The dominant machines of the future send back a cyborg assassin to kill a boy, John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance. In turn, the resistance send back a Terminator of their own but with modified programming to protect the boy at all costs.
This is the 1991 blockbuster sequel to James Cameron's original 1984 science fiction rollercoaster, 'The Terminator'. Though certainly not as good a film as the original it packs such an impactive punch that it literally swamps all other action movies that have gone before or since. I can well remember seeing this during its 70mm opening run at the Odeon Leicester Square, the like of which I had never been seen before. I left wondering if it would ever be possible to own such a print on Super 8. I doubted it very much.
The film opens with a panorama of a battlefield of a post-apocalyptic future. Hunter Killers fly overhead and metallic Terminator endo-skeletons trek across the terrain in close conflict against humans. It is a fantastic introduction before we return to the present day, before the third world war started by 'the machines' in order to wipe out humanity.
John Connor lives unhappily with foster parents, his mother having been interned to an asylum. He is a loveable 11 year old boy who defrauds money via a stolen credit card in an auto-bank. He and his friend then take off on his moped in order to blow the loot at a video games arcade. He is tracked there by both Terminators, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the T100 programmed to protect and Robert Patrick the superior T1000 liquid metal would-be assassin. From this moment on, except for a short respite in the middle of the film, it is all action.
After escaping the first conflict with the T-1000 via the flood control canals of Los Angeles, John Connor and the Terminator set about freeing his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton from the first film). The T-1000 anticipates this move and the second encounter ensues. (This sequence contains the unforgettable visual as the black and white chequered floor gradually rises up to assume the shape of a man. The T- 1000 has formed into the security guard who just walked over him.) They escape again and head for Sarah's weapons stash in the desert. Whilst there she secretly decides that she will eliminate Charles Dyson, the man largely responsible for the technology that will set humanity on its self-destruct course. Despite shooting Dyson in the shoulder she finds herself unable to kill him and John Connor and the Terminator arrive in time to sort out the mess. They convince Dyson that in order to save the future they must destroy the Cyberdine factory. After a fabulous shoot-out with the police, the T-1000 once again acquires their trail and the final chase of the film concludes at a steel foundry with a handy pit of molten metal.
T2 is the film where digital effects finally reached maturity. The liquid metal Terminator is a totally believable creation and vitally important to the success and popularity of the film. It is hard to think how this film would have fared without the aid of the Silicon Graphics workstation, but having said that the special effects do not totally dominate the film. They are not there simply to turn a bland unbelievable science fiction shoot 'em up into a watchable semi-enjoyable thrill ride. They enhance the picture to make what would have been an enjoyable action flick into an unforgettable piece of motion picture history. Not surprisingly the film won the Best Special Effects Oscar of 1991. In addition, it also won Best makeup, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. And so to the technical aspect of this review...
I have recently been dabbling with DVD (Digital Versatile Disc also now known as Digital Video Disc) the new digital video format which provides over 2 hours of film on a single sided disc identical to look at in every way to a CD. Many of the transfers to the new DVD's are even superior to the best PAL laser discs, however, others are downright awful and little better than a VHS tape. It is the exceptional colour saturation on the good DVD's that will appeal to those with a video projector as colour is washed out upon projection compared to the image obtainable through an average CRT television. Even so, you would think that an LCD projector costing in excess of £4,000 would produce an image to satisfy anyone. Indeed if that were the case I would have been quite happy should this print of T2 not have come along. A timely reminder that the latest technology is not necessarily the best. Make no mistake, we're talking near 35mm. quality here; colour and clarity is as near perfect as possible. Overall this is possibly better than the print quality of The Abyss, previously the best I had in my collection.
The sound is good too, despite being mono, but would obviously benefit from a stereo enhancement in some form. Might I risk suggesting re-recording from the Dolby Stereo tracks of the PAL laserdisc?
Considering the image produced on these modern 'Scope prints it does beggar the question of why anyone should bother spending around £5,000 on DVD/LD and video projection? Considering that for 300 notes you can bring the awesome clarity of the best cinemas into your front room? Some would argue that it is not the latest blockbuster and that is what their friends want to come around to see; but this is better than the latest multi-million dollar special effects laden films and is so repeatable that no one should refuse the chance to see this release again and again and again. As anyone who was at the recent BFCC will testify, the images on the latest Super 8 releases are almost comparable with 35mm.
So do yourself a favour, buy this film and enjoy the best home entertainment system available in the world today - Super 8 film.
Print A/A* Sound A John Clancy