“The system goes online August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th.”
What was the beginning of the end for humanity was the start of a decade of revolutionary effects in blockbuster movie-making. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (commonly referred to as “T2“) premiered in 1991. Today is twenty years following the events depicted as the end of civilization, so we receive a newly stereoscoped version on the big screen.
I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired, so if you haven’t seen the movie then don’t read ahead until you have. It’s one of the landmark action films of all time, so it’s worth it.
What’s it about?
In 1984, a cybernetic machine from the future travelled back in time to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of John Connor, who leads the human resistance against the machine uprising. The human resistance sent a single warrior to stop it and succeeds. Jump forward a decade and an experimental, liquid metal Terminator is sent back to kill John as a boy.
What follows is the first extensive use of computer graphics to create a main character in a movie. Computer graphics in the ’90s redefined how movies were made. Starting with films like T2 and again with movies like Jurassic Park, Toy Story, and The Matrix, these CG-heavy films had complex characters and heart. Watching a boy struggle to accept his destiny, a woman struggle to be a good mother, and machine struggle to understand humanity.
Who’s in it?
Linda Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Connor from the first Terminator movie. After this film they started playing around with casting, replacing everyone but Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. Edward Furlong plays the target of the T-1000, John Connor. He does the bratty kid schtick so well that he’s entirely unsympathetic for much of the film.
The other breakout role was Robert Patrick as the T-1000. He had bit parts before this, but his film (and TV) career took off after this. Besides Arnold, he’s had the most visible career following T2, so it’s entertaining to see him so young here.
What’s the rating/Is it okay for kids?
When initially released, it was rated R by the MPAA for strong sci-fi action and violence, and for language. That rating still stands in 2017. People still get shot and stabbed and die. There’s swearing, including some by teenage Edward Furlong. There’s more than one f-bomb, so this is far from PG but in Canada it’s always enjoyed an AA rating (basically the same as PG-13).
Teens today raised on Halo and Overwatch have seen far more realistic violence than those of us raised on 8-bit games. However, the nuclear holocaust scene is more intense than ever. With adequate context, mature teens could watch but use your judgment on kids younger than that.
Do the visual effects hold up?
After 25 years of technological advancements, any effects will look dated. The occasional stop-motion and keyframed CG puts it just beyond the uncanny valley, but not quite mistakable for the real thing.
What really makes this film is the practical effects and makeup. Back before it was cheaper to animate a helicopter flying under a highway bridge, you needed to film all night to get the conditions just right for one shot. The film is one of the last hurrahs for practical effects before everything started to go CG.
The scale models in the nuclear holocaust dream have never convinced me of their authenticity. But given the state of the world right now, the scene was more chilling than ever.
Will the kids like it?
Terminator 2 remains one of the best action films ever made, and they might be turned off if they’ve seen ANY of the sequels. The action is intense, and the characters are so multidimensional that you you may actually tear up when a machine “dies” at the end. The violence may be too much for younger crowds but older teens should be fine.
Aside from the “Guns N’ Roses” soundtrack and the very existence of an arcade, there aren’t too many pop culture references that will go over their head or date the film. The events of the first Terminator are covered in the dialogue, so you don’t have to have seen the first movie.
Simply put, if your kids like action movies and aren’t overly sensitive to violence then they should find a classic like this worth watching.
Is it worth seeing it in 3D?
Stereoscoping 2-dimensional film is a technology with highs (Jurassic Park) and lows (Pacific Rim). James Cameron oversaw the process for a year while they applied 3D effects to every shot of every scene. The tricky thing with a film not shot for 3D is some of the cuts have different depths of focus and quick changes can be jarring. Often, they happen in light-hearted moments.
Not everyone appreciates 3D movies. I haven’t done an official poll, but it’s my understanding that most GeekDads and GeekMoms are not fans. It’s also a waning technology. Most TV manufacturers aren’t producing 3D TVs anymore.
I love 3D movies, yet the reason I bought a ticket is to see it up on the big screen. Even with 4K home projectors and surround sound, there’s a unique experience about watching one of your favorite movies on the silver screen with stadium seats and popcorn. The 3D was a nice touch, but buying a ticket to Terminator 2 so you can see it in a movie theatre will ensure you have a good time.
Is this the Theatrical or Director’s Cut?
The restored 3D version is the theatrical release.
The Director’s Cut definitely adds in a few good scenes, like Sarah’s dream with Kyle Reese. However, this was the version made for the big screen so the pacing is just right. Also, along with Blade Runner and Return of the Jedi, this is one of the films where I prefer the original ending.
When’s good for a bathroom break?
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I believe every minute of this movie to be pure gold. Since it’s over two hours, you may need to take a quick bathroom break. There are breaks in the pacing to allow for character development, but the first good spot is about an hour in. They’ve broken Sarah Connor out and just escaped the T-1000. There’s a bit of character development in the car and as they patch their wounds, but nothing you can’t miss.
Further in, when they’re explaining everything to Miles Dyson through to setting up the charges at Cyberdyne, you can go anytime. However, once the police arrive then the action is solid through to the end of the film so just hold it.
Is this a Limited Release?
For the first week of release, Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D will be showing on 300 AMC screens throughout the USA. It should also be showing on screens in Canada, UK, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. Opening weekend sales weren’t so hot, so wider distribution is uncertain. However, every screen it’s showing on worldwide can be found at http://www.terminator2-3d.com/
Will AI rise up and take over the world?
The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.