In The Terminator, an android was sent back in time in order to kill a woman so that her future son could not be born and grow up to be the leader of a human resistance army. How do you top a story like that? Well, you take the “2” in the title literally, and bring two androids back and have them fight against one another, that’s how. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, we get two Terminators, one of which is once again played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, while the other is played by Robert Patrick.
Now, in the first film, Schwarzenegger played the antagonist, and was trying to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). This time, he’s the good guy, sent back in time to protect Sarah’s son, John (Edward Furlong). Sarah starts the film in a mental asylum, as she has been proclaiming that Terminators exist, the world will end, and other things that a lot of people would consider insane. As a result, John is a rebellious ten year old who lives with foster parents and spends his time stealing and riding around on his scooter.
His day is interrupted when the bad Terminator (Patrick) starts chasing him. He’s saved by Schwarzenegger’s character, and they have to run away, but must break out Sarah from the mental asylum first. Why? Because John wants to, and he’s going to get his way. Apparently Schwarzenegger’s Terminator has been reprogrammed to both protect and unconditionally listen to the young John. Essentially, he becomes a pet for our hero-to-be, which seems like it could be a neat idea. I’d certainly like a Terminator that would protect me and do my bidding, and putting that power in the hand of a ten year old could be interesting. Kids have the best imaginations, after all.
Unfortunately, this kid has a conscience, and orders his new best buddy to not kill any humans. What fun is that? The Terminator in the first movie was so awesome because he didn’t care if he killed anyone, only wanting to complete the mission. Anyone that got in the way would die, and it wouldn’t care. But this kid decides to not let this new Terminator kill anyone, ostensibly removing the best part of the character.
But that’s fine, as there’s still another Terminator out there who doesn’t care about human lives, right? And this is a newer model, one that can morph and change to become anything that is roughly the same size as a human being (as long as it isn’t a complex mechanical device, we’re told). This one also heals itself by just morphing back together if it gets shot at or cut apart, making it far superior to Schwarzenegger’s original model. We still have that, so everything’s fine, right?
Well, not entirely. Somehow, this new model isn’t actually that much of an upgrade, because Schwarzenegger’s character manages to outsmart and outfight it at almost every turn. This new model is still focused solely on killing one of our lead characters, but every time it is outran, it disappears for ages before resurfacing. In the first film, the Terminator was always on the prowl, always trying to locate Sarah so he could put bullets in her brain. This one just seems to wait until our heroes do something stupid enough so that it can track them down.
For a while, I’ll admit that I was enjoying seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator have to deal with being ordered around by a child. Seeing him have to maim his enemies instead of killing them was kind of fun. And then he also had to deal with John’s personality, which made for some comedic situations. He also has to learn about humanity, and the only person who can teach him is this child. Why humans cry and feel for one another — stuff like that. But it gets tiring over the course of over two hours, and I ended up wanting to just seem him go berserk and shoot everyone. This is especially true in the ending, which drags on and is quite predictable, even if it’s somewhat touching.
But in an action film, does this matter? Well, probably not, unless you’re looking for it. Terminator 2 has more action than The Terminator, even if we don’t get as much Terminator versus Terminator action as I would have hoped for. Once again, there are chase scenes, gunfights, and this time, more explosions. That’s all well and good, and, if nothing else, it’s a fun movie that will keep you entertained for a couple of hours.
The highlight of the film is not in the story, characters or even in the action, but in the special effects, which were breathtaking in 1991, but still amazing today. The antagonist Terminator in this film is made of some sort of liquid metal that can morph and mold itself. The CGI, which was in its infant stage at the time, looks great, and it is never distracting. It doesn’t look like a film made two decades ago, and in fact, some of the shots look better than some of the CGI done today, likely because more care was taken when it was being done. You had to pay a lot of attention to even achieve any CGI at this point, so you would make sure it was done well. Nowadays, you can do basic CGI on a standard laptop, but it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as what’s done in this film.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day never quite becomes the complete film that the first Terminator was, but is still a good action film that will keep you entertained. The best part are the special effects, while the worst comes in the form of a couple of character decisions and the fact that our villain, while menacing, doesn’t show up often enough to gives us thrills and chills. But there are explosions and gunfights that are well-made, so you’ll likely not be disappointed if you watch it.