An Action Masterpiece In Peak Home Video Viewing Format
Terminator 2 exists among an elite class of all-time great action cinema. The debate will forever rage between which film among the first two Terminators is the greatest. I side towards T2 for highly subjective reasoning. First and foremost being that my older sister took me to see it in theaters in 1991 when I was virtually the exact same age as the T-1000’s target in the film: Eddie Furlong’s John Connor. I was absolutely smitten and forever altered by that theatrical experience (thanks cool older sister). Obviously the years rolled on and revisiting both The Terminator and T2 remained a cinematic joy each and every viewing. Fans can make convincing cases for either of the two films being “better”. My sense is that taking a peacemaker track is the way to go with assessing the two films: Terminator is the better horror film, and T2 is the better action film. If you lean towards action as your genre of preference, as I do, then T2 takes the clear lead as the most rewatchable and iconic of the two.
Inarguably one of the greatest sequels ever made, Terminator 2 builds itself upon a few key ideas that upend the audience’s expectations and work like gangbusters with industry-altering technological execution. In the first film, self-aware machines have taken control of the future and are extinguishing the human race after setting off a nuclear holocaust. The human resistance to the machines is led by John Connor, so the machines send a killer robot back in time to kill Connor’s unsuspecting future-mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton). They also send back human soldier Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), who does battle with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic villainous Terminator. It’s an unrelenting thrill ride and an uncompromising vision executed on a limited budget. Terminator 2 takes the key characters from the first film and alters them in ingenious ways, giving them import and purpose which lends weight to the visually spectacular and propulsive plotting of this blockbuster.
As the frightened “everywoman” in Terminator, Linda Hamilton’s Sarah can only react to the insanity that befalls her as Reese and the T-800 battle to protect and destroy her, respectively. Here, she’s transformed into a soldier willing to grab fate by the balls and destroy anything that would threaten her son. Hamilton physically and mentally transforms into a fascinating mother-warrior that remains one of cinema’s all-time toughest heroines, with agency and motivations specific to her plight. Despite her son John Connor being the primary target of the time travelling cyborgs in this installment, Sarah remains the de facto main character, getting all the narration of the film in her voice, heard through her character’s perspective.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic villain from the first film is transformed into a hero in T2. This was risky and ill-advised, but executed so successfully that cultural skepticism around this bold idea has basically faded out of existence. The writing and character dynamics at play, with a young John Connor initially believing that his institutionalized mother was crazy and that none of her judgment day rhetoric was true, make Arnold’s Terminator character all the more fascinating here. I (somewhat controversially) believe that Edward Furlong more than holds his own in his big screen debut as John Connor. All the drama centers around the life and death of John Connor, and Furlong’s vulnerability and rebellious charm prove a perfect foil to Arnold’s killer robot assigned to protect and obey John. James Cameron and William Wisher manage to write a touching and meaningful character arc for an emotionless robot, and it’s brilliant.
Also risky was the idea to introduce a newer, sleeker Terminator that is technologically superior to Arnold’s T-800 in every way. Again upending expectations established from the first film, the relentless pursuer and symbol of unstoppable power from the first film is now the underdog, making the survival of our human characters even more suspect. Robert Patrick’s liquid metal T-1000 is a perfect big screen villain teamed against another perfect big screen villain. Movie magic fires on all cylinders to bring the T-1000 to life. From a pitch perfect and iconic performance by Patrick (physically smaller and than Schwarzenegger but somehow twice as threatening), to the envelope-pushing visual effects from Stan Winston’s team that recreate a sentient liquid metal being in an utterly convincing way, the T-1000 is perhaps the biggest risk taken by James Cameron and team, and it’s the ingredient that most cements T2 as a spectacle for the ages.
Almost 30 years old at this point, watching Terminator 2 in 2017 feels like an exhilarating and fresh experience that’s never quite been equaled. Action set piece after set piece ratchets up the tension and spectacle (both practical and digital) masterfully. Well written and fleshed out characters carve a real path through an interesting sci-fi journey of AI future wars and time travel quandaries. None of the three feature films or tv series that came after this installment have been able to introduce such new and fresh ideas to the Terminator mythology or formula, and none had the balls to take as many risks as this film did, either.
My sincere hope is that James Cameron has such a good time remastering this film for ultra high definition that he will keep going and bring some of his long awaited featured like The Abyss and True Lies into the world of ultra high definition (or even high definition, for that matter). Probably one of the most perfect home viewing experiences of my life, this 4K UHD transfer is simply mind-blowingly beautiful. Watching an utter masterwork of visual wonder on a brand new transfer that brings the movie into the 21st century spectacularly was a transcendent viewing experience that brought on goosebumps on multiple occasions. Bells and whistles can’t make a bad movie good, but seeing a great movie meticulously restored is the stuff of film geek heaven. 4K UHD enthusiasts must pick up this disc as soon as possible.
Featuring a new hour-long documentary, you do get a pretty substantial new doc to sink your teeth into as a Terminator fan who has probably purchased this title in upwards of 3 formats already. You also get the Blu-ray, which I believe includes all the features of the “Skynet Edition” Blu-ray release, including bonus features, multiple cuts of the film, etc. This home video release was done in conjunction with the 3D theatrical re-release of the film done in 2017. I find it a little weird that this release doesn’t include a 3D home version of the film, but that doesn’t impact me as I have no home 3D set up and feel no desire to jump into that realm.
If you dive into the Blu-ray disc, this release has loads of content. The 4K disc mostly just provides you with the film itself. This will be one of my prize physical media possessions and comes with my highest recommendation.
And I’m Out.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is now available on 4K UHD Blu-ray from Lionsgate.