what it was without that iconic and organic soundtrack by Brad Fiedel. That metallic clank of metal hitting metal and those dramatic beats are part of The Terminator franchise and part of the make up. Similar to John Carpenter’s haunting piano sound on The Halloween soundtrack, Fiedler creates the atmosphere of this world and blended with those unsettling images of a chrome endoskeleton almost grinning right at you before you are Terminated is both terrifying and disturbing thanks to the sound.

James Cameron has gone on to create countless masterpieces since 1991 in films such as Titanic and more recently the Avatar franchise. His contributions in the look and writing of both Terminator movies cannot be disregarded or ignored. It is evident that his magic touch and hand in was sadly missed in Terminator 3: Rise Against The Machines, Terminator: Salvation and Terminator Genisys. All of these sequences never came close to reaching the same heights as the first two films and its interesting to see that there is talk of a Cameron / Schwarzenegger / Hamilton reunion on the cards in a few years regarding a new trilogy and one can only speculate on how that will work. Overall Terminator 2 is one of the greatest movies ever made in the history of film from it’s invested character development, it’s pacing and direction to its groundbreaking visual effects. There hasn’t been another film like it since and I doubt any future films will ever top it. For me this is a must see for every generation to witness and enjoy. Highly Recommended.

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