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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (R)
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Caution: spoilers!

This is a 1991 sequel to the 1984 movie The Terminator. I don't think I'd ever heard of the original movie until this came out, possibly because I was too young in 1984 to be particularly aware of any R-rated movies, or maybe because the original wasn't nearly as big a deal when it came out as this was. I mean, it was pretty successful, I guess, but it was more a surprise hit. This, however, had a much bigger budget (around $100 million, which at the time was pretty much unheard of), and it pretty much redefined the term "blockbuster" (or at least it was one of the first movies to make blockbusters pretty much the norm, for Hollywood). It also had a major influence in the use of CGI special effects in movies, and one of the effects in this movie is probably the first I ever heard of morphing. (Well, this and Michael Jackson's "Black or White" music video.) I'm pretty sure I didn't see it in a theater, but I was definitely aware of the hype. And I must have seen it on video sometime in the early 90s. And then I didn't really see it again until I watched it on DVD in 2014.

The movie is set in 1995, when John Connor is ten years old. (He's played by 12-year-old Edward Furlong, whom I would have found more believable as a young 14 than a mature 10.) John is now a juvenile delinquent, living with foster parents. His mother, Sarah (who has, between films, become a badass) is in a psychiatric hospital, after having tried to blow up a factory belonging to a corporation called Cyberdyne (which had been mentioned in the first movie as the company that was responsible for the machines that eventually turned against mankind). I should also say that this movie mentions Cyberdyne's computer system, Skynet, but I really don't recall hearing Skynet mentioned in the first movie. It probably was, but I was specifically listening for it (the second time I watched the movie), and I must have missed it. Also this movie mentions August 29, 1997 as "Judgment Day," the day Skynet launched the nuclear war that wiped out around three billion humans. I'm pretty sure no specific date was mentioned in the original movie. Oh, I should mention that Sarah's psychiatrist is Dr. Silberman, who had been in the first film. He'd actually passed by the Terminator on the way out of the police station when the Terminator was going in. A few minutes later, all the cops in the station were dead, which I kind of felt would have lent credence to Sarah's seemingly crazy claims about time travelers, so I'm a bit surprised that Dr. Silberman still doesn't believe her, in this movie. But hey, the guy's a tool, so whatever.

Anyway, as in the first movie, a naked man appears amidst a plasma-like phenomenon. (And as in the original movie, he's played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, so we know he's a badass cyborg.) He goes to a biker bar, beats some people up, acquires some clothes, a motorcycle, and a shotgun. Oh, and a pair of sunglasses. And a second naked man (Robert Patrick) appears in the present the same way. He's soon confronted by a cop, from whom he steals a uniform and a police car. So, both time travelers will now be looking for John; one to kill him, and one to protect him. Just like happened with Sarah in the original movie. The twist comes when both guys find John at the same time, and it turns out Schwarzenegger's character is the good guy. He saves John, and we learn that the other character is an advanced Terminator, called a T-1000. (Schwarzenegger is a T-800, though in the first movie the same type was called a Model 101.) The T-1000 is made of liquid metal, and can morph into anyone or anything (as long as it's basically the same size as him, and he can't turn into complex machines). So... much more dangerous than a T-800, but at least it provides for some really cool visual effects.

John is shocked to learn that everything his mother ever told him was true, so he orders his protector to help him rescue her from the institution. She's actually doing a fair job of escaping on her own, when both Terminators show up. And of course at first she thinks the good guy is the bad guy, but John quickly convinces her otherwise, and they all once again escape from the T-1000. They go to see Sarah's friend Enrique, who's been storing weapons for her. Meanwhile, John tries to teach the T-800 to act more human. Sarah learns from the T-800 that the person responsible for Skynet is Miles Dyson, a character I didn't remember at all from the first time I saw the movie (as I don't remember many details about the movie at all). But it was cool watching the second time, because he's played by Joe Morton, whom I now know from Eureka. Anyway, Sarah decides to kill Dyson, to try to prevent Skynet from ever being created. But instead, they end up convincing him to help them destroy all the files on his work at Cyberdyne, as well as stealing some future tech the corporation had acquired from the destroyed Terminator in the first movie, so they can destroy that too. Of course, T-1000 chases them as they're leaving Cyberdyne, so there's still plenty more action. And eventually there's an emotional climax, the scene I always remembered most from the movie. And it seems like they've prevented the apocalyptic future, but of course that would mean John would never have been born, and also we know there are sequels, so... you can't really say they've truly won. I guess.

Well... I want to mention that John grew on me throughout the movie. There was one scene where he really annoyed me, but basically he's a good kid, I guess. He smart, and snarky, but he also doesn't want anyone getting killed. And he's loyal. And whatnot. Mostly I like him for his snarkiness, though. And... I dunno what else to say about the movie. It's bigger and cooler than the original. Maybe a bit less smart than the original, but still smarter than you'd expect. And it has its share of humor, and probably even more heart than the original. The sequel is more fun to watch, but I think ultimately my appreciation of each movie kind of evens out.


science fiction index

The Terminator * Judgment Day * Rise of the Machines * The Sarah Connor Chronicles * Salvation * Genisys