Talking Movies [Judgment Day]: Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Special Edition


“Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines”.

Yes, friends, today’s the day that Skynet, the malevolent artificial intelligence of the Terminator franchise (Various, 1984 to 2019) was said to have launched an all-out nuclear attack against humanity and reduced us to the point of extinction. Subsequent Terminator films and media may have changed this date, and the specifics of Judgement Day, but one thing’s for sure: there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.


Special Edition

Released: 29 October 2001
Originally Released: 3 July 1991
Director: James Cameron
Distributor:
Tri-Star Pictures
Budget:
$94 to 102 million
Stars:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, and Joe Morton

The Plot:
After narrowly escaping a killer cyborg sent from a war-torn future, Sarah Connor (Hamilton) has been confined to a mental institution and remains both haunted by visions of a nuclear war incited by the malevolent artificial intelligence Skynet and estranged from her young son, John (Furlong). However, when Skynet sends back an advanced prototype T-1000 (Patrick) composed of liquid metal (or “mimetic polyalloy”) to kill John, Sarah must join forces with a reprogrammed T-800 (Schwarzenegger) to protect her son and try and prevent the near-extinction of the human race!

The Background:
Considering the financial success of The Terminator (Cameron, 1984), a sequel was all-but-inevitable but initially hampered by a number of technical issues, primarily the question of digital effects and a legal dispute regarding the franchise rights. Once these were resolved, Cameron, Schwarzenegger, and Hamilton reunited to collaborate on the natural next step in the narrative, which recast the T-800 as a protector figure. The sequel was afforded a budget fifteen times that of the original and was the most expensive film made at the time; it was also a ground-breaking film in the field of digital effects and continued to employ the services of the legendary Stan Winston for its complex practical, make-up, and model effects. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a massive success; it received rave reviews at the time, made over $520 million at the box office, and has come to be widely regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made, and one of the greatest movie sequels of all time. Fifteen minutes of additional footage were added to the film’s home release, a digitally remastered 3D version was released on 17 February 2017, and the film was accompanied by a slew of merchandise (such as action figures and videogames) as well as directly informing many of its sequels.

The Review:
Some ten years have passed since the events of the first film and much has changed in that time; first and foremost, Sarah successfully gave birth to John, the son of her protector from the future and the fated saviour of humanity in the war against the machines. However, having been imparted with knowledge of the future by Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) in the first film and following her terrifying experience with the Terminator, Sarah has transformed from a helpless and confused waitress to a strong-willed woman of action and blinkered focus. We’re told by John that his childhood was one of rigorous training and preparation for his future role, which saw Sarah taking him out to Mexico and “shacking up” with as many men as she could in order to learn and impart skills and knowledge necessary to prepare John to be the future leader of humanity, which has driven a wedge between the two as John simply wants his mother’s love.

Burdened by knowledge, Sarah is driven half insane and is desperate to reunite with John.

The burden of knowledge has fractured Sarah’s mind, however; like Reese, she is tormented by dreams of the Future War and also nightmares showcasing (in graphic detail) the fiery destruction of the vast majority of the human race. In an effort to try and circumvent this future, she tried to destroy Skynet before it could be created and, as a result, was arrested and committed to a mental hospital, where Doctor Silberman (Earl Boen) worked somewhat unsuccessfully to help her through her trauma. A calculating and intelligent woman, Sarah attempts to feign compliance after her aggressive and distraught honesty led only to her being denied access to visitors and with no hope of ever escaping the institute. When Silberman sees through this deception, Sarah snaps and showcases her intense aggression, attacking Silberman and his staff without mercy since, to her, they’re already dead anyway. After learning that she’ll never be allowed to see John again, Sarah puts into a motion a plan to escape that goes surprisingly well until she comes face-to-face with the new Terminator and all of her fight and hostility is instantly replaced with a panicked terror; even after John assures her of the Terminator’s new mission, she remains cold and distrustful of her new ally throughout the film.

John starts the film as a delinquent who’s left guilt-ridden at confirmation of his mother’s tales.

