Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The quintessential sequel, the quintessential sci-fi actioner & one of the greatest films ever made, James Cameron’s follow-up story to his breakthrough classic presents such a huge upgrade over its predecessor that it ends up decimating the 1984 original in all filmmaking departments with effortless ease, and remains one of the most influential, entertaining & breathtaking action extravaganzas to grace the silver screen.
A highly irresistible, pulse-pounding, high-octane, full-throttled, top-gear action spectacle that’s filled with some of the most dangerous, daring & heart-stopping stunts ever captured on the film celluloid, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the perfect definition of a worthy sequel that presents its renowned director at the peak of his creativity, is the finest work of his illustrious career, and its influence on its genre, visual effects & pop culture surpasses even its predecessor.
The story of Terminator 2: Judgment Day follows the aftermath of the events that transpired in The Terminator and continues the journey of Sarah Connor & her 10-year old son, John Connor; the future leader of human resistance in the war against the machines. After failing to eliminate Sarah during its first attempt, Skynet sends a much more advanced Terminator back in time to kill John when he’s still a child while another saviour from the future arrives whose mission is to protect John & ensure his survival at all costs.
Written, produced & directed by James Cameron, the improvements present in this sequel are evident from the film’s opening moments with more enhanced visuals, larger-than-life action & one mind-blowing sequence after another. I’ve always admired Cameron because he’s one of the very few filmmakers who understands what great action is all about, knows how to expand upon the original instead of rehashing the same events & has the talent to accomplish not just his own artistic ambitions but also the expectations of the mainstream audience without compromising with the quality.
Also, in my opinion, a sequel has no reason to exist unless it can improve upon the original and it’s usually why I’m skeptical about most of them. Cameron seems to know this better than anyone for he has proven it not once but twice already; first with Aliens; the action-packed follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Alien & then with this second chapter to the film that launched his career. And despite the major upgrades in action & other technical aspects, the story retains the high-quality content of the original, exhibits extensive character depth & is brilliantly paced from start to finish.
From a technical point of view, Terminator 2 is a marvel of genre filmmaking in every sense of the word. Production Design team does a commendable job with its refined sets, locations are nicely selected for filming especially when it comes to action scenes, Cinematography makes expert use of its camera in keeping the action clearly visible with its cleverly chosen angles, makes the drama more immersive with its controlled movements, and with its precision use of colour hues & lighting provides a rich texture to the whole film that further enhances the whole experience.
Editing is one of its strongest aspects for each sequence paves the groundwork for the next scene in line, the flow of events is incredibly smooth & relaxed, and the pace is so methodically handled that its 136 minutes of runtime simply flies by. Even Brad Fiedel comes up with a more evolved, pulsating & fitting score that beautifully integrates into the film’s narrative and has a firm grip on the viewers’ emotions from start to finish. But where Terminator 2 sets an entirely new benchmark is in its visual effects, sound design & action choreography, all of which are simply groundbreaking.
Although Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is cited by many as the picture that revolutionised the film industry with its pioneering use of computer-generated-imagery, it was actually this film that made the necessary breakthroughs in CGI which made the former possible. The practical effects are even more impressive for the film features plenty of death-defying stunts during in its action & its choreography still remains in a league of its own. The only other film that comes close to duplicating the very same feat is the recently released Mad Max: Fury Road but even that post-apocalyptic mayhem lacks the meticulous refinement Cameron brings to this film’s story & characters.
Coming to the performances, Terminator 2 features a dependable cast in Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick & Edward Furlong, with the reprising actors improving upon their performances of the last chapter while new ones instantly making a mark in their given roles. Schwarzenegger returns as the cyborg sent from the future but with a new mission & while T-800 isn’t the same relentless assassin in this chapter, there is never a moment when we aren’t aware of what he’s capable of. Schwarzenegger gets to explore new dimensions of his character and does a spectacular job at it for T-800 isn’t just badass in this picture but also exceptionally cool, charismatic & heroic.
Linda Hamilton reprises her role of Sarah Connor and builds upon her earlier rendition with a stronger performance as her character exhibits a more evolved & tougher persona, which she renders splendidly. Edward Furlong is introduced as John Connor & while he can be annoying on few occasions, it’s a dream debut nonetheless. And finally we have Robert Patrick as T-1000; a highly advanced cyborg far superior to T-800 model and is virtually the most lethal, unstoppable, indestructible & invincible Terminator in existence. Cameron has shaped up this antagonist really well plus Patrick’s added inputs help immensely in making his character one of the greatest film villains of all time.
On an overall scale, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is blockbuster filmmaking at its finest for it sets a very high bar for its genre(s) that hasn’t been equalled ever since, remains one of the most enjoyable, entertaining & jaw-dropping works of sci-fi action with an extremely high repeat value, is a perfect example of a sequel that surpasses the original in every regard, and is a landmark achievement of genre filmmaking that has had a lasting impact on multimedia & pop culture. The best film of its year, one of the most memorable films of the 1990s & one of cinema’s greatest triumphs, James Cameron’s conclusion to his Terminator saga is an unprecedented, undisputed & unrivalled cinematic masterpiece that comes one hundred percent recommended.