CGI was part of the conversation before, it ad appeared in Tron, Young Sherlock Holmes, and Last Crusade, and – of course – The Abyss, but with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, there was a huge paradigm shift. There was just too much that could be done with computers that couldn’t be denied.
Of course, this changed the way movies were made. But what is interesting in retrospect is how they were flying by the seat of their pants. Whereas today driving on a bus is CGI’d, then many of the effects involved Robert Patrick being painted in silver, and immense practical models that handled much of the heavy lifting. As innovative and thrilling as the effects are, director James Cameron had no illusions that he was making anything but a gigantic B movie writ large. And such is why the film still plays like gangbusters today.
Two terminators are sent to the present (then 1991) with a good and bad terminator on the loose. The change-up, a non-spoiler to anyone aware, is that the good guy is the former bad terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the bad guy is the proto-type T-1000 (Robert Patrick), with the twist being that the bad guy is intelligent liquid metal, essentially. Both are on the hunt for John Connor (Edward Furlong), who’s been adopted since his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) has been taken as a crazy by the local police. But her wild theories about the scientist Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) are proved correct by the presences of the new terminators.
Following a fairly three-act structure, the film begins with the hunt for John and then Sarah, and then regresses in the middle as its protagonists reset and figure out that they have to destroy Cyberdyne in hopes of resetting the future. As sequels have told us, their work was in vain.
Though, because Cameron left the sequels, you can view both the first and the irst and second films as closed objects, with the rest fan fiction. And with this film, Cameron was having fun. Though a well put together film, the idea was that it turned on Arnie being the good guy, and so you get the opening sequence where he gets clothes from a biker and “Bad to the Bone” starts playing. This is as much about advancing the technology as having a good time, and it shows. Though True Lies is more of a goof, this doesn’t have the problems of that film (re: Sexism, racism), so you get to enjoy the ride, and there’s no denying Cameron’s craft when it comes to action set pieces, and their clear sense of geography. Though I would be hard pressed to call the film a masterpiece of anything but summer entertainment, this is popcorn fun of the highest order.
Lionsgate is double dipping on the verge of the fourth film in the franchise. This is their second Blu-ray release. DVD-Beaver suggests there’s a Japanese version that is somewhat better than this, though I have not seen that edition. This is called the Skynet edition, and since the film prompts you to get on the internet, I can only assume there is more to be found whilst having it hooked up to BD-Live (these features should go live upon street date). Here you get both the theatrical (preferred) and the director’s cut of the movie, with both version in widescreen (2.35:1) and in both 6.1 DTS HD and 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, with a 5.1 TheatreVision (for the blind and visually impaired) and a 2.0 headphone version. There’s production commentary from the laserdisc, with 26 participants, and the Cameron an dscreenwriter William Wisher commentary from one of the earlier DVD releases. The film can also be watched in D-Box mode, which means if you have the chair, your ass will shake. The film comes with a video PIP, which -when you finish one set – can skip to the next. The PIP material seems drawn from EPKs of the period, and other related period press material. There’s also a four trivia tracks, one regular Trivia, the other highlighting the script and shot selection, and another the screenplay synched to the film, and the final being storyboards in line with the film. There’s a “Linked Data Module” which offers a branching point behind the scenes still with optional commentary. There’s also two games you can play whilst watching the film. In the supplements you can watch three theatrical trailers, one trailer for the director’s cut, and the THX terminator spot. You can also watch two deleted scenes (3 min.) not included in either cut with commentary, and the winner here is the terrible deleted scene ending with bad old-age make-up. All other extras are BD-live centric.