At the start of the film, John is little more than a juvenile delinquent; frustrated by his mother’s harsh upbringing and subjecting him to a childhood that was anything but normal, he frequently defies his foster parents and is concerned more with ripping off cash machines using his hacking skills and spending stolen money in the arcades. Having grown up hearing all about his mother’s knowledge of the future and his destiny as the leader of the human resistance, John is well aware of the Terminator, Skynet, and the Future War but never actually believed in any of it. Consequently, he is both stunned, excited, and guilt-ridden when the Terminator arrives and confirms that everything Sarah told him was absolutely true. Determined to make amends for his lack of belief, John orders his protector to help him rescue her despite the obvious risks involved, and is heartbroken when Sarah rebukes his concerns and chastises him for putting himself at risk. Having grown up without a father, John has had to feel the anguish of his mother’s boyfriends and partners leaving over and over, leaving a void in his heart for a father figure that the Terminator fills with startling efficiency and, in the Terminator, John finds a friend, confidant, and partner with whom he can open up to, teach how to be hip and cool, and also the perfect weapon to assist in ensuring that the apocalyptic future never comes to pass.

The Terminator makes a dramatic return, now a protector charged with securing humanity’s future.

Considering that the Terminator instantly became one of cinema’s most relentless and fearsome screen villains in the first film, the decision to turn that characterisation on its head and recast Schwarzenegger as a protector was an inspired move. Thematically, it works wonders for Sarah’s character arc; indeed, her cold-blooded focus on destroying Skynet makes her just as much of an uncompromising machine as her hated nemesis and one of the principal messages of Terminator 2 is that the titular machine ends up learning the value of human life and being more human than those who created Skynet in the first place. For the first twenty minutes or so, however, the film is shot in a way to suggest that the Terminator is the same emotionless killer from the first film, albeit now seen as this bad-ass villain who we can’t help but root for. It isn’t until the Terminator comes face-to-face with the T-1000 that we truly learn that this new T-800 is here to help John, rather than kill him. From that point on, the Terminator becomes a far chattier and more layered character than in the first film; it exposits information, unquestionably follows John’s orders even when it disagrees with the risk involved, and tirelessly works around the clock to keep him and his mother safe. Crucially, the Terminator is noted to be at an extreme disadvantage this time around; not only does the T-1000 have the same files and knowledge as the Terminator, it’s also faster and more advanced and a “far more effective killing machine”. This means that, for all the Terminator’s strength and capabilities, it’s rarely ever portrayed as being anything other than an inferior model. Like Reese, the Terminator is thus forced to flee more often than fighting and to adapt its tactics to utilise more than simple firearms to keep the T-1000 at bay, which goes a long way to furthering the Terminator’s new role as a vulnerable protagonist.

The T-1000 makes for an unnervingly human, relentless, and formidable villain.

In contrast, the T-1000 is so much more efficient that you would be forgiven for initially thinking that it was another slender human protector sent back to keep John from harm; effortlessly charming and deceptive, it can easily earn the trust of unassuming humans with its candid tones but, when that fails, it can shapeshift into a number of other forms to gain access to restricted areas, equipment, and weapons that the protagonists can’t. Once you set aside the pretty large plot hole of how a machine comprised entirely of liquid metal was able to make the trip back in time when the first film established that “nothing dead will go” through the Time Displacement Equipment, and the question of how it even operates if it’s entirely comprised of ever-changing atoms, the T-1000’s rules and limitations are surprisingly well thought out. It’s established that it can’t transform into guns or bombs because of the additional chemicals and parts that make those up, and than it can’t shapeshift into anything bigger or smaller than its default dimensions. This still makes it an extremely lethal killing machine, however, as it’s easily able to form knives and other bladed appendages out of its limbs, grow an additional arm to help fly a helicopter while reloading, and disguise itself as parts of the environment in order to assimilate additional organic data. As merciless and relentless as the original Terminator was, the T-1000 is made even more callous and terrifying through its nimble speed, its sheer tenacity, and the unsettling way it closes up wounds and returns to the fight within seconds of being downed.

Disgusted by the future his research threatens to bring, Dyson gives his life to prevent Skynet’s creation.

