A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 479 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terminator 2: Judgement Day – June 22nd, 2011

I fully recognize that this movie has flaws. It’s built on a paradox and it’s full of attempts to make a new catchphrase for Arnold Schwarzenegger and it goes on a good deal longer than it really needs to. But it has two things that make me love every bloated and marketing-directed moment of it: Robert Patrick and his role as the T-1000 and Linda Hamilton continuing her role as Sarah Connor. Mostly the latter, which I will get to, but the former is pretty damn awesome. I’ll take the rest of it just for those two. Okay, and when it came out I had a tiny celebrity crush on Edward Furlong. But that’s not important.

What’s important here is that this is a sequel, and it’s a sequel that had to somehow top the original. And it did that with a bigger budget and the return of Arnold and a new Terminator and new special effects and a bigger threat and in some cases it works for the movie. In other cases? Not so much. Which leads to the movie feeling overfull and overworked in places. I’m going to deal with things that bug me first because I want to save the things I love for the end.

First, there’s our old pal, Arnold. After the success of his “I’ll be back” line from the first movie they had to bring him back, right? And I do like the twist that he was a re-purposed T-800 and spends the whole movie guarding Sarah and John. That was nicely done and I’ll come back to it and to the T-1000 in a bit. The trouble is that in the first movie he works so well because he’s this cold hard killer who speaks a minimum of lines and you don’t need him to have a personality or background because that’s not the role he’s playing. Here, though, he’s not only supposed to be one of the good guys but he’s also given a lot more lines. And that seems to necessitate a little more in the way of character. And I’m down with that. Look at Brent Spiner’s performance of Data in Star Trek. That’s a great example for me of a machine with no emotion being performed with a fully developed character. The T-800, on the other hand, has no real character aside from being a hardass. So to give him a character the movie has the young John Connor attempt to teach his new Terminator buddy some new catchphrases like “Hasta la vista, baby” and oh, it just reeks of someone from marketing requesting something to put in clips they can sell to commercials for years to come. It makes me cringe and ruins a perfectly good twist on the original movie.

My other major issue with the movie is that the action is so incredibly huge. This could almost pass for a Michael Bay movie. I’m all for a good action movie. I do like me some explosions and fights and shootouts. And there is no doubt that this is an action movie. The thing is, last night’s movie is an action thriller that’s as much about the hunt and the chase as it is about the action that happens when the hunter finds his prey. So while I do find the T-1000 to be a fantastic villain, this movie cares more about the booms and guns than it does about the tension leading up to them and that’s a shame. There are scenes I genuinely like, where Sarah takes John and the T-800 down south to the border to some friends of hers who’ve got her weapon cache hidden on their property. And this background material for Sarah is great. But they hang out there for a good deal of time, despite the fact that the T-1000 is out there hunting them. Even the regular version of this movie clocks in at over two hours and the extended versions are another half hour or so. The timeline here just seems so sluggish and I blame that on the lack of tension and I blame that on the focus shift from the chase to the boom.

All that bloat and pandering aside, let’s talk about what I do like. And I very much like a couple of key things about this movie. For one, I do really like the new villain. Robert Patrick as the liquid metal T-1000? Terrifying. Whereas the original Terminator was a brute force sort of enemy, the T-1000 is more sinister. He can change his appearance and insinuate himself into any situation. He can make his own limbs into deadly weapons and tools. He can even hide as part of the environment around him. Patrick does a great job with him, making him blend in with the world he’s in and adapt to avoid drawing undue attention in places, then taking him from smiling cop to stone-faced machine in a split second. It’s a great performance and the potential for a fantastic villain, if only they’d really gone all in to exploit his possibilities. There’s some great work done with him, like when he walks through the bars and when he turns his arms into pry bars (an image that will always stay with me) but I feel like with the budget they had, I would have liked to see more done with him than just having him shot full of holes all the time. We get it. He can take a bullet and heal from it. Still, he makes for a very different type of threat and I like that he’s distinguishable from the T-800.

I also quite like the idea that the original Terminator’s salvaged parts are the basis for Cyberdyne to create the technology needed for Skynet, which in turn creates the Terminator that the technology came from. Sure, it’s a bit of “which came first” time trickery, but I think it was a good idea for this world. I could wish that Dyson, the engineer working on the project, got more to do, but I can live with the time he does get on screen, especially with the additional time he gets in the extended version. But it’s a fun little bit of plot and it’s built reasonably well. It’s just given a short amount of time given how important it seems to be.

