Classic Intel: Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Blu-ray Review

'The Terminator may have established Schwarzenegger's defining role, but Judgment Day cemented its place in cinema history'.

Where Cameron trod carefully in establishing exactly what type of film The Terminator would be, shifting between dark thriller, crime and even tech-fuelled horror, the director makes it clear from the opening moments that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a sci-fi-infused blockbuster action movie, and a faster, brawnier animal than his 1984 film. It's a choice which makes Judgment Day regularly feel like a distinct entity from its predecessor just as much as a continuation of the Terminator saga; one that at times lifts itself above even the exceptional bar set by Cameron in the first film, but at others comes up slightly short in comparison.

Whilst Judgment Day in essence follows the narrative pattern seen in The Terminator, Cameron consistently makes this one of the film's greatest strengths. The fresh twist upon the hero and villain travelling back in time to wage war over their shared target works even better here than before. Whilst the director doesn't draw out the mystery of who's good and who's evil for as long as he could have, he makes up for it through some of the most iconic and action-packed sequences seen in any action film. Cameron's flair for adrenaline-fuelled set pieces means that every chase, gun battle and explosive moment in Judgment Day is still just as breathtaking nearly a quarter of a century on.

Arnold Schwarzenegger created a villain for the ages as the T-800 in The Terminator, and Cameron makes it two for two here through Robert Patrick's formidable T-1000. Patrick takes just enough influence from Schwarzenegger's 1984 performance, whilst giving his upgraded Terminator a distinct menace and unsettling detachment of his very own. The performance is tied together brilliantly through the computer-generated visuals and Stan Winston's astounding special effects that work in tandem to create the T-1000's liquid metal property. The effects employed are simple but extraordinarily striking, holding up remarkably well as time goes on, and surely set to be remembered as some of the best ever uses of CGI and traditional effects on screen.

Schwarzenegger meanwhile is given the tough job of transforming the villainous T-800 from the first film into the hero of Judgment Day. It doesn't always work - there are a few too many corny lines during the film's second half, and one or two scenes which unnecessarily take the character too far into comedy - but for the majority of the film Schwarzenegger does the job brilliantly. The Terminator may have established Schwarzenegger's defining role, but Judgment Day cemented its place in cinema history. Arguably the most impressive transformation from the first film comes from Linda Hamilton, however, adding layer upon layer to enhance and intensify Sarah Connor superbly from the hints left at the end of The Terminator. Hamilton's performance here is one of depth, power and palpable energy that deserves to be remembered as one of cinema's great action heroines.

Aesthetically and structurally, Judgment Day takes things up a few notches from the previous film. With the extended cut of the film at around two and a half hours, this has a satisfyingly epic feel - if made today the studio would almost certainly find a way to split it into two separate films, and it would undeniably have been weaker for it. Cameron's use of light, shade and colour throughout is also striking and impressive, the director generating a satisfyingly stylised feel at some points and emphasising the realism at others.

As strong as Judgment Day is, there are some minor flaws here. Edward Furlong's performance as John Connor feels like a relative weak link, with at least a couple of troublesome scenes with Schwarzenegger that haven't aged well, only becoming more awkward and irritating over time. The film's epic scope also leads to one or two characters who lack satisfying levels of development, with Skynet creator Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) feeling like the most prominent example.

Taken as a whole, however, Judgment Day is a hugely enjoyable and masterfully made film. As a sequel to the original film and an expansion on the ideas it introduces, Judgment Day consistently delivers. But this also impressively and confidently stands alone as one of the very finest entries into the action genre. Which of Cameron's brace of Terminator films is your favourite ultimately comes down to personal preference; whilst they may differ in both style and execution in a number of ways, in the end there's very little between the two films in terms of sheer cinematic excellence.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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