Although the T-1000 remains a constant threat in the film and is so significant as a danger that the Terminator transports its charges all the way to a desolate Mexican desert just to avoid the killer, Sarah’s obsession with preventing Judgement Day leads her to tracking down the man most directly responsible, Miles Dyson (Morton). A simple family man, Dyson has been led to a breakthrough in artificial intelligence and technology thanks to his research on the damaged CPU and severed arm of the original Terminator; these have allowed him to effectively begin the process of Skynet’s creation and unknowingly doom the world to near extinction, something that Sarah is so adamant about preventing that she very nearly kills him in cold blood. Thanks to seeing the monster she has become reflected in the eyes of Dyson and his family, she collapses into a mournful heap before she can go through with it, and Dyson is disgusted to learn where his research will lead. Immediately repentant, he agrees to get the group into the Cyberdyne building so that they can destroy all of his research; this is a poignant decision on his behalf as we clearly see how enthusiastic he was about his work and how he often prioritised it over his family life, however he becomes so willing to eradicate his research that he willingly sacrifices his life to ensure that Skynet can never be created.

The Nitty-Gritty:
It’s tough for me to decide which film I prefer out of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. As fantastic and influential and ambitious as the first film was, the sequel is bigger and better in every way; the score is more foreboding and haunting than ever as the T-1000’s droning theme raises the tension alongside the traditional Terminator theme to help punctuate the film’s many action scenes. Additionally, the special and practical effects are better than ever and the entire film just looks more expensive and of a higher quality; there’s something to be said for the gritty nature of the first film but it’s equally hard to deny the appeal of the sequel’s slick presentation.

The film’s practical effects are absolutely top-notch and deliver a disturbing vision of the future.

We see this immediately as the film opens on an incredible rendition of the Future War; we saw snippets of this conflict in the first film but, here, everything is so much bigger and more impressive. Even now, I find it difficult to believe that this is a complex combination of miniatures, models, and forced perspective to show Hunter-Killers and Terminators flawing, crawling, and marching along a field of skulls and wreckage and exchanging plasma fire with the Resistance fighters. This is the scene that made me want to see a whole movie set during the Future War and I still feel like this would have made for a more effective and fitting follow-up to the first two films; just imagine an army of CGI Arnolds marching through an apocalyptic wasteland while Brad Fiedel’s iconic, imposing score blares out? Similar effects are used to bring to life Sarah’s disturbing nightmares of nuclear holocaust; again realised using complex miniatures and puppets, these make for some of the most unsettling scenes of destruction in any film and remain as impactful as ever thanks to the sheer amount of time and effort than went into creation a realistic depiction of the end of the world.

A blend of CGI and practical effects help keep the T-1000 a timeless and terrifying screen villain.

Of course, the true star of the show in terms of special effects is the T-1000; largely realised entirely through cutting edge CGI, the T-1000 is an unnerving screen villain that switches in a heartbeat from charming and affable to stoic and ruthless and we see in full detail how it is able to assume the form of those it touches and then dispose of the original with gruesome efficiency. I think what makes the T-1000 work so well is how often its more monstrous forms and sharp implements are represented using practical effects such as puppetry and animatronics that work wonderfully with the CGI effects (which still hold up to this day) so we can see the actor reacting to being shot and close range, cut to a squealing, twisted animatronic, and then marvel at the T-1000 zipping itself back together using CGI. Its abilities and aggression escalate as the film progresses, allowing it to start off largely employing subterfuge and then forming sword and claw-like appendages on its arms, being frozen into a fragile statue of pure disbelief at being bested, and finally being left as this wailing, grotesque mess of limbs and silvery innards before being sent crashing to the molten steel below. Considering that the T-1000 had been a great imitator of emotions and deception throughout the film, there’s something incredibly disturbing at seeing and hearing it thrash about in its death throws, screaming in agony and rage before finally melting away to nothingness with a look of undeniable anguish.

The special edition adds in a number of scenes that expand an already fantastic movie.