Fortunately there’s one more thing I love about this movie and that is Linda Hamilton and her amazing arms. I admit it, I covet her arms from this movie. Not enough to spend three hours a day at the gym, but still. She is amazing here. The movie is set a good chunk of time after the first movie. Long enough that Sarah’s had time to immerse herself in the idea that she has to learn how to survive and fight and she has to be able to teach her son to do the same. She’s raised John with stories about the future and then she got herself arrested and locked up in a hospital for the criminally insane. And when we first see her? Oh, she is not at all the same feathered-hair waitress we met in the first movie. She’s doing chin-ups on her upturned bedframe in her cell and she is not in the mood for your bullshit. I love that she’s established not only as incredibly competent (she does break herself out, after all) but as so determined about what’s going to happen that she’s dispensed with any pretense at social niceties. This is a woman with a mission and it’s a mission that, to a regular uninformed person who doesn’t know they’re in a sci-fi movie, would sound like paranoid delusions. And Hamilton makes Sarah so utterly believable as this bad ass that I stand in awe of her. She makes this movie. She’s serious and flawed and desperate and strong all at once and it’s a wonderful performance.

I could do without the catchphrases and the voiceover plot exposition gets a little tired. I wish it was a tighter movie and less obvious in its pandering. But I will forgive it pretty much every single flaw for Linda Hamilton alone. Add in Robert Patrick and some great effects and a decent plot and I really can’t help but love this movie. It may not be as good a movie as the first one was, but it’s got Sarah Connor taking charge and I will be on board for that any time.

June 22, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

June 22, 2011

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

I have to admit that I’ve never liked this movie as much as the first Terminator. I know it has more than five times the budget of the first movie and much better special effects and bigger action, but I’ve always felt that it lacked the edge of the first movie. It’s more of a summer blockbuster popcorn flick and less of a tightly wound sci-fi thriller. I was, in fact, pretty astonished when looking at the info for the movie as we watched it tonight and found that it was rated R – in my mind I remembered it as being a more family-friendly PG-13 type movie: ideal for drawing the maximum possible audience. It also irritates me that my favorite part of the forst movie – its circular and self fulfilling time line – had to be sacrificed to provide the motivation for the second act of this movie.

What this movie does have, and what mostly makes it worth watching for me, is Linda Hamilton reprising her role as Sarah Connor from the first movie. This movie picks up nine years after the first one. Sarah is in an insane asylum because she can’t stop ranting about the impending end of the world and the terminator that killed the father of her child. Even worse, her nine year old son John is living in foster care, un-protected out in the world with foster parents who are kind of dinks. Being raised by an apparent crazy woman who taught him his entire life about strategy, weapons, demolition and militias has left John somewhat mal-adjusted himself. For all his knowledge though he’s just a boy and he doesn’t really believe the fairy tales his mother told him in his youth about Skynet and the terminators and judgement day. He’s not prepared, therefore when a second terminator is sent through time to kill him.

This time it’s a more advanced machine – a living metal beast that can morph into any form and is even more indestructible and unstoppable than the old 101 model Terminator from the first movie. I think that the mimetic poly-alloy T-1000 is my first problem with the movie. It makes for a whole lot of very cool special effects, but it’s a little cartoonish when compared with the brutal and gritty first Terminator movie. Robert Patrick’s performance is creepy, but he never feels menacing in the way Arnold was in the first movie. Maybe it’s that he has eyebrows. I don’t know.

The corresponding problem is that now the T-800 played by Arnold Schwarzenegger is now the good guy. I love the concept of two terminators going toe-to-toe because it’s a great way to amp up the action of the series, but to make the implacable and emotionless foe of the first movie into a surrogate father figure and at the same time make him the obsolete and the under-dog really weakens the whole franchise in my opinion.

So I just ignore all that. I ignore the FX for FX sake. I ignore the now mortal terminator. I concentrate instead on the explosions and the action and on Linda Hamilton. This is her movie, as far as I am concerned. She is unbelievably buff. She is so invested in the character. The best moments in the entire film for me are when she knows that a second terminator is out there hunting her son and she is suddenly all determination and terror. She even is able to sell the notion that Sarah is practically a terminator herself. Once she and the terminator have managed to get John out of danger she hies off to attempt to change the future herself, trying to turn the tables on Skynet and prevent its birth in the way that it tried to stop John’s.

I might be giving the impression that I don’t like this movie, and I don’t want to do that. It’s a fantastic action movie. It has explosions and shoot outs and car chases and time travel, just like the first movie. It may have some problems that result in my not liking it quite as much as I like the first movie, but then again the first Terminator is one of my favorite sci-fi films of all time. This movie, well it’s just good fun. It’s better than most action movies and it’s one of those oft-lampooned iconic action milestones with all its digital effects, it’s just not as good as the first.

June 22, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment