|Terminator 2 - Judgement Day (Ultimate Edition)|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 29 August 2000|
The box says this is the "ultimate edition," and it's not kidding. This movie has been given one of the most thorough treatments any film has been afforded on DVD so far. There are two complete cuts of the film, the theatrical release and a longer one featuring scenes that director James Cameron wanted in, but had to remove because of length. Interestingly, for once the added scenes really work; they extend the relationships between the characters, and in particular stress the humanization of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator more than the theatrical-release version was able to.
Although 'The Terminator' immediately put Cameron on the list of exceptional action directors, it took this sequel, released seven years later, to establish him as one of the greatest in his field. It also betrays his weaknesses as a writer, but this "king of the world" isn't likely ever to pay any attention to anyone who criticizes his work. His colossal ego has become legendary -- but he probably wouldn't be as effective an action director without it.
At the time of its release, 'Terminator 2' was the most expensive movie ever made in English, a fact which caused many reviewers (including this one) to greet it more critically than perhaps it really deserved. It remains true, however, that in terms of story, 'Terminator 2' is not as good as 'The Terminator,' a far cheaper film. It had a stronger plot, a deeper level of emotion, and more originality. What it didn't have were the ground-breaking special effects and gigantic action scenes that are the highlights of the sequel.
The plot could have been richer. Schwarzenegger returns, playing a different unstoppable robot from the future, but in this outing, he's a good-guy Terminator. In the future, human being are fighting what seems to be an endless war against killer robots, which are controlled by a super-computer. John Connor, leader of the human resistance, has programmed a Terminator -- a human-appearing cyborg -- to protect his younger self against a T-1000, a newer model Terminator the computer has sent back in time with the mission of killing the boy John Connor.
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), John's mother, has been locked up in a booby hatch because she keeps claiming the world will be destroyed in a nuclear war, which she learned from Kyle Reese, the time traveler in the first film, who, sent back to save her, turns out to be the father of the man who sent him back in the first place. Once the Terminator has convinced young John (Edward Furlong) that he is a good Terminator, the two show up at the insane asylum to rescue Sarah, pursued by the shape-shifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick).
It's somewhat surprising to realize that 'Terminator 2' is crudely though effectively structured. It opens with a bangup action sequence (the chase in the concrete riverbed), follows up with another (the escape from the asylum) -- and then marks time for a long stretch in the middle, finally returning with a giant, unbroken action scene that must be at least 45 minutes long.
As an action movie, it works tremendously well, but it's not exactly a think piece; the ideas are simplistic and easily absorbed, though the "special edition," included on this DVD, is somewhat richer than the theatrical cut. 'Terminator 2,' like 'RoboCop' and 'Darkman' before it, is basically a terrific comic book movie that just happened not to be based on a comic book.
This special edition DVD is housed in a special slip-on aluminum case that really adds very little other than expense. But everything else about this edition is awesome, from the elaborate menu graphics to the astonishing array of extras, mostly included on the second side. (Yes, this is a flipover disc in an era when most special editions are packaged on two discs.) There's also an illustrated, well-done booklet.
If anything, there may be too many extras (though 'Terminator 2' fantatics won't agree); there's the entire screenplay, 700 storyboards, extensive interviews, production art, a few Easter eggs, many trailers, and one of the best commentary tracks available. Instead of sitting a couple of people down and recording what they say as they watch the film, 26 people involved with the film, including Cameron and Schwarzenegger, have been separately interviewed, and the interviews edited togather as the commentary track. Someone had the bright idea of identifying each speaker on screen.
The sound designer was again the stunningly inventive Gary Rydstrom, so the sound of the entire disc is a major treat for anyone, though especially so for those with high-end equipment. The movie has been divided up into an especially large number of chapters, so even fifteen minutes in, we're already at Chapter 20, when the motorcycle-truck chase begins. Chapter 28 commences the escape from the mental hospital, after which there's a relatively long pause -- at least in terms of explosions, gunfire and other thunderous activity -- until Chapter 59, when the SWAT team shows up at Cyberdine to battle with Schwarzenegger. From that point right on to the end of the movie is a continuous barrage of Rydstrom brilliance.
If you enjoy your sound system, there are very few DVDs out there more suited to have fun with it than this special edition of 'Terminator 2.'