The Special Edition version of the film adds some additional footage that was cut from the theatrical version. This includes an earlier, short scene of Sarah’s nightmare of the inevitably nuclear war that consumes humanity and, as part of that, a sequence in which she is visited by Kyle Reese in a dream where he encourages her to get back into the fight and to protect John. As a big fan of Michael Biehn and Reese’s character, I enjoyed seeing this scene added back into the film; it also goes a long way to show just how deep Sarah’s fear and psychosis have progressed and lends some credibility to the argument that she’s been driven more than a little mad by her knowledge of the future and terror of the impending destruction of humanity. One of the longest and most impressive scenes reintegrated into the film is an alternative take on the Terminator’s reprogramming; in the theatrical version, the Terminator simply states that all of the T-800s are capable of growing beyond their programming but, here, Sarah and John have to open up the Terminator’s skull and extract its CPU so that it can learn to be more human. This is fantastically realised in a complex sequence involving a model of Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton’s twin sister, Leslie Hamilton Gearren, and features a tense confrontation between Sarah and John where he basically orders her to trust his instincts regarding the Terminator rather than destroying the CPU. Other scenes include a somewhat unnecessary shot of the T-1000 discovering that the Terminator tricked him and killing John’s dog, and an extended sequence near the end where, after being blown to pieces by the Terminator, it’s made more explicit that the T-1000 is malfunctioning. I’m a fan of this addition as well as it show just how traumatic being frozen and blasted into pieces was for the T-1000 and allows it to be a step slower and a bit more unreliable than usual; it may also go some way to explaining why it decided to try and intimidate Sarah into calling out to John rather than simply assuming her form as its shapeshifting abilities were clearly screwed up after reassembling itself.

The Terminator learns the value of human life and acts as a friend and father figure to John.

The extended scenes also add a lot more to the Terminator’s characterisation; a pivotal story arc of the film is the Terminator learning what it means to be human and taking on more normal mannerisms, such as smiling, quipping, and just considering the impact of mindlessly killing those in its path. When John first orders it not to kill, the Terminator is confused (disdainful, even) at the idea and is forced by its programming to simply follow John’s orders to the letter. It’s not until much later in the film, after it forms a bond with John, that the once terrifying killing machine understands why human lives are so valued and to be cherished. Until then, though, it takes its orders literally, resulting in scenes both amusing and bad-ass as it goes out of its way to wound or chase off the police with its weapons; seeing the Terminator as a straight “man” awkwardly trying to pass as normal makes for some of the film’s best and most amusing moments: its attempt at smiling is painful, the way it regards children is just fantastic, and it absolutely nails the nineties one-liners John teaches it to deliver some of Arnold’s most memorable quips. Even Sarah has to admit to being impressed with the machine’s absolutely devotion towards John; she even comes to trust it enough to leave John in its care as she goes off on her solo mission to kill Dyson and one of the most moving scenes in the entire franchise comes right at the end where she shakes the Terminator’s hand and gives it her respect.

The film culminates in a showdown wherein the Terminator sacrificing itself to prevent Judgement Day.

Indeed, the entire finale of the film makes for one of the most action-packed and emotionally charged I’ve ever seen, especially in a sci-fi action film; following the massive explosion at Cyberdyne and an absolutely incredible car chase that sees the protagonists desperately trying to out-run a helicopter and a truck full of liquid nitrogen, they’re forced into a final showdown at a steel mill. With Sarah wounded from a bullet to the leg and the Terminator’s human façade cracking from all the shots it has absorbed, they’re forced deeper into the red-hot facility when the T-1000 manages to recover from being frozen and blasted into pieces. We then get an absolutely brutal throwdown between the Terminator and the T-1000 in which no words are said and no sounds are heard except for the clang of metal on metal; here, we truly see how outclassed the Terminator is as the T-1000 effortlessly tosses it around and overwhelms it, smashing its face apart with a huge girder and then seemingly destroying it by impaling it on a spike. Thankfully, the Terminator comes with a back-up power source and it struggles back to “life”; despite missing an arm and being beaten all to hell, it manages to recover long enough to deliver the final blow to the T-1000, ending its threat forever, and their mission to destroy Skynet and prevent the future seems to have been accomplished after John tosses the first Terminator’s arm and CPU into the molten steel. However, the new Terminator still remains and John is absolutely distraught at the idea of his friend and father figure sacrificing itself to ensure the future; yet, despite his desperate pleas and orders, the Terminator’s destruction is the only way to end Skynet’s threat and so, after a heartfelt goodbye to them both, the Terminator is lowered to its demise in an absolutely heart-breaking sequence that sees this once relentless and remorseless killer cemented forever as one of cinema’s most beloved heroes.

