Wednesday, January 06, 2010

“Hasta la vista, baby.”

In 1991, James Cameron returned to the world of SkyNet and Sarah Connor, bringing Terminator 2: Judgment Day to theaters. It had been almost ten years since the first movie and the general structure looked like it was going to ape the original, so how does the sequel stack up?

It’s the 1990s, and much like the original movie, a flash of electricity heralds the arrival of two naked men. Arnold’s Terminator is back and after beating up a group of bikers gets some clothes and starts looking for the last name of Connor. The other guy takes a cop’s clothes and does the same, ultimately converging in a shopping mall where they confront the young John Connor, and this time, the Arnold Terminator is the one sent back to protect him from the even more dangerous T-1000. More chases, gunfights, a side trip to rescue Sarah Connor from a mental hospital and a desperate attempt to prevent SkyNet from being completed to save the future ensue.

John Connor: Edward Furlong is our Hero, the very troubled youth John Connor. A foul-mouthed Mötley Crüe aficionado who’s in foster care (hey, his foster mom’s Jenette Goldstein, who was Vasquez in Aliens), he’s also an amateur hacker and mechanic, having been taught a lot of stuff by his presumed crazy mom. The kid’s kind of a dick, but undergoes some character development that actually makes him pretty likable by the end of the movie. After all, he’s got to survive to save humanity. Still, he spouts a lot of early 90s catchphrases that…they just haven’t aged well.

Sarah Connor: Linda Hamilton is back, though she’s changed a lot. First, she’s in a mental institution because she won’t stop talking about the robots and how they’re going to Kill All Humans. Second, she’s upgraded herself into a badass. She’s a survivor now, and is one tough cookie.

Dr. Silberman: Earl Boen is back again as the highly skeptical psychologist who’s now made Sarah his case study. Then he actually sees the Terminators in action for a really funny scene.

Miles Dyson: Joe Morton (who was also in, uh, Blues Brothers 2000) is the humble Cyberdine computer programmer who’s also the man who will unwittingly create SkyNet. Once our heroes figure out he’s the one, Sarah decides to take a very proactive means of solving that problem.

The T-800 Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger once more as the shades wearing cyborg, except this time, he’s on our (as in humanity) side. While still the implacable machine like in the first movie, he’s also way more awesome as the movie goes into “a boy and his killer cyborg” territory, blending the Badass Arnold with the Funny Arnold. I dare you to not be affected by the ending as the T-800 performs one of the coolest heroic sacrifices in cinema. Totally badass.

The T-1000: Robert Patrick is our villain, and really, really creepy. More skilled at infiltration because of his “liquid metal” body that can change shape (and form nasty looking blades). He manages to be a credible threat not by being bigger than the T-800, but by being more adaptable, flexible and relentless. When the heroes escape in a car, he just starts sprinting after them, and the way its done, he makes running at 35 mph look effortless in its inhumanity. An absolutely fantastic villain.

Visually, I’d say that James Cameron outdid The Terminator with this one. Action is still relentless, but there is an even greater sense of urgency, what with the goal of the heroes being to actually prevent (dun dun dun, or rather DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN) Judgment Day. The special effects are outstanding from Stan Winston’s team. The T-800 still looks great and the T-1000 is an absolute marvel to behold. Surprisingly, the CGI on the T-1000 was fairly restrained. Most of it was done with practical effects, and my God is it incredible.

However, I think the part that really sold me on this movie was the use of color and contrast. Each location has a distinct color, like the asylum being washed out white and blue, and then the…I guess smelting plant of the finale is full of blacks and reds. Its just outstanding.

All right, written by James Cameron and William Wisher, Jr., the script is tightly tied in to the events of the first movie. Its so tight that I can’t really think of any obvious plot holes. Dialog is good (aside from the dated 90s jargon that, well, every kid who ever experienced the 90s spouted. I didn’t even see this movie as a kid but said “hasta la vista, baby” a lot). There are a few moments where Sarah Connor gets incredibly preachy about how men are always destroying things, but before it becomes insufferable John kind of tells her "shut up, that's not helping."

The score by Brad Fiedel continues that same awesome percussive theme of the original movie.

The Terminator was a great film, but Terminator 2: Judgment Day I’m going to say outshines it. It’s a brilliantly realized sequel that completely ties up any and all loose ends from the first movie. Loose ends you didn’t even think were loose ends.

Thumbs up.

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