Monday, June 11, 2007

Schwarzenegger Sunday: Terminator 2 Judgment Day

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders above. Note – there will always be spoilers.

For the second time his career, Arnold was literally back, playing the same character in a sequel. Well, kind of the same character. I’ll explain. After nuclear war wipes out nearly all of humanity, machines have entered a battle versus the remaining humans in an attempt to eradicate the earth of people. Much like in the previous film, a killing machine called a Terminator (in this case, a T-1000) has been sent from the future to murder the leader of the human forces, John Connor. Again as in the inital installment, the humans have also sent a protector back through time – however, that protector is a reprogrammed T-101, played by Schwarzenegger. The T-101 is barely able to intercept Connor before the T-1000. Connor and the T-101 then help Sarah Connor escape from the maximum security mental hospital where she’s imprisoned, again narrowly escaping the T-1000. They then proceed to blow up Cyberdyne Systems, the entity that will eventually lead to the rise of the machines. Finally, they are chased by the T-1000 to a steel mill where they battle it out until finally the T-1000 falls into a vat of molten metal, killing it. The T-101 is then destroyed in the same manner to ensure that its parts will never be utilized for research. We see the road stretched in front of the Connors as Sarah tells us she has, for the first time, hope for the future.

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: The first Terminator film played everything extremely straight. There were few quips or lighthearted moments. However, Arnold drops some great deadpan here, mostly in response to comments by others. These are lines that have been entered the vernacular, and here are but a few of them: 9
“I have to go to my house to pick up some things.” “Negative. The T-1000 would definitely try to reacquire you there.” “Are you sure?” “I would.
“Help! Help! Help!” “This does not help our mission.
“Jesus, you were gonna kill that guy!” “Of course, I’m a terminator.
I swear I will not kill anyone.
“I thought you weren’t going to kill people!” “He’ll live.
Come with me if you want to live.
Hasta la vista… baby.

Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Even though I knew that there were some classic quotes, I did not expect the sheer number of Arnold lines. He has little dialogue in general, but much of time he is going for wry humor or an ironic counterbalance to the chaos around him. There are some hokier moments including: 9
What’s wrong with your eyes?” [seriously - they didn't tell terminators about the fact that humans can cry?]
“I need written authorization.” “I insist.
“My personal entry code from the lab…is no good.” “Let me try mine.” (he shoots through the door.)
I need a vacation.

“I’ll be back.”: Given that this is the sequel to the film that birthed the line, you would think that we’d get an easy 10/10 on this dimension. However, Arnold says, “Stay here, I’ll be back,” in a very flat and unemotional way. Yes, I realize he’s a robot and all, but it is not up to par with my expectations. He does manage to injure a baker’s dozen worth of cops and then drive a police van through the lobby in order to rescue the Connors. So that's something. 7

Smarmy Villain: Robert Patrick plays the T-1000 as a driven, fierce killing machine. He’s really part villain, part henchman. Even when people encounter him in his police persona, they do not appear to trust him, sensing that something amiss about him. Patrick claims to have mimicked the head-movements of the bald eagle for his persona. He is even more determined a foe than Schwarzenegger was in the first movie, and every bit as unstoppable. Through a great leap in special effects, they were able to have the T-1000 “morph” into anything it contacts. It is made of liquid metal and can reform into anything as long as it is roughly the same size. When not applying their state of the art CGI, the filmmakers utilize God’s special effects – twins (utilized at two different points). He’s not quite smarmy because he doesn’t seem to take any pleasure in his goals. Still, he’s manufactured evil. 9

Rough and Tumble Henchman: n/a

Diminutive Sidekick: Edward Furlong was not even trying to become an actor before being cast as John Connor, a role that must have been coveted by all of underage Hollywood at the time. His performance signaled what most thought to be the beginning of a long and fruitful career. He furthered his promise in American History X, but then of course got into some drugs and gained weight. There are “rumors” that he will appear as John Connor in Terminator 4. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea as I thought Nick Stahl was pretty much the only good thing in the last one. In any event, he is superb in this film, despite the frequently hammy dialogue. He and Arnold are together for nearly the entire film, and he’s a kid so he’s like, really short and stuff. 10

Rejected hot love interest: In the SS review of Terminator, I stated that Linda Hamilton was “pretty enough, but not a stunning beauty.” While that assessment still applies, she worked herself into ridiculous, kickass shape for this movie. When I first saw the film (July 3, 1991), I found her somewhat terrifying. But I was barely 16 and easily intimated. Or something. She’s vastly removed herself from the mousy waitress we meet at the beginning of the first movie. I have to say she’s far more attractive here. She has ideas about the terminator becoming John’s “father” and protecting him. Instead, he demands they lower him into the molten metal as well. While that’s a rejection, it’s not from a “love interest” perspective, so this is n/a.