The Summary:
It’s difficult to express in words how much I adore this film; I love the original, especially for how dark and gritty it is and how it’s much more like a horror film than a traditional sci-fi action flick but there’s no denying that Terminator 2: Judgment Day does everything bigger and better. The Terminator put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map but its blockbuster sequel made him a mainstream star. After this, he would forever be cemented as the wise-cracking hero in action films for pretty much the remainder of his career as a film star. Not only that, Terminator 2 became the standard template for every subsequent movie in the franchise bar one; with the except of the under-rated Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009), all of the Terminator sequels and even the short-lived television series tried to emulate this film in some way, which has led only to a string of lacklustre productions as a result. Still, that doesn’t take away from how awesome Terminator 2 is; from Sarah’s physical and mental instability and transformation to the ruthless tenacity of the T-1000, to the incredible depiction of the Future War and the ground-breaking special and practical effects, Terminator 2 pretty much has it all. This extended version of the film remains the definitive version for me thanks to a much-appreciated cameo by Michael Biehn and expanding on scenes of our impending destruction and the two Terminators. Although it’s a longer movie at almost two-and-a-half hours, it’s an endlessly exhilarating experience from start to finish and I could honestly put Terminator 2 on every single day and never get bored; everything from the performances, the ominous score, and the explosive action is absolutely top-notch and it’s quite possibly the greatest film in the entire franchise and possibly Arnold’s career.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What are your thoughts on Terminator 2: Judgment Day? How do you think it holds up today, especially compared to the first film and the other sequels? What did you think to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance in the film and did you enjoy seeing him cast as a protector this time around? What did you think to T-1000 and its abilities? Were you surprised to find the T-800 was the good guy this time and what did you think to the CGI and other special effects used to bring the T-1000 to life? How are you celebrating Judgement Day today? No matter what you think about Terminator 2, and the Terminator franchise, feel free to sign up and leave a reply down below or drop a comment on my social media.

Game Corner: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Arcade)

Released: 31 October 1991
Developer: Midway
Also Available For: Commodore Amiga, Game Boy, Game Gear, Master System, Mega Drive, PC, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

The Background:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991) was a blockbuster critical and commercial success; the film made over $520 million at the box office against a $94 to 102 million budget and is widely regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made, and one of the greatest movie sequels of all time. As is the case with most of the Terminator movies (Various, 1984 to 2019), the film was accompanied by a number of videogame adaptations. The most prominent of these, for me, was T2: The Arcade Game (Probe Software, 1991), which was one of the first games I ever owned for the SEGA Mega Drive back in the day. The game was the home console port of a light gun arcade cabinet developed by Midway, which I did play as a kid but more recently got the chance to play all the way through at an arcade near where I live. While I have fond memories of the Mega Drive game, the home console ports received mostly average reviews and it’s gratifying to see how successful the arcade cabinet was at the time.

The Plot:
In the nuclear wasteland of 2029, the human race has been driven to near extinction by Skynet, a malevolent artificial intelligence that relentlessly hunts humankind using cybernetic killers, the most prominent of which is their T-880 Terminator infiltrator. In an effort to preserve their victory, Skynet sends an advanced prototype T-1000 composed of liquid metal (or “mimetic polyalloy”) to kill young John Connor before he can grow up to lead the human resistance to victory and only a reprogrammed T-800 (or two, if you have a friend to play with) can protect him…and the future.

Gameplay:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a first-person light gun game in which you take on the role of a reprogrammed T-800, just like in the film it is based on, and work to safeguard the future of humanity by blasting everything you see onscreen before it can hit you. In the arcades, you do this by manipulating a big light gun that has two very simple functions: a trigger to shoot and a red button to launch either missiles or blast enemies with shotgun shells depending on the stage (or “Mission”) you’re playing. With your onscreen presence limited to a blue or red crosshair, you’ll have to keep a keen eye on the game’s heads-up display (HUD). Your character’s health is measured in the form of an energy bar running down the left (or right) side of the screen, your supply of missiles or shells is at the top alongside your current score and remaining credits, but the main bar to watch out for is the “Gunpower” meter.

Keep an eye on your Gunpower meter as it’ll drain pretty quick if you’re too trigger happy.

