“Hasta la vista, baby!” It’s one of the most quoted lines ever! Terminator 2 Judgement Day is one film that certainly hasn’t aged since it was released in the summer of 1991 — that’s 26 years ago! James Cameron brought the film back to the big screen for a new generation to experience the film the way that it meant to be. I was one of those kids who first saw the film when I was young but I was born just 4 months after the film’s release. So, the idea of the film playing on the big screen got me excited that I ran to the theater to witness one of the greatest sci-fi films and best sequels ever! James Cameron’s conversion was gorgeous to look at and the theater experience made it all worthwhile.
T2 was a massive box office success making it the highest-grossing film of 1991 and having the biggest budget ever. The whopping $102 million-dollar budget certainly paid off as the film grossed $519 million worldwide. T2 is the 14th highest-grossing R-rated film in Domestic Box Office history. The ground-breaking special effects for the two terminators particularly the T-1000 liquid metal terminator, took nearly ten months to complete. Industrial Light and Magic handled the computer-generated effects while Stan Winston worked on the practical effects. Without a doubt, T2 won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. They cost $5 million to create and produce and only take up about 5 minutes of the actual runtime.
With the success of The Terminator, it was obvious that a sequel was imminent, but due to the technology of special effects, it would be difficult with the creation of the T-1000. Originally, the T-1000 was supposed to be in the original film. After making Aliens and The Abyss, the technology had improved thus giving the chance for the popular liquid-metal terminator could be made successfully.
There were disputes between the filmmakers and Hemdale Film Corporation, the company that owned the rights to the franchise and stymied efforts to produce a sequel. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged Mario Kassar, who was the CEO of Carolco Pictures to purchase the rights. It cost $5 million to do so. Carolco Pictures had already worked with James Cameron after Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and since the Rambo franchise was largely successful, it was agreed to re-hire Cameron to direct the sequel.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton were already onboard to return for the long-awaited sequel so the search was on to continue the casting choices. After a long search, Edward Furlong was chosen to play the young John Conner in his screen debut. Robert Patrick was chosen to portray the T-1000 after Cameron saw him in Die Hard 2. The idea to have two different sized terminators was to emphasize the disparity of the advanced T-1000 and the older T-800 model. Cameron would characterize the two as “A Porsche” and “A human Panzer tank”. The idea worked very well. I liked the idea of having a smaller and more agile terminator as it wouldn’t seem very threatening, but, could still be stealthy, which could make him deadlier.
Other cast members include Joe Morton (Speed) as Miles Dyson, the man who unknowingly creates Skynet in the future. Earl Boen reprised his role as Dr. Silberman, the psychiatrist who highly doubts the claims of Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese when he first met them in the first film. Michael Biehn returned in this film but only in the deleted scenes and extended editions of the film. S. Epatha Merkerson (Lieutenant Anita Van Buren from TV’s Law and Order) is Dyson’s wife along with DeVaughn Nixon (in his second film appearance) as the son, Danny. Jenette Goldstein (private Vasquez from Aliens) and Xander Berkeley (Apollo 13) are John’s foster parents.
While The Terminator worked as a horror film, T2 is a pure spectacle of sci-fi action. It was unfortunate that the trailers for this film ruined the surprise that Schwarzenegger was the good guy this time around. While the special effects and action sequences are eye-popping, it’s the story between John and the Terminator that is the heart of the movie. He was assigned to protect him and for most of his life thought everything his mother said was just crazy talk. When reality sets in, he is more than surprised. The terminator must listen to what Conner tells him which brings us to a great scene where John tries to explain why he just can’t go around killing people and makes him swear that he will not kill anyone. This scene reminds me of when the terminator mercilessly killed 17 police officers in the original film and then is told not to kill anyone and his reaction is priceless. He’s a terminator. That’s what he does, he terminates.
Linda Hamilton returns as the mother to John but this time is locked away in a psych hospital after attempting to blow-up a computer factory. Dr. Silberman is taking a group of young doctors on a tour of the hospital and this is where we first see Sarah. It’s almost feels creepy that the doctors look at her through the circular glass almost as if observing some wild animal. Hamilton’s performance is on-par with Sigourney Weaver from Aliens. She isn’t sexualized in this film and is a woman who fights. She will probably be remembered as one of the most badass women in film history and not just from her physical strength. She’s honestly believes in the dreams of Judgement Day and wants nothing more than to protect her son. Even the moment when John and the terminator arrive at the hospital to save Sarah, she believes that it’s the same terminator from the first film back to kill her. Of course, another famous catch-phrase is uttered at that moment.
There’s a moment in the film where Sarah has a dream of the nuclear blast. She’s see herself playing with baby Conner before everyone is killed. Hamilton’s twin sister played this part in the dream sequence with Hamilton’s real-life twenty-month-old son. The nuclear blast scene is remembered as being one of the most realistic in films. Another set of twins portrayed the security guard whom the T-1000 mimics at the psych hospital.
T2 was filmed in southern California except for the Cyberdyne battle scene which was filmed in Fremont, California. The extensive 171-day film shoot ran from October 1990 and finished at the end of March 1991. The budget of $102 million was 3.5 times more than the average budget of a film and 15 times more expensive that the original film’s budget which was $6.4 million.
Seeing it on the big screen was a lot of fun. The sound and the crisp clarity of the picture was amazing to witness. I think I really missed out on the experience because I wasn’t alive when the film first released. The special effects haven’t aged at all and still hold up to today’s standards. It’s one action picture that will stand the test of time. It gave us a great hero to root for, the terminator who would stop at nothing to protect John, and a villain whose quiet demeanor and unique ability still ranks as one of the most memorable villains of all time. While the original terminator was relentless, the T-1000 was small-framed and didn’t seem to stand out in the crowd. His stealth at mimicking people could catch you off guard and the fact that he too is relentless makes his character nearly impossible to stop or even terminate.
The moments that I will always remember is the motorbike chase sequence, the hallway shootout when the terminator’s first meet and not to forget the liquid nitrogen moment. T2 not only worked as a sci-fi film, it further expanded on the story of the first film; the same way Cameron did for Aliens. He gave us an awesome villain, great action, and a story about a young boy and the machine that protects him. Conner’s father didn’t live to see him, but in some ways, the terminator was the closest thing to having a father figure in his life.
Over the years T2 has been parodied, copied and endlessly referenced in television, movies, and even video games. It’s a film that still impactful as it was when it was released. I really enjoyed The Terminator with the ideas that it introduced; a nuclear war that kills most of the human population and the ensuing war with the machines that we created; a woman whose unborn child holds the world’s future in his hands; a man sent back through time to protect her from being murdered by the machine from the future. It was clever, at times scary, and imaginative for 1984.
T2 took the first film and largely increased the budget. It introduced us to John Conner and the machine that protects him. It also showed the badass mother of Sarah who would die trying to save her son and a villain who probably has been shot more times than other character I can think of. It’s the sci-fi movie that you grew up with and one that you won’t forget. T2 will be regarded as a classic for many more years to come and rightfully so. The action, the moments, and the iconic theme are all truly unforgettable.
“The battle for tomorrow has begun”