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From Under A Rock: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

May 20, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator 2
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From Under A Rock: Terminator 2: Judgment Day  


Weeks like these are fun for us, because we get to cover what we consider to be “landmark” films that one of us hasn’t seen before. This week’s pick is a movie that most people over the age of 25 have seen and it should definitely lead to an interesting discussion. Please join us in said discussion below!

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Tangled. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Released: July 3rd, 1991
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron & William Wisher
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator/T-800 (Model 101)
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Robert Patrick as T-1000
Edward Furlong as John Connor

Michael Ornelas: Simply put, I picked this because Aaron hadn’t seen it yet. This was more or less a “for him” pick, as I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Terminator franchise…but something about this viewing really did it for me. I think it’s the third time I’ve seen this and I finally dug it as much as a lot of its fans do.

Aaron Hubbard: I am actually in a similar boat, as I rewatched The Terminator before this and really fell in love with it. The sequel? Been meaning to check this off my bucket list for a while.
True to Character
Michael: I loved the complexity of the film’s main characters. The Terminator, John and Sarah Connor, the T-1000, and Dyson never betrayed their character motivations despite having them all at odds with each other throughout much of the movie. This creative tension forced decisions to be made that greatly impacted the outcome of the plot. I loved that Sarah couldn’t trust the T-800 and that he had to prove himself via his loyalty to John. I loved everything involving Miles Dyson, from Sarah shooting him at his home and the fact that the creator of the tech that would lead to Skynet was a good man with good intentions, to his ultimate self-sacrifice. I thought all the dynamics clicked into place perfectly and made for a riveting experience.

Aaron: Ironically, the biggest difference between the first Terminator and this one is that the T-800 has done a face turn. The unkillable monster that Arnold played is now the protector. Schwarzenegger was skeptical about this working and campaigned for the T-800 to get some extra kills in before John Connor intervenes, and I think it paid off. While Edward Furlong can be grating at times, seeing how the T-800 grows as a character was really effective opposite him. I won’t lie; seeing the movie from beginning to end nearly caused me to tear up at the very end. That’s impressive character work considering how terrifying Arnold was in the original.

Michael: Arnold is easily my favorite part of the movie as his arc is simply fascinating. I don’t really find Furlong to be grating but I can concur that the pairing of John and the Terminator gave us a movie that I’m sure no one would have predicted after watching the first Terminator movie.
Bigger! Badder! Better?
Aaron: So, incidentally, I happened to be watching Aliens around the time you made this pick, and it’s impossible not to see similarities between the two. Both Alien and The Terminator are relatively small budget films focusing on an unstoppable monster on a killing spree, with one largely unprepared woman barely surviving. In the sequels, we’ve got more of the monsters, more explosions, more world-building, questionably entertaining children, and the female leads have become badass action chicks. I’m generally opposed to the “bigger is better” approach, but it’s hard to argue that Cameron didn’t know how to escalate things perfectly in his second go-arounds.

Michael: It’s actually been awhile since I’ve seen the first film in this franchise, but on its own, I really loved this. Not because of the “bigger” aspect of it, but because I feel it’s more natural to cheer Arnold as the T-800 and watch his change of “heart” happen before our very eyes. Arnold himself is far too likable to not want to cheer. The aspects of this film that were bigger, however, added to the scale of the plot and definitely strengthened the movie. One of my favorite “big” scenes was when Arnold was firing out the window at the cops outside and blowing up their cars while trying to avoid casualties.

Aaron: What really stuck out to me was the huge highway chase, and the trip to kill Skynet; both are big set pieces the original didn’t have money for. All that said, my favorite scene is the opening bar sequence. It’s very polished but has the B-Movie edginess that the original had. Speaking of that film, I feel I like The Terminator slightly more because I think the narrative is tighter, but I can’t fault this one’s ambition.
Ahead of Its Time Visuals
Michael: Here we are with another James Cameron pick that really impressed me with the effects when you look at the year they were done in. This movie’s effects hold up perfectly well even in 2017. With minimal upgrading, I think studios could do similar effects in a modern movie and have it read well with audiences. I think CGI is overdone to the point that we’re sacrificing an audience’s ability to connect the film to reality in favor of overcooked graphics. I say this fresh off the heels of seeing Alien: Covenant in theaters (my most anticipated movie of the year), and I was really underwhelmed because of the film’s aesthetic feeling a bit too computer-generated. I’d love a return to T2’s era of visual effects because I think it’s enough to work, but sadly computers have long since passed that by and we will likely never get simplicity back again.

Aaron: I think the main reason the CGI in this holds up is because Cameron had a great idea (the liquid metal), and CGI mostly just enhances it. But I was also really impressed with a more practical approach. Namely, Linda Hamilton has a twin sister who doubles for her in a few scenes, and there’s another pair of twins when T-800 breaks into the mental hospital. It’s a great trick that works well each time. One of the more impressive shots was cut from the film has a fake mirror with Linda and Arnold on one side, while her twin and a model head is on the side closest to us as Sarah sews the robot head together. It’s a ridiculously well-pulled-off shot.

Michael: Dammit, I didn’t know you knew about that. I was going to use this space to tell you how cool that was. Oh well. Readers? Pretend Aaron didn’t say that bit about the mirror and that I did. It’s such overkill for a cool shot, but they couldn’t do it with a real mirror or else you’d see the reflection of the camera.

Aaron: I loved pretty much everything about Terminator 2. It’s basically a perfect sequel, the opening bar scene has to be in my top ten favorite scenes of all time, Arnold is great, the effects and action are stellar. My only real knock is John Connor being a somewhat annoying kid, but even that could have been way worse. I would say I prefer the original but together these two films are incredible.


Michael: It took my third time watching the movie, but I finally see this as the classic it is. There really is no weakness to be found. I hate going A+ so often, but the point of this column is to show each other genuinely fantastic films that we’ve missed, so it’s kind of the desired outcome, isn’t it?


Aaron: I see myself watching both these two again sooner than later.

Michael: I still fear the notion of moving forward in the franchise though. I think I’ll just leave it at the first two and call it a day.

What’s your favorite Schwarzenegger role?

Next week:

Aaron: So in a couple weeks, we’re all see if Wonder Woman can pull off her first big movie. With that in mind, I thought it was fitting to give this one a look.
Wonder Woman
Michael: I didn’t even know if this was live action or animated until you picked this just now. I know nothing, but I know she’s your favorite comic book character, so I’m down to check her out.

Aaron: I don’t consider it a classic, but I think it was the first time the DC direct-to-video animated films produced something worthwhile. That is still going strong in 2017.

What is your favorite DC animated film?

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Aaron Has Another Column!
My comics book column is going on an indeterminate hiatus, thanks to changes in my work schedule. But you can still check out my reviews of venerable classics like Aliens every Thursday.

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Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 800 films. Recent reviews include The Terminator and Alien 3, but I also recently redid my Top 150 Movies list, comprised of every five-star and ****1/2 movie I’ve seen.

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
Terminator 2: Judgment Day absolutely lives up to its reputation. Turning Arnold's robot killer into a lovable bodyguard is a gamble, but it worked because of Arnold's charisma and because the T-1000 is a very effective new villain. The CGI doesn't hold up perfectly, but the story, set pieces, and character stuff still works. It's one of the greatest popcorn flicks either of us have seen, and absolutely worth watching.

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Terminator 2, Michael Ornelas