Unlike other light gun games, which have you shooting outside of the screen or pressing a pedal to reload your gun, there is no reload function in Terminator 2 and, instead, you can blast enemies for as long as your Gunpower meter stays full. Thus, if you’re too trigger happy and drain the meter, you’ll fire less and less shots at a far slower and less powerful rate until you give the meter a chance to refill or grab a power-up. Enemies are in high abundance in Terminator 2, way more than I remember from the Mega Drive version; the screen automatically scrolls to the right to pan across the stage but will lock into place quite often and force you to fend off waves of Terminators, Hunter-Killers (HKs), and other enemies, all of whom constantly fire missiles, plasma shots, and bullets at you. Sometimes, they’ll pop up in the foreground and try to fill you full of holes; others, they’ll toss pipe bombs or other such items at you which must be shot out of the air. In a lot of areas, you’ll find members of the human Resistance exchanging fire with Skynet’s forces, usually behind a destructible barricade. Take care when spraying the area with you fire, though, as this can cost you points and destroying barricades will only mean more shots come your way.

Gameplay gets very repetitive, and frustrating, very quickly.

Gameplay is extremely simple and full of intense, arcade shooting action but quickly becomes very monotonous as wave upon wave of enemies fills the screen. Things are shaken up a bit in certain missions, though; two missions see you having to protect John Connor while he’s in a vehicle. These vehicles take up a large portion of the screen and can be damaged by your fire, meaning it’s extremely easy to destroy the vehicle completely by accident and, if this happens, you’ll lose a massive chunk of health and have to restart from the very beginning, which is extremely annoying. When in the Cyberdyne Systems office building, you’ll be tasked with destroying everything you see to erase all evidence of their research into Skynet; thankfully, you can complete the mission without literally destroying very single piece of the environment but it pays to shoot at anything and everything you see to snag a hefty bonus score and beat out your partner.

Graphics and Sound:
Terminator 2: Judgment Day recreates the look and feel of the movie’s biggest action scenes through the use of digitised environments, graphics, and sprites. While they do appear quite pixelated and blurry at times, when playing the actual arcade cabinet you never need to worry about the graphical fidelity as there’s way too much happening onscreen at any one time to really nitpick. While the game’s use of still images and text for cutscenes isn’t really all that much to write home about, the game makes great use of the iconic Terminator theme and sound effects and is full of voice clips from the film (mainly from Arnold Schwarzenegger) and features digitised versions of the film’s key characters, all of whom lend their likenesses to the game with the exception of Linda Hamilton (though you’d never be able to tell).

The game faithfully recreates enemies and locations from the film and creates fitting new ones, too.

Despite being quite a short and repetitive title, Terminator 2 artificially extends its length by having you battle seemingly endless waves of enemies at any one time. Nowhere is this more apparent and monotonous than in the very first stage, which is set during the Future War seen in the opening of the film. The game faithfully recreates the desolate, bleak, post-apocalyptic future and even pulls from the flashbacks seen in the first film for its rendition of the Resistance base and the third mission, which sees your protecting John Connor from an aerial HK. The dark, desolate future soon gives way to the sleek, mechanical construct of Skynet’s main base and the glass-and-steel office building of Cyberdyne Systems as the game veers towards recreating notable action sequences from the film. This all culminates in a lovingly recreated version of the steel mill for the finale and every stage in the game is punctuated by destructible objects (which generally yield various power-ups) and big digitised renditions of enemies as they pop up in the foreground to attack you.

Enemies and Bosses:
Each mission of the game features a variety of enemies; in the first few missions, you’ll exclusively battle against Skynet’s forces, most commonly represented by the T-800 endoskeletons that wander around the war-torn future and blast at you with plasma rifles. T-800 infiltrator units (who are, oddly, dressed exactly like Arnold’s character in the film) can be found in the Resistance base and will take a few more hits to put down as you blast away their living tissue exteriors, and tougher gold variants of the endoskeletons will also appear near the end of this mission.

Enemies will be relentlessly filling the screen and bombarding you with shots to take your money.

You’ll also have to blow aerial HKs out of the sky and contend with snake-like Terminators and little floating orbs that crack open from egg-like shells and buzz around the screen. When you time travel to the past, though, you’ll mainly be met with armed SWAT teams and human scientists in haz-mat suits. These guys are all weaker than the Terminators you’ve fought but no less dangerous; they’ll hang on the outside of buildings firing at you, toss caustic acid in your face, and pop up in the foreground to try and end your mission as good as any machine and there’s a constant, inexhaustible supply of them at all times.

