For better or for worse, James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day helped usher in the age of CGI-fueled blockbusters when it was released back in 1991. The liquid metal effects of the T-1000 showed audiences a brave new cinematic world and Cameron built on the ground-breaking special effects which he first utilised in 1989’s The Abyss.
Arriving seven years after Cameron’s low budget 1984 film, The Terminator became a break-out hit, the film upped the scale and the budget of the original film’s genre trappings. At the time of its release, T2 was the most expensive film ever produced, costing a then mind-numbing $100 million. However, audiences embraced Cameron’s sequel in their droves, helping the film bank over $205 million at the US box office and more than $520 million globally (making it the highest grossing film of the year).
This time around, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 serves as the protector to Sarah and John Connor (Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong) battling the new model T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a shape-shifting liquid metal machine that will stop at nothing to terminate its target and kick-start the rise of the machines on Judgment Day.
As thrilling as it was 30 years ago, Cameron’s still impresses on a technical level. The CGI effects help augment a tremendous amount of practical work to create a near flawlessly kinetic thriller. Cameron knows how to incorporate these elements to work for the story and while it might not have the knife-edge thrills of its predecessor, it does open up a story to create a tale which builds on that film’s plot to move the story forward in a natural way – something which subsequent sequels failed to do.
Cameron has always managed to get the best out of Arnold Schwarzenegger, knowing that the Austrian Oak is the best special effect he’ll ever work with. Linda Hamilton adds a totally new shade to Sarah Connor, building on the weak damsel in distress from the 1984 film to create a female action hero who can stand alongside the likes of Schwarzenegger and his ‘80s contemporaries. Edward Furlong plays the young John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance against the machines and he manages to play the character with enough edge and streetwise to make him feel like a real kid – something which George Lucas couldn’t manage with The Phantom Menace. Robert Patrick’s updated Terminator is a perfect foil for Schwarzenegger’s lumbering machine. He’s a shark-like force which cuts through the film, propelling the plot and keeping our characters fighting for their lives.
One of the greatest action movies ever made, James Cameron built on the lessons he learnt from Aliens to craft a sequel which takes a seemingly self-contained story and spins it off into a wholly unexpected direction.