Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Skynet Edition Review

Do you really need to hear my thoughts on T2? What can you possibly be expecting me to say that you haven’t read or heard a hundred different times before? You wanna hear it? Fine. Here it is.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
is a landmark achievement. For an action movie, in an era of countless action movies every month, to win four Oscars and garner the critical acclaim it did was unheard of. James Cameron’s The Terminator had been a well-received, pulpy success, immensely popular on video and I’m sure an enormous factor in the long life of video in general. Of course it needed a sequel. After T2 came out on July 3rd, 1991, movies literally wouldn’t be the same again. You could say that for, really, only a few films. T2’s visual effects more than deserved every accommodation they received, and not just for the advances in the computer technology; what makes the visual experience of T2 ultimately work is the finely crafted fusion of digital effects and what’s actually being shown onscreen.

The film draws you in early with simple things like the burns on the fence being a perfect circle like the digital bubble that created it, but soon you start to be completely overwhelmed with storytelling genius. In scenes like Sarah’s dream sequence (cut from the theatrical version of the film), Cameron seamlessly blends sequences of intense, flawlessly constructed character drama with depictions of apocalyptic atrocities. This is what gives the effects their real bite; sure the terminator endoskeletons are miraculously designed pieces, but they’re only menacing because you feel for every human character you’re meant to. When you see the scenes early on of the war, the complexity of what you’re looking at is impossible to gauge. You’ve got the digital lasers [still somewhat complex effects for this time period], but the thing that makes them believable and threatening is the practical fire effect the lasers create. Purple beams of light killing people could come off really bad in most movies, particularly most movies made before the mid-90s, but Cameron sells them through exasperatingly detailed, perfectionist filmmaking - much like all other aspects of the film.

That really is why Cameron’s one of my favorite directors – The Abyss is in my top five films of all time because of its majestically poetic character drama, not because it’s got aliens and other cool shit underwater. But just a few years before that Cameron had made Aliens, which remains even today one of the most pitch-perfect action films ever made, literally building and building nonstop to a cataclysmic, planetary eruption of biblical proportions… and then its climax shows up. Cameron is perhaps the only filmmaker of the last few decades who can earn the 18 Oscars his films have garnered while still making films that seem to reach universal acclaim and instantaneous classic status. Terminator 2 is nowhere near Cameron’s masterpiece, but to deliver it anything lower than a near-perfect or perfect score is downright criminal.

The Blu-ray Video

So, do you buy T2 again? Well, let’s get a few things clear: First off, I have read reports of large-scale Digital Noise Reduction (a controversial technique these days - read up on it if you care at all) used in the Terminator 2 Skynet Edition Blu-ray. If you’re an image purist, this may bother you, but I looked and looked for it while watching the film and I honestly wasn’t drawn away from the film once. Watching this gorgeous, rich transfer was like seeing the film for the first time. Blues are colder and icier, earth tones have never been more lifelike and the dark orange and black hue the film exhibits in its final sequences seems totally wondrous.

The Blu-ray Audio

Man, oh man, are you guys in for something awesome.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

In addition to the BD-Live features during the film, which include behind the scenes footage, games, quizzes, and storyboard and script galleries, there are two main features here - both of them commentaries. The first is with Cameron and co-writer William Wisher, and the second cuts around between a whopping 26 people involved in the production. I should tell you that I personally hate these types of strewn together commentaries, but both of these tracks are recommended.

Final words:

If you’ve owned T2 before (and, if you haven’t, that's a mistake), whether it be on an old worn out VHS taped off of HBO back in ’93, or on one of the several standard definition and high definition digital formats over the years, I’d still recommend picking up this new release. It definitely won’t be the last release of the film, and certainly not on this format, but for now it's far and away the best option. If you've held out for a few years waiting for something awesomer than what existed, it may be the time to simply put the money down and enjoy it. There's no telling how long you could be waiting for another, better, high-def release of Terminator 2.

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Skynet Edition" is on sale May 19, 2009 and is rated R. Action, Sci-Fi. Directed by James Cameron. Written by James Cameron, William Wisher Jr.. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Xander Berkeley.

Saul Berenbaum

I feel that movies can be great in many ways. I feel that a great movie could be an artistic masterpiece or a guns-a'blazin' roller-coaster, pure magic or pure camp. There is another type of film, which I detest more than those which are horrible - Those which are mediocre, unremarkable.


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