Skynet busts out their biggest and most powerful defences to sap your pocket money.

Each Mission of Terminator 2 culminates in some kind of big finale, generally against a boss but often having you protect John while he’s in a vehicle. At the end of the first Mission, you’ll have to battle a HK Tank which rolls along firing heavy weapons at you from its turret-like arms, “eyes”, and a little opening in its treadmill. Take note of these areas as this is where you should concentrate your fire to keep incoming attacks to a minimum and then put it down quickly; even after you blast off each appendage, though, the battle rages on as a slew of gold endoskeletons pours out so don’t let your guard down for a second. If you manage to defend John Connor from aerial HKs, you’ll battle another HK Tank before storming Skynet’s defence grid, which is a massive wall-like super computer that spits missiles and snake-Terminators from numerous different openings that you’ll need to destroy one by one to access the time displacement chamber.

The T-1000 is a gruelling battle that’ll physically wear you out with its longevity.

Surprisingly, there is no boss battle at the end of the Cyberdyne mission; instead, you simply dispatch wave upon wave of scientists and SWAT police while John steals the CPU and severed arm of the first Terminator. However, the game makes up for it with its most gruelling stages yet; first, you have to fend off the T-1000’s helicopter as it tries to ram into the van John and Sarah are escaping in. This is very tricky without another player as it’s far easier to have one person cover the left-side of the screen and another to cover the top but you only have a few seconds to blast the helicopter and the van is extremely fragile. Once you’re in the steel mill, the difficulty and frustration really ramp up as simply shooting the T-1000 isn’t enough; instead, you have to blast the liquid nitrogen tuck behind it in order to lower its temperature. This is much harder than I remember it being on the Mega Drive as the T-100 is super quick, rolling and “teleporting” around the screen with its liquid metal ability, and its temperate bar refills so fast that I can see kids wasting loads of their pocket money on this boss alone. When you finally get through this bit, you must fend the T-1000 off before it gets close enough to kill John; land enough shots and it’ll back up towards the molten steel, where you must grab a grenade launcher and bombard it with shots to eventually finish it off for good. Fail, and you have to restart all the way from the liquid nitrogen truck, which is more frustrating than you can possibly imagine.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you strafe fire across the game’s various locations, you’ll notice a few little boxes appearing at the bottom of the screen. Be sure to shoot these as they contain all sorts of power-ups that will grant you a temporary shield, full power-up your Gunpower meter or your health (or both), a screen-clearing smart bomb, or even you additional missiles and shots to deal greater damage. When enemies pop up in front of you, try to aim for their heads as Terminators will sometimes spit out their CPU upon defeat, which will grant one of these random power-ups, and try to avoid hitting John and Sarah as they’ll often drop mini guns that will let you blast away at your enemies without fear of losing power.

Additional Features:
As an arcade title, there really isn’t much more on offer here than beating your high score and playing alongside a friend. I highly recommend having another player with you as this game is a long old slog and, if you’re playing with money or on home consoles, you can except to burn through a lot of credits very quickly as just beating the first Mission takes quite a bit of time and energy.

The Summary:
I remember having a blast with Terminator 2’s Mega Drive port. It was clunky to play with the Mega Drive’s controller (I had a Menacer, once, but it was pretty uncomfortable and unwieldy) but I remember being able to play through it without any real issues. When I saw it in my local arcade, it was a must-play title as I had fond memories of playing it as a kid but, while the original arcade cabinet does deliver (especially since the one I played was set to free play), it is a very monotonous and draining game to play. Even with a friend, this is no walk in the park as stages drag on and on and enemies are absolutely relentless; bosses are fine, they’re nice and big and should be a bullet-hell experience, but even regular stages can drag on for a long time thanks to the waves of enemies. The sections where you have to protect John’s vehicles are easily the worst and forcing you to repeat the entire final boss if you die is needlessly frustrating but, at the same time, Terminator 2 is an incredibly enjoyable experience and a faithful recreation of the film’s more action-packed moments. Just be sure to bring some water and settle in for a long-old haul with this one!

