Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
The Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) Directed by James Cameron.
John Connor: We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.
The Terminator: It's in your nature to destroy yourselves.
John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?
There aren't many movies where the sequel is better than the original; Star Trek the Motion Picture and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan spring immediately to mind. And this movie. The 1984 original is # 184 on IMDB's top 250. This one is #62. It won four Oscars, and 5 Saturns.
The original Terminator failed to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) when he was sent back in time to ensure that John Connor would never be born, and would never lead the human resistance against the machines. That failed. Now, they are trying again.
Last time, the sent a Terminator to kill Sarah, and the resistance sent Kyle Reese (Michael Behn) to defend her. This was a bit of a time loop, since John Connor knew Kyle was his father. This time, the machines have sent an advanced model Terminator, the liquid metal T1000 (Robert Patrick). The resistance sends their own man; a reprogrammed Terminator! (Arnold Schwarzenneger)
John Connor (Edward Furlong) is a tough kid; not only did his mom date a series of survivalists and special forces to teach him tactics, but after she was locked up in a mental institution, he got put through the California Foster Care system. This makes for a well rounded personality; he has a chip on every thing, not just his shoulders.
However, he is lucky. His ill temper with his hapless foster parents sees to it he is not home when the T1000 comes calling. Then, the two Terminators discover him more or less at the same time. And while the T1000 tries to run him over, the Terminator comes riding in like a leather clad cavalry on a motorcycle. Eluding the T1000, they try to anticipate his next move.
Sarah Connor is trapped in an asylum. She is the most vulnerable. Time and institutionalization has not been kind to the sweet little girl from 1984. Her frustration is a palpable force, boiling off of her like heat off lava. Tough, resourceful, mendacious, she has turned herself into a weapon. Of course, the system does not let living weapons who think that robots from the future are after them out on the streets. (Well, a lot more frequently since the Reagan years...) But the Terminator was correct; the next target was Sarah, and they barely manage to stay ahead of the murderous blob of quicksilver.
For the Terminator, all these events are history, and with his knowledge of the future, they attempt to disrupt the timeline that leads to Skynet becoming selfaware, and attacking humanity. To do that, they head for one of the creators of the program, Mike Dyson (Joe Morton).
And while Sarah tries to assassinate him to save the future, it is not in her to kill him in cold blood. However, they try a different approach, enlisting his aid to stop the program. It ends up they have made so much progress because they were reverse engineering the original Terminator that Sarah squished in 1984. Now, Miles gets them into his lab with the purpose of destroying all the data that will lead to the Rise of the Machines.
Of course, T1000 intends to complicate things...
What makes this movie so successful? Well, first, it is exceedingly well done. With a budget of $75M, with overruns up to $88M, they paid the money to get the effects right. Hence, the four Oscars. Second, it was well done as a movie. The plot is action packed, but does not stint on either emotional moments, or on humor. John Connor teaching the Terminator to be cool gave us the 76th most memorable movie line, "Hasta la vista, Baby!" And Arnold ad libbed a line from Kindergarten Cop, "I need a vaction."
And the actors are first rate. Arnold, though with limited dialogue, handled awkward hulking menace
Very well. Linda Hamilton is a veteran actress, quite bold enough to give herself over entirely to the somewhat unstable Sarah. (In an interesting side note when the T1000 was impersonating Sarah, that was not trick photography, that was her twin sister Leslie Hamilton Gearran, in her only film appearance.) And Edward Furlong's performance was amazing for one so young; he actually grew visibly in the nine months the production took, and had to voice over some of his scenes after his voice broke. And of course Robert Patrick added some lean and mean sex appeal to the role of mercurial killer.
But one of the best features, that I think really contributed to the movies overwhelming popularity was the reprogramming of the Terminator into a protector. Arnold asked that his character be made more family friendly. Now he is the hero, and the role model. And, if you will note, with the exception of the T1000, the Terminator does not kill anyone. He shoots a lot of kneecaps, but all sixteen deaths are at the hands of the T1000. We love the concept of the redeemed monster. It resonates in us, makes us believe in salvation, and the world is a fundamentally good place. I think that theme is why this movie is the best loved thus far.
Of course the fact that it is an action packed rollercoaster ride of thrills, chills, and explosions does not hurt things either. Action movies do not come much better than this.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator 4: Salvation.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older