Terminator 2 – Judgement Day – tape 1668

Yes, I do spell the title of this movie the correct way. The US spelling of Judgement just looks horrible.

It’s about the only horrible thing about the movie though. This is one of those almost perfect movies.

We open in the future war, with skeletal terminators roaming the land, stepping on the rather excessive number of human skulls littered across the landscape. No, seriously, there’s loads of them everywhere. You’d think, years after the nuclear apocalypse and after a war of attrition for the remains of humanity, you wouldn’t think there’d be skulls enough to carpet the entire landscape.

We get a glimpse of Future John Connor, enough of a glimpse to tell us we’ll never be interested in a whole movie about Future John Connor.

Back to the present, and Cameron cheekily swipes from himself, as the first shot after the credits is a grid of metal closing, which then the camera pans across and it’s a lorry, echoing a similar shot at the start of the first film with a dumpster collector. Cameron is a very audience savvy writer/director, and a lot of the first part of the movie is designed specifically to play with the expectations of an audience familiar with the original. He did similar things with Aliens, and you might wonder if it’s a risk to assume the audience is familiar, given the first film was only a minor hit in cinemas (if it was a hit at all) and gained most of its reputation on video.

In the event, Terminator 2 was the top grossing film of the year. Good thing too, as it was also, reportedly, the most expensive movie yet produced.

The arrival of Schwarzennegger as the T-800 is conceptually the same as the first movie, but it’s just a little bit more elaborate. I like the spherical chunk taken out of the lorry.

We also get a repeat of the naked Terminator finding his clothes, again in a longer, more elaborate scene. Nice to see the Terminator is no longer using 6502 source code in its head up display.

There’s more of a fight here, but noticeably lower body count. Given that he pulled the heart out of one of the punks in the first film, there’s obviously the intent to lower the violence a bit, but one guy is thrown onto a hot griddle, and another is pinned to a pool table by a huge knife, so it’s not like they’re holding back.

I think the moment the Terminator comes out of the bar, in his big boots, to the sound of ‘Bad To The Bone’ really signalled to me just how much fun I was going to have watching this film.

Which was only heightened by the grace note of Arnie grabbing the shotgun from the guy trying to stop him taking the bike, then, instead of killing him, he reaches over and grabs his sunglasses.

Next, we meet the Terminator’s adversary. A policeman is investigating something, and we see the circular hole left in a fence of the time travel bubble. That’s all the clue Cameron needs to give us, because we’ve already seen the time bubble before. I like this spare kind of filmmaking.

The cop is attacked by a naked man, we meet the Terminator’s adversary, played by Robert Patrick. He’s another small, wiry man, like Kyle Reese in the original, the film is setting up the template that it had for the first film.

Now, finally, we meet young John Connor. What can I say? He’s a dick, but that’s not really surprising given his upbringing.

Here’s a strange thing. According to the police computer readout that Robert Patrick gets, John Connor is 10 years old, born in February 1985, so this film is set in 1995 (although this is never explicitly stated). Connor does not look like a ten year old.

After meeting John, and his slightly rubbish foster parents, let’s see how his real mother is getting on. She’s in a mental institution, doing pull-ups on her bedframe.

She’s still under the care of Dr Silberman, Earl Boen returning from the first movie, after he narrowly dodged getting killed by the Terminator in the first one. I love that they’re able to use a recurring character here.

John Connor is handy with the hacking, getting money out of an ATM with a stolen card, some ribbon cable (how? No chip and pin then) and some kind of Atari handheld thing with a keyboard that I don’t recognise.

Can we just acknowledge, for a moment, John’s Friend Tim and his superb mullet. John’s emo fringe doesn’t hold a candle to it.

There’s a scene where Sarah is made to watch an old session of her explaining the whole Judgement Day backstory to Dr Silberman, mostly for the benefit of the new audience, catching them up with the date of Judgement Day (in 1997), and the suggestion that the reason there was no evidence of the terminator she killed was because the company covered it up. Then the film takes another interesting turn, as we visit the company in question, Cyberdyne Systems, and Dr Miles Dyson, who’s working on the technology recovered from the first Terminator. Dyson is played by the great Joe Morton, and it’s nice to see the film expanding its mythology, rather than just playing out riffs on old stuff.

Back to John, who’s at the arcade, playing Missile Command, an unlikely game to still be playing at an arcade, especially since it’s supposed to be 1995, but the symbolism was obviously too good to pass up.

Both Schwarzennegger and Robert Patrick are in the mall, looking for him. Patrick spots him first, and John runs, not wanting to get caught by a cop. This is the point in the movie which would have been absolutely mindblowing if the marketing for the movie hadn’t led with it as the centrepiece of all the marketing. The fact that the Terminator was on the side of the good guys this time is such a great idea that I’m still quite cross that the saturation marketing of the movie meant the almost everybody knew which Terminator was which.

And it had to be a marketing decision, because all of the writing and directing cues up to this point were exactly the same as for the first movie, and John’s first glimpse of the T800 was of him approaching and pulling out the shotgun, so the intention was obviously to make us think he was the threat, until he says ‘Get Down’ and starts shooting the T1000. I feel cheated by the advertising people.

We get the first glimpse of the CGI for the T1000. It’s interesting to see how the picture quality changes noticeably with the CGI shots. The contrast drops noticeably. I presume this is because they were not yet taking the whole film into the digital intermediate realm, something that is now the norm. So any shots with CGI have a very particular look.

