Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong
Plot: Humanity’s war with the machines continues after Skynet sends a more advanced cyborg made of liquid metal to the past, to terminate a young John Connor. His protector is also a cyborg, identical to the one that tried to murder his mother.
Terminator 2: Judgement day follows a similar narrative to its predecessor: two robots are sent from the future to prevent the rise of John Connor (Furlong). This time, instead of targeting his mother Sarah (Hamilton), John himself is targeted as a child by a new and far more advanced cyborg, the T-1000 (Patrick). As before, the human resistance are able to send back a protector to intercept and protect the target, only this time, the resistance are able to send back a cyborg similar to the one who had targeted Sarah 10 years earlier. The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) must protect John at all costs and earn the trust of Sarah, who is reluctant to utilise the help of a machine.
Seven years after the highly successful The Terminator, James Cameron returns with his eagerly anticipated sequel, Judgement Day, which was everything Cameron wanted in his original 1984 film, but couldn’t achieve due to limitations in technology and freedom from the studio. The rise in technology was a big factor in the film’s production and is synonymous with the film’s plot, as the Connors now face a far more advanced threat and increase in technology from the machines, who send back a cyborg made of liquid metal. This idea of liquid metal required a lot of convincing CGI technology which simply was not available in 1984, but Cameron’s patience paid off as the delay for better technology became a contributing factor in an unusally successful sequel, both critically and financially. Cameron also used the original plot from the first film before it was scrapped, which was to destroy Skynet before it is built, which again, was a more realistic target with the budget and freedom he had for this sequel.
The introduction of Patrick’s character the T-1000 was planned as the original villain of the first Terminator film, but ultimately could not have been achieved for budget and technology constraints. Cameron was influenced to use the T-1000 after the effects planned to create it were used in Cameron’s previous film, The Abyss (1989) and were successful in gaining a positive reaction from audiences. While for some people the CGI seems outdated now, Terminator 2 was a pioneer in the special effects used, which combined digital and practical effects to give the T-1000 a feeling of having a genuine presence on the screen.
There is a considerable use of the colours red and blue throughout the movie; lights (particularly during the Galleria scene), items of clothing and significant objects such as John’s red dirt bike and blue backpack, to name just a few. During the night-time scenes there is lack of colour due to an overwhelming blue filter, which is often to used to emphasise evening, and during the final scene in the smelting factory there is an equally prominent orange/red filter, which is caused by the abundance of molten metal. The constant use of these colours presented throughout the movie gives a symbolic reference to police, which is another theme of the movie. They appear in almost every key scene and the T-1000 actually impersonates an officer. This gives a false sense of security and authority, switching typical societal roles; the terminator is dressed as a biker thug, but is the protector, whereas the T-1000 is dressed as a police officer despite being the villain. This in of itself is symbolic for the overall theme of The Terminator franchise, relating back to the overarching villain, Skynet, the controller of the machines and the computer system responsible for wiping out the human race. Skynet is reflected through this false sense of safety and authority because it was initially designed as a weapons defence system by humans, but has now become the ultimate enemy.
Reprising his role as the terminator is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who delivers a close to perfect performance as the cyborg sent to protect John. He has perfected the robotic performance from the previous film by tweaking every minor detail and correcting any mistakes. Alongside him is Robert Patrick who displays an equally as effective performance, but rather than coming across as stiff and robotic Patrick seems more slick and smooth in contrast, which is to reflect the ‘liquid metal’ part of his character’s physicality. Patrick based a lot of his movements and direction on the movements of animals, most notably sharks, which he credits as inspiration for his movements through crowds of people when stalking John. This fluidity creates a genuine feel of a more advanced, upgraded robot compared to Schwarzenegger’s model, whilst still maintaining a subtle robotic performance. Linda Hamilton also gives her career-defining performance as the tough and physical Sarah Connor whose visible change from the first film has an immediate impact. No longer the fragile and innocent waitress from the first film, she is now molded into the strong, determined and somewhat emotionally cold hero after the events of The Terminator. Hamilton’s dedication to developing her character and devoting herself to truly creating the iconic Sarah Connor is ever-present, even gaining the eternal praise from James Cameron who felt her performance deserved an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is close to being a perfect film; the war of good VS. evil reflected through a powerful story of human spirit and determination. Linda Hamilton gives a thoroughly intense and emotional performance as Sarah Connor, whilst Schwarzenegger and Patrick provide much of the film’s entertainment. While the film maintains a cold and dark feeling throughout, Schwarzenegger adds a touch of subtle humour and levity without diminishing the film’s serious and intense nature. This would be the last involvement Cameron would have with a Terminator film, after concluding that Judgement Day ended the series perfectly. Despite three more installments released after and more sequels planned until 2019 when Cameron reacquires the rights to the series, Terminator 2: Judgement Day remains, in the view of many, as the defining Terminator film.