Thought of as the greatest sequel of all time – and one of the best films ever – James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) remains an absolutely outstanding film that delivers on every single bloody level. Let’s remember this one, baby.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The complex plot brings us up to date with the antics of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) following on from The Terminator (1984).
She’s in a mental institute after her destructive attempts to stop an apocalyptic future with Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn).
With the latter dead, the authorities don’t quite believe her rampant tales of Skynet and psychotic robots that’ll take over the Earth after nuclear chaos expected just two years ahead in 1997.
Meanwhile, in the future of 2029, Sarah’s son John Connor sends a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1995 to try and stop Skynet’s Terminator (Robert Patrick) from killing the young John Connor (Edward Furlong).
The idea being with John dead, then there can’t be a successful resistance movement against the killer robots. Yeah?
Blasted back in time, the Terminators aptly begin a race against time to reach young John Connor first.
In the mad dash, the pair (acting like robot detectives) simultaneously stumble upon Connor and try to wipe him out/save him.
Big Arnie wins out and they leg it. After this, John insists they bust his mother out of the insane asylum to try and save humanity.
With Sarah on the loose, the plan is to stop Skynet taking over. To do that, they need to get to major computer firm Cyberdyne’s resident genius Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton).
He can help them get access to Cyberdyne so the Connors can destroy technology left behind by the previous Terminator (which Dyson is adapting furiously into new tech that’ll influence Skynet *deep breath*).
But it’s all easier said than done when the evil T-1000 model Terminator is more technologically advanced than Big Arnie.
Cue relentless and breathtaking action sequences, plus genuinely well-observed philosophising on the future of humanity.
Terminator 2 also features some highly impressive CGI. Used carefully and only on several occasions, alongside the exceptional practical effects you’ve got a film from 1991 that looks better than many modern releases.
And if all that wasn’t mental enough, there are standout performances from Schwarzenegger and Hamilton. Young Edward Furlong did a good job, too, even if it’s sad to report (now he’s 42) he went off the rails a bit in adulthood.
But for James Cameron, this was another masterpiece. And this landed only five years after Aliens.
Yes, half a decade after one of the best films ever, he landed another one of the best films ever. What the Hell, Cameron?!
Pre & Post-Production
For the sake of this review we stuck with the Americanised “Judgment” – even though every cell in our bodies wants to add the “e” in. That’s the respect we have for the film!
The Terminator wasn’t a smash hit in cinemas, but after the advent of VHS in the 1980s it reached a much wider audience as the decade wore on.
In time, this led to a growing fanbase – all of which paved the way for a sequel. Another reason the sequel was delayed was due to technical limitations.
But after Cameron’s groundbreaking use of CGI in The Abyss, the scene was set for the development of his first film.
That paved the way for him to develop on his debut, with Schwarzenegger continuing on from the role that really put his name on the Hollywood… map?
The result for the sequel? On a rumoured budget of circa $100 million, the film was a massive hit and raked in $523.7 million worldwide.
Cameron should be happy with that. Except the success of his later films makes that total look utterly pathetic in comparison (Avatar and Titanic have made over $6 billion).
But that still made Terminator 2 the highest grossing film of 1991.
Additionally, it won Oscars for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects. That’s a lot of best right there, non? Which has all paved the way for a rather favourable reputation.
It even had a brief re-release in cinemas back in 2017 (around the time of Christopher Nolan’s largely excellent Dunkirk), yet blasted straight to No. 1 at the box office in the UK.
Terminator 2 is now a major part of pop culture. The script – written by Cameron and William Wisherlands – lands two epic movie quotes that’ll last the ages:
- “Come with me if you want to live.”
- “Hasta la vista, baby.”
As kids around 1991, these terms entered society like a plague. Everywhere we went everyone was saying them. Primarily the “Hasta la vista” line.
Now obviously that’s Spanish and a decent translation is, “Goodbye” or “Until the next time”. For the European Spanish version of the film, this line is dubbed as “Sayonara, baby” – but it’s all due to John Connor’s use of youth slang.
Furlong was 13 at the time of filming and Cameron was obviously trying to channel the parlance of the day.
We were kids around the time, too, but all that lot past us by – we were probably too busy going, “Poo poo, wee wee!” Indeed.
Asides from the few lines of dialogue, the whole film is one long iconic reel of iconic moments. It’s a masterclass in high-concept pomp and ceremony – a perfect action film.
Parodied to high heaven and still a regular part of pop culture, Terminator 2 is an absolute must for any film fan. It’s a bloody classic.
Regardless of what you think there, few will deny that Terminator 2 isn’t a goddamn slice of genius. It’s bold, brash, intense, and remarkable – we’ll be bloody back to see this time and time again, baby.