This leads into the canal chase, an excellent action sequence featuring a semi truck chasing John’s moped, followed by Arnie’s terminator on another motorcycle shooting his shotgun and twirling it to reload. It’s sublime. A couple of things to note. This shot, as the semi crashes through the bridge and lands in the canal, is actually digitally flipped. It was shot from the opposite angle, and Cameron found, in editing, that the screen direction was wrong and it didn’t fit the rest of the sequence. So the whole shot was flipped, but the street sign had to be digitally flipped. A trivial fix these days, but new territory in 1991.

And at the end of the chase, when the truck slams into a divider, I like that Cameron includes an insert of a ruptured fuel tank and a swinging, sparking wire to explain why it suddenly erupts into flame.

Free from pursuit for a while, John tries to reach his foster parents, but the T1000 is already there, and they’re both dead. John’s foster mother is played by Jeanette Goldstein, so great as Private Vasquez in Aliens.

Now we’re back to the mental hospital, as the T1000 is there, looking for John. More hot morphing action.

Sarah has escaped her cell, and rightly takes a broom handle to the creepy guard who licked her face while she was sedated.

Sarah holds Dr Silberman hostage, with a syringe of ‘Liquid Rootr’ in his neck, demanding to be released. Liquid Rootr is apparently a fake brand, based on Liquid Plumbr, which is a real thing you pour down drains to clear blockages.

We get the brilliant scene where an escaping Sarah meets the T800 coming out of the lift, and probably can’t believe what she’s seeing. And we get the brilliant echo of Kyle Reese’s line from the first film, “Come with me if you want to live”

Then, another T1000 morphing scene as he morphs through the steel bars, then gets his gun caught in the bars, a really nice way to remind the viewers of the rules of how he works.

There’s a lot of practical animatronics used to demonstrate the T1000 damaged. I suspect today they’d probably rely less on the practical work.

I like this shot, which starts at night with the T800 standing at the window, and there’s a time lapse to daylight, with the T800 not having moved.

There’s a detour to somewhere in the desert, as Sarah goes to collect some weapons. The T800 is trying to learn to be more human. “It’s definitely you.”

Then the film takes a dark turn, as Sarah leaves them, intent on trying to change the future by killing Miles Dyson, the man behind Cyberdyne systems.

John and the T800 get there in time to stop her, and the T800 takes drastic measures to demonstrate to Dyson who he is.

This is an amazing physical effect. The robot arm is articulated, and moving, and the flesh ripped off just before looks utterly convincing – even frame by frame it’s perfect. It’s really amazing work from Stan Winston Studios.

The action moves to Cyberdyne, with the group trying to destroy all the research and Terminator remains at the site. There’s lots and lots of explosions and mayhem, but let’s not forget a central promise of the film.

Miles Dyson gets a heroic death.

The T1000 comes after them as they escape, and there’s a helicopter vs truck chase. Some of these shots of helicopters flying under bridges always make me nervous. I’d read a couple of books about the Twilight Zone tragedy, where actor Vic Morrow and two young Vietnamese actors were killed when a helicopter crashed during a scene with a lot of explosions, and ever since, any scenes with real helicopters makes me aware of how dangerous it is.

There’s a final showdown in a steelworks – shades of Alien 3 – and the T1000 is eventually dispatched. Then we get the heartbreaking scene where the T800 has to be lowered into the molten metal. Well, perhaps not heartbreaking.

And that’s it for the Terminator. Lucky they never made any more sequels as they would only be disappointing and underwhelming and take the shine off the series. Maybe one day Cameron will make another one.

After this, there’s a couple of aborted recordings – one from Sky Movies, and another from UK Gold, until we get a more complete recording, and it’s a nice surprise. It’s an episode of Tomorrow’s World. 

There’s a look at a front projection system that allows the camera to be panned.

There’s a test sequence from ‘The Phoenix and the Magic Carpet’ – I’m not sure this film was ever completed. [checks iMDb] I stand corrected, it’s listed as completed. And the movie credits are very illuminating. The director is Zoran Perisic, famous (to me anyway) for developing a (guess what) front projection system for Superman The Movie that allowed them to zoom in and out of an object in front of the projection, while keeping the background the same size. It’s sort of the opposite of what this system does, but it’s not surprising that he would have been involved in it.

There’s a piece about the Masai using new technology to fight the Tsetse Fly.

A device that can differentiate different types of plastic, when scrapping a car.

A system of measuring the electrostatic charge of plane engine exhausts, as a way to detect engine faults.

And Howard makes a fried egg ice lolly.

The whole episode, as a treat.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 11th March 1994 – 19:30

The recording stops immediately after this, and there’s the very end of an episode of Doctor Who, and I’m enough of a fan to immediately recognise, just from this final close-up of Tom Baker, which episode this must have been.

It’s the end of The Invasion of Time, Leela’s last story, and at the end of the episode, the Doctor has just said goodbye to Leela and K9, and has just produced K9 Mark II from a box in the Tardis.

After this, there’s a film, The Man In Grey, which runs for the rest of the tape.

There’s an advert on here that’s pretty awful, so I thought I’d inflict on you, from Gateway and Somerfield. Middle-aged people should not try to rap.

Adverts:

  • trail: Doctor Who
  • trail: Coma
  • trail: Academy Awards
  • Tetley Bitter
  • Allinson
  • Always Panty Liner
  • Pantene
  • Somerfield/Gateway
  • Telemillion – Roy Chubby Brown
  • Kellogg’s All Bran
  • Dove
  • VW Golf
  • The Coronation Street Collection
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One comment

  1. I saw T2 in the cinema. It’s still impressive.
    Surprised they wouldn’t make Connor an Aries or something rather than a Pisces.
    Dyson’s death is a great example of how to make a one-off character matter, and the importance of death in drama (especially in a series like this where death isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be).

    People don’t get nostalgic for Howard Stableford, do they? I suspect I saw the episode 3 weeks after that one (and 4 weeks too).

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