Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Directed By: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong

I'm sure that many of you who are reading this post are fans of James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster Avatar.  The film did gross more than $2.7 billion at the box office and has no money-making equal in the modern era of film.  It has no sequel either, yet.  Fans have waited six years but must wait at least another two to return to Pandora.  This is not the least bit surprising though.  This is familiar territory when it comes to a James Cameron franchise.  After all, we waited seven years for his follow-up to his sensational sci-fi thriller The Terminator.  If its sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day proves anything, it's that Cameron's next venture to the alien moon is likely worth the wait.

It's 1995.  After the events of The Terminator, mother Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has been raising her 10 year-old son John Connor (Edward Furlong) to be the leader the Resistance will need in the future.  When she tries to bomb a local computer factory, she quickly finds herself in a mental institution with Dr. Peter Silberman (Earl Boen).  Doped up on meds with this criminal psychiatrist, Sarah now cannot protect her son from the harsh ways of the world.  In her absence, the boy is being raised by foster parents (Jenette Goldstein and Xander Berkeley).  As crazy as she sounds, this mom is right to worry as the machines have sent a menacing liquid metal cyborg known as the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) back in time to murder her boy.  Fortunately for both Sarah and John, help is on the way in the form of another Terminator, the T-800.  The only problem is that the relentless T-1000 is superior to it in every way.

I write this with no hesitation whatsoever, but the seven year gap between The Terminator and its sequel was just the right amount of time.  Terminator 2: Judgement Day is certifiably the ultimate action movie.  Without a shadow of a doubt, James Cameron's sci-fi masterpiece perfected the formula for the modern big budget blockbusters of today.  Suspenseful, explosive showdowns laced with bullets, furiously paced action sequences, and outstanding visual effects for the era, T2 rises to a level of greatness that few blockbusters have ever achieved.  Simply put, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is the blueprint for the blockbusters of today.

Very different from the original in style and tone, fear isn't as central to T2 as it is to its predecessor.  It's a notably bold step to take this sequel in a different creative direction.  In fact, this is the direction James Cameron wanted to take with the original, but he was inhibited by the technological limitations of the era.  This time around, it's all about two warring cyborgs instead of Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor evading a Terminator.  While the action is just as good if not better than anything in The Terminator, what's undeniable is that the special effects are leaps and bounds above the original.  Cameron's impressive ability to overcome the limitations that hindered him just seven years prior is really what's central to the success of T2.

Cameron's masterful use of visual effects is critical because it enables him to make his pop culture spectacle bigger and better than the original in many, many ways.  This translates more often than not to moments on the big screen being forever etched in our memories.  For instance, the moment the liquid metal T-1000 heals from the shotgun blast to the chest is downright jaw-dropping.  Enabled by Cameron's special effects, it's simultaneously one of the freakiest and coolest moments in all of cinematic history.  This incredibly suspenseful scene is emblematic of all the big movie moments throughout T2.

The success of Terminator 2: Judgement Day cannot just be attributed to James Cameron and his crew.  His cast delivers the goods as well.  Reprising his role as The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger is bad to the bone.  He's still the stoic, calculating figure we know and love, but Schwarzenegger's portrayal of the murderous cyborg is different this time around.  He's a hero and a pseudo father figure for Edward Furlong's John Connor.  This translates on camera as a killer with a sliver of a heart.  There's an internal struggle within the Terminator to either follow commands or to go against its programmed nature to kill and destroy.  Schwarzenegger depicts this in fascinating fashion.  As the T-800, Schwarzenegger is back and better than ever.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Robert Patrick's performance as the T-1000. Though he's portraying a cyborg sent back in time by SkyNet just as Schwarzenegger once did, Patrick impressively manages to distinguish his performance from that of Schwarzenegger.  There's a slick, smug nature to the T-1000.  Deliciously malicious and hilariously inauthentic, his looks can kill.  Patrick also imbues this character with a certain tenacity that shows up time and time again.  The most noticeable way in which this manifests itself on screen is in Patrick's relentless running in some of the film's more elaborate chase sequences.  It's the kind of running that demonstrates determination and will.  It's the kind of running that rivals that of Tom Cruise on his best days on camera.  Moreover, Patrick rises to the occasion and more than fills the void of Schwarzenegger's change of sides in this follow-up.

Finally, we have Linda Hamilton reprising her role as Sarah Connor.  I can't say enough about her transformation into an action heroine.  Her performances in The Terminator and T2 are night and day in every way.  No longer the waitress oblivious to the apocalyptic future coming down on her head, Connor is now a loner realizing her only mission in life is to protect her son and, in doing so, protect the future of mankind.  This time around, Hamilton offers a far darker take on the character.  Scarred by her brutal past but also forged by it, Hamilton's Connor is now a badass in every sense of the word.  I, like many moviegoers, love to watch her go to work on the big screen, especially when she's got a double barrel shotgun in hand.  Hamilton's performance in T2 is the stuff of legend.

I could go on and on about James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  Like its predecessor, it's a film far, far ahead of its time that has easily stood the test of time nearly 25 years later.  The road to an apocalyptic future has never been as entertaining as it is when Sarah Connor narrates it.  It's one thunderous blockbuster that hits the mark time and time again.  Terminator 2: Judgement Day gets a sober rating.  Hasta la vista!