Twice Upon a Terminator (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991)

Terminator_2_PosterAfter the Terminator, James Cameron proved it was not a fluke with the sequel to Alien, Aliens, and the Abyss.  Cameron determined his idea for a sequel to the Terminator was a technical possibility.

Picking up ten years after the first film, we find that Sarah Conner is locked up in an asylum and John Conner is now in the foster care system.  John is a bit of a delinquent, using the skills his mother taught him before they were torn apart by the government.

One evening, two men appear…one a sleek killer and the other a familiar face. We find the threatening villain of the first film is now a Terminator sent back to protect John from a more advanced Terminator.

John quickly establishes some rules for his new protector when it almost kills two men who think John is in trouble and come to his rescue. Particularly, John commands the Terminator to never kill a human. These commands lead to several moments where the Terminator carefully shoots people with non-lethal precision (at one point telling John, “He’ll live”).

They break Sarah out of the asylum just as the T-1000 arrives, so there is an exciting escape sequence.  As the trio run from the T-1000, Sarah picks the Terminator’s files to find out how Skynet still came to pass, and determining she must kill the man who creates Skynet.

From here on out, I will use the popular moniker T2.  Cameron loves to push technical limits and this sequel is no different in that way.  Expanding on the morphing tech used in the Abyss for the water tentacles and created the liquid metal T-1000.  Able to form bladed weapons and imitate various people it comes in contact with. When combined with a cold inhuman performance from Robert Patrick, the T-1000 is menacing.

The T-800 is more of a quippy action hero, but it really works here.  The film spends a fair amount of time building the relationship between John and his Terminator, so that by the end both John and Sarah feel a real connection to the machine, who seems to also have genuine concern for John.

The film also plays around with the premise of who is worse.  Sarah becomes determined to kill Miles Dyson to prevent the creation of Skynet. When she nearly succeeds, she finds herself facing his young son begging her not to kill him, Sarah freezes, as she realizes she was being more like a Terminator than a human. The evolution of Sarah from the frightened waitress of the first film to a hardcore warrior barely holding on to her humanity is effectively done.

While the film tries to end on an open note, it really throws off the perfect loop of the first film.  That criticism is made of later films and the television regarding the timeline is pretty much a problem the minute you make a sequel. Still, this is a fun and exciting flick with some solid humor and emotion.  My preferred version is Cameron’s extended cut, which includes some great little touches, such as the reveal that near the end, the T-1000 is glitching. T2 is well loved because it is great at what it is trying to be. The action is intense, the drama effective and the effects pretty amazing.

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