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Terminator 2: Judgment Day Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 2007

Image Seven years after the original, modestly budgeted “The Terminator,” director James Cameron and co-screenwriter William Wisher returned to continue the story, this time with an enormous budget and cutting-edge special effects capable of realizing their ideas.

Two robotic Terminators are sent from the future—the new T-1000 model (Robert Patrick) to kill John Connor, the other, the familiar T-800 model (Arnold Schwarzenegger), to protect him. The new Terminator can change its shape. On the run with the T-800, John (Edward Furlong) must rescue his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton, from the first film) from a mental hospital, where she’s been put by Dr. Silverman (Earl Boen, also from the first film). Determined to stop the Cyberdyne company before they create the Skynet program, which will trigger the apocalypse, Sarah seeks Dr. Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) and the Cyberdyne lab itself. At the same time, they must avoid the implacably pursuing chameleon-like Terminator determined to stop them.

The structure of the story and its beats are essentially the same as in the first film, and there’s a strong feeling of déjà vu in much of the proceedings. However, there are several new wrinkles added—in this film, there are two Terminators. That played by Schwarzenegger is identical to the one in the first film, but is programmed to protect John Connor. The other, played by Robert Patrick, is a shape-shifting killing machine made of liquid metal. While it’s filled with wall-to-wall mayhem and violence, it feels like a softer, lighter version of the first film. The action set-pieces are extremely well-edited and paced (the truck reservoir chase, the escape from the lab, the freeway chase at the end) but they’re so gargantuan that the sense of personal threat somehow feels diminished. The decision to include John Connor in the story as a delinquent teenager gives the film an unfortunate PG-13ishness in tone. Furlong’s comedic interplay with the Terminator becomes grating—the movie threatens to turn into “Me and My Robot Pal” several times. Connor’s moments of whiz-kid ability seem like holdovers from the many “annoying-smart-kids” films from the 1980’s. Furlong was young, and perhaps it would be unfair to criticize thekid too harshly; it’s an extremely demanding role and not many child actors would be able to hit all the beats in the script. Furlong hits a few of them, but none require real depth, and he mostly seems like a teenager playing make-believe.

Linda Hamilton is pumped and in shape, though she does seem a bit skinny. She’s mostly good, but the sequence where she becomes her worst fear and tries to kill Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) and attacks his home, is too schematic, and her acting is unintentionally funny and grating. In addition, she’s saddled with a stupid hat and wraparound sunglasses, intended to make her look more intense but which make the sequence ever more clunky. If Cameron had made her a little more unstable as a result of being institutionalized, this could have worked, but it’s awkward as is. Robert Patrick is cool and creepy as the new Terminator, but Schwarzenegger is a bit too wry and self-aware, his behavior frequently more human than robotic.

As an action spectacle, the film was quite an exciting and impressive work for its day. 15 years on, its still a fun adventure, but we’ve seen so many developments in special effects and one-upmanship in large action sequences, that the sense of “I can’t believe what I’m seeing” that was a huge aspect of the film’s enjoyment back in the day, is severely reduced.

With the kinetic thrills minimized by the film’s place in movie history, one’s attention on the dialogue and story scenes is increased. Unfortunately, this is where the film is weakest—its character development is lacking and the pacing sags about half-way into the film. The extended edition, released on DVD and laserdisc, but not on this Blu-ray disc, is an improvement in this regard. The added moments of character development and dialogue enrich the film and its thought-provoking ideas build a stronger connection between this film and its predecessor. While it is longer, the added material makes it more gripping. Certainly the extended edition will have its day on Blu-ray down the road, and for purists, it’s nice to have the theatrical cut preserved on this format.

“Terminator 2” has traditionally been the home theater enthusiast’s demo of choice. The many laserdisc releases of the film were benchmarks in their day and at least one of the newer DVD releases was of an extremely high caliber. Naturally, one would expect this Blu-ray release of the film to be another reference disc, this time for HD. Regretfully, this edition of the film is far from demo quality and is lacking on a number of fronts. Image quality is fine for a standard DVD, but doesn’t display any noticeable increase in sharpness or image detail, which one expects from a high definition release. A few facial close-ups (Linda Hamilton after the dream sequence and the mangled Terminator after he takes a beating) are crisp, and the colors appear accurate, but it’s unimpressive and lacking in punch.

Another disappointment is the lack of an uncompressed PCM soundtrack. The audio isn’t encoded in any of the higher resolution sound formats, and is presented with the same standard Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS ES tracks that were on the standard DVD release. It’s an average rendition of a somewhat dated mix. It’s more front-speaker-focused than surround tracks of more recent vintage, but when the surrounds are used, the level of involvement and excitement increases. The mix overall is lacking in detail and intensity.

The only film-related extras are two audio commentaries which complement each other nicely. Cameron and Wisher are fairly casual on their track, and the focus tends to be on the genesis of the film, the story and the themes, as well as production aspects. The second commentary, featuring over two dozen members of the cast and crew, sprinkles brief anecdotes and scene-specific behind-the-scenes tales throughout the running time of the film. It gives a nice sense of the various voices and personalities responsible.

This Blu-ray release of “Terminator 2” is so extras-barren that a more elaborate special edition (mimicking their standard DVD Ultimate edition hopefully) must certainly be in the pipeline. Until that time, home theater enthusiasts are better off holding on to the standard edition DVD as there’s little reason to upgrade to the current Blu-ray release.

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