Not nearly hot enough love interest: n/a

Arnold yelling: He’s a robot. The loudest thing he probably says is “Get down” or something like that - and not in a Curtis Mayfield kind of way. n/a

Arnold cursing: While most of the characters liberally toss around the F-word and other swears, curse words must not be part of the T-101’s protocol because the closest he comes to cursing is when he says “Chill out, dickwad.” 2

Arnold crazyface: This robot thing is really taking the fun out of Schwarzenegger Sunday… But these two are decent. 4 Superfluous Explosions: I recalled the office building they blow way the hell up, but there are explosions throughout every bit of this film. Lots of them and big ones. Now, you could claim that there’s nothing superfluous about the office building explosion because they had to make sure they’d eradicate Cyberdyne Systems once and for all. Apparently, they built a fake couple of floors on an already freestanding building, and that building is still in use today. Even though I omitted a ton of possible shots, here are way too many photos of all the kabooms. 10
Director: This is our third visit from James Cameron here on Schwarzenegger Sunday. He also helmed True Lies and the first Terminator. He is such a tremendously successful filmmaker (Titanic, The Abyss, and Aliens are also his), you almost have to wonder what he’d be doing if he wasn’t making movies. He has two “futuristic” films in the works right now – Avatar and Battle Angel. He hasn’t tried to make a major narrative film since Titanic ten years ago. We’ll see in 2009 if he’s still got it (my guess would be “yeah”).

Franco Columbu: n/a
Sven Ole-Thorsen: Also n/a, however. We do get to see Nikki Cox in her first theatrical speaking role. Yeah, I realize she’s pretty much a TV actress, but she’s in there for a second sporting a very dated haircut.
Shirtless Arnold: The T-101 is sent through time nude, just like in the first movie. He then enters a biker bar and says “I need your clothes, boots, and your motorcycle.” Unfortunately, we also get a nude Robert Patrick who looks fit in the sense that he could probably run a marathon. It’s all rather scrawny and unsexy. 8

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: n/a

Even more severely brutal killing of villain: The T-1000 seemingly is killed repeatedly throughout the film. He’s almost like the agents in the Matrix. Even though they apparently kill him, he continues on, undeterred in his mission. When finally destroyed in the vat of molten metal, he screams, contorts, and goes through various of the characters he copied during the film. It’s hard for a machine to die brutally, despite the screams. 3

Plausibly implausible plot: On its face, this is a pretty ludicrous story. However, if you buy into the plot of the first one, it all makes pretty perfect sense. When I reviewed Terminator, I said that Michael Biehn was the one who held everything together, plotwise. In this case, it’s Linda Hamilton. She so perfectly embodies the new Sarah Connor, it greatly heightens the verisimilitude of the movie. I have no idea how long she trained for this role, but considering she was married to the director, it’s possible that for several months every waking second of her life was about Sarah Ann Connor. Without her performance, I think the whole thing falls apart. All the facts of the T-1000 are so technical, and there are loopholes galore, but he’s just scary enough that we buy it all (for instance, since metal can not be sent through time unless it is covered by organic material, how did a liquid metal guy go through – even if he appears to be organic?). My biggest question is how Sarah’s able to have clean-shaven armpits. If she’s in a maximum security mental hospital, I have to think that razors would be kept away from her. Look what she was able to do with just a paper clip! Perhaps some questions are better left unacknowledged. I apologize. 9

Ambiguous ending: We know what happened to the two terminators, but we are left to wonder about the future along with the two main characters. They actually filmed an ending taking place in the far-off future, well past the Judgment Day date where John Connor is a senator or something, and an elderly Sarah sits in the park wearing really lousy old-age makeup. But Cameron wisely avoided using that ending instead giving us Sarah’s comments about hope and a shot of freeway miles passing by. Terminator 3 has been released so we know Judgment Day is not avoided, though it was delayed. But at the conclusion of this film, anything could happen. 9

Terminator 2 was the crowning achievement in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. The movie grossed over $200 MM domestically, and over $300 MM outside of the US (in 1991 dollars). According to the IMDb, it’s his highest rated film, and easily the one with the most user votes, and it ranks as their 81st best movie of all time. There was a colossal amount of hype upon its release. The biggest music video of the summer entailed Arnold dressed as the terminator, going to a Guns N Roses concert as they performed You Could Be Mine, the themesong for the movie. Not only did the release live up to the hype, it still does today. There are moments when the film gets a bit too campy, like when Arnold leaves the biker bar to the tune of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.” Or at one point where John sees two kids arguing and says, “We’re not gonna make it, are we?” The T-101 responds, “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.” John says, “Yeah, major drag, huh?” But this is a movie that holds up and can be watched repeatedly. One of its great strengths are all of the action sequences. I could go on, talking about how video games were clearly terrible in 1991, and how even though it was his greatest success, it was probably Arnold’s easiest role. But I’ll just close by saying that they pulled out all the stops, and they pretty much all worked. Watch this again if it’s been a while.

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