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you every played the arcade version of Terminator 2: Judgment Day? How did you find it and where would you rate it against other, similar light gun games? How does it compare to other Terminator videogames? Did you ever own one of the many home consoles ports? If so, which was your favourite? How are you panning on celebrating Judgment Day this year? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and check back in next Monday for more Terminator content!

Talking Movies [Judgment Day]: The Terminator


“Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines”.

Yes, friends, today’s the day that Skynet, the malevolent artificial intelligence of the Terminator franchise (Various, 1984 to 2019) was said to have launched an all-out nuclear attack against humanity and reduced us to the point of extinction. Subsequent Terminator films and media may have changed this date, and the specifics of Judgement Day, but one thing’s for sure: there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.


Talking Movies

Released: 26 October 1984
Director:
James Cameron
Distributor:
Orion Pictures
Budget:
$6.4 million
Stars:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, and Paul Winfield

The Plot:
The Terminator (Schwarzenegger), a ramosely, relentless cybernetic killer, is sent back in time from the year 2029 to kill Sarah Connor (Hamilton), who is destined to give birth to the saviour of humankind. Her only hope is Kyle Reese (Biehn), a human Resistance fighter sent back in time to protect her and safeguard the future for humanity.

The Background:
In 1982, filmmaker James Cameron awoke from a nightmare that was destined to give birth to one of the most influential science-fiction films of all time; inspired by an episode of The Outer Limits (1963 to 1965) and surely influenced by the likes of Westworld (Crichton, 1973), Cameron crafted a script that few, even the eventual stars, had any real faith in at the time. Initially uncertain about casting Schwarzenegger in the titular role, Cameron was won over by the Austrian Oak and, despite only having seventeen lines in the film, The Terminator made Arnold a mainstream icon and featured the debut of his famous catchphrase. Despite the studio having little faith in the film, The Terminator went on to gross nearly $80 million at the box office and was a resounding critical success. The film catapulted Schwarzenegger to superstardom, was preserved in the United States National Film Registry, and inspired first a blockbuster sequel then a slew of merchandise (including videogames, toys, and comic books) and mediocre to lacklustre continuations in a seemingly-never-ending bid to milk the franchise for all it’s worth.

The Review:
The Terminator opens with one of the most startling and iconic visions of the future ever put the film; in a dark, post-apocalyptic landscape literally littered with human skulls, remains, and the remnants of a once bustling society, machines reign supreme. Gigantic tank-like constructs and airborne fighters are only a part of Skynet’s vast mechanical army, however, which has over-run the world after directly causing a nuclear apocalypse. With the last vestiges of humanity reduced to a rag-tag group of guerrilla soldiers and desolate, frightened civilians, this is a world where humankind is on the very brink of extinction thanks to Skynet’s superior forces and weaponry.

The fate of the world is decided not in a future battle but in a desperate bid to protect the past.

However, the fate of the world is not destined to be decided in 2029; instead, that grim future lives on in the nightmares and memories of Kyle Reese and hangs in the air like an ominous cloud as he desperately attempts to keep Sarah Connor alive. After the human resistance, led by Sarah’s future son, John, scored a decisive and crippling victory over their mechanical oppressors in the future, Skynet activated its most daring plan yet by sending a Terminator, a T-800 model, back to 1984 to kill the mother of its enemy to pre-emptively win the war before it can even begin. In the world of The Terminator, time is like the branches of a tree, splitting off down multiple paths, with no one future being set in time; however, victory in one timeline is deemed victory enough for Skynet and so begins one of the more convoluted science-fiction franchises.

Reese is determined to see his mission through even at the cost of his humanity and empathy.

Disorientated and overwhelmed by the time travel experience (and the sights, sounds, and hustle and bustle of then-present-day Los Angeles), Reese is an agitated, highly-strung, and unpredictable individual. He quickly acclimatises himself to his environment, acquiring a degree of clothing and weaponry, and begins to track down (more like stalk) his assignment. Reese is extremely focused and absolutely dedicated to his mission, determined to protect Sarah even at the cost of his own life and over all other concerns; he never gets unduly distracted and is almost as obsessed and determined as the titular Terminator. Haunted by his traumatic experiences in the future war, Reese has no time for frivolities and very little patience for wasting his time; when psychoanalysed by Doctor Silberman (Earl Boen