Year: 1991 (2D), 2017 (3D)
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick
So much can be said about a film as important and ground-breaking as this after over 25 years of constant adoration and cultural significance. This time, however, director James Cameron brings us a newly restored 4K 137 min theatrical release that has also been converted to 3D.
I would like to think 90% of cinema audiences and film fans have, since 1991, seen this film, but if not, I will provide a review of the film itself and then the 4K/3D conversion. As the film will have been and gone from its one night showing at the time of this review going live, it will be available to purchase soon on Blu-ray.
Thankfully securing many original faces such as the $15m paid Arnold Schwarzenegger and the $1m paid Linda Hamilton returning from the 1984 original, young Edward Furlong joins the cast as a fiery young John Connor perfectly. All three form the perfect dysfunctional family, with the “father figure” in the guise of a cyborg killer wonderfully developed by Schwarzenegger, thanks to an expanded role as the Terminator which gives him more room to flesh out his character as Connor tries to teach him what it means to be human.
This leaves room for subtle humour injected into their relationship and is nice to see without turning the Terminator into a comedy side-kick. Schwarzenegger proves once more his role as the Terminator is his defining work thanks to his imposing image and delivery of the monotone lines. He never fails to showcase his talent for action scenes in this film, building on the under-lying nightmarish character he is still from the original. However you could see all this a double-edged sword; more humanity means less of the cold cyborg killer and increased one-liners and family friendly “no killing” rules.
And of course we have Robert Patrick as the uber-advanced T-1000 liquid metal shape shifting Terminator which straight away makes the T-800 seem out of date and clunky. Patrick is the efficient killer that Schwarzenegger was in the 1984 original, but seemingly more humane and created to blend into the crowd more. Patrick embodies the role perfectly; focused, cunning, effective and ruthless. But he moves and acts in a fluid way that likens his model Terminator a Porsche, and makes the T-800 look like a Panzer tank.
Supported by Joe Morton as Miles Dyson, future creator of SkyNet, and the return of Earl Boen as hapless Dr Silberman, they all add to the story in which that all play a vital part in some way.
Technically, the mise-en-scene and cinematography in this film are some of his best work, and the diegetic sound is perfect. Everything seems to happen naturally, but you know Cameron has crafted everything to the last detail to create a vividly entertaining and powerful film. For example, most scenes with the T-1000 are coloured in a hazy blue to signify the robotic, synthetic quality he is. The soundtrack is full of repetitive, machine like riffs that accompany both Terminators’ on screen to give a nightmarish and artificial presence to their scenes, as well as “slasher” horror shocks and scares.
An example of Cameron’s attention to detail is the focus on the T-800. All camera angles focused Schwarzenegger are at a lower angle to remind us of his giant stature and power in every scene. It’s then heart-breaking to note that the only time we look down on the broken T-800 is the final moments, making his fate more emotional than any other aspect of the film, and probably the series, thanks to these simple technical moves and acting talent.
Special mention has to be for Stan Winston and his team for the ground-breaking special effects. 26 years later and I am still amazed how well the transition between actor Robert Patrick and his CG T-1000 are blended better than most modern films. With the CGI used to enhance and create these futuristic killers rather than build a modern day world around them, there is less than 15 minutes of CGI creation used as it is done sparingly and never abused. Everything else is done for real with model work, miniatures, stunt doubles and brilliant make-up and costume. This is why it never seems to age, and you hear and feel all the gun shots, explosions and clashing metal.
With wonderfully gentle pacing to provide fans enough exposition about the creation of the SkyNet programme that forms the backbone to the whole series, Cameron takes his time between the stand out action sequences to develop character relationships and the reasons that they have all been brought together.
The continued fight between man and machine has never been more exciting as it has been portrayed here, and we get it now in crisp, clear 4K detail which really makes it a timeless looking piece of cinema. Yet it’s the 3D conversion that will add a new price-tag to the Blu-ray release in a few months.
Is it worth the money? Not for the 3D, no, and certainly not if you already own the film in any format. It seems 3D is now more of a gimmick that doesn’t add anything to many films bar depth, making characters and objects stand out now and then, which works well in the Future War scenes, but after that, sort of doesn’t stand out at all. In fact the only sequences I really felt the 3D come to life was during the Future War and the SWAT van / helicopter chase. Bar that, it wasn’t much to shout about. It was a little hazy around the edges of the screen too, with some objects out of focus – it wasn’t as sharp as other 3D conversions I’ve seen, and in this respect it detracted from the 4K restoration at times.
The 3D won’t add anything exciting to this film, except a couple of continuity tweaks, but the main draw was simply having the chance to see it on the big-screen for the first time, or the tenth time. It doesn’t matter. ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ is one of those sequels we didn’t need, but are so thankful we got. Just don’t shell out for a 3D Blu-ray that you certainly don’t need for a film you probably already own in theatrical and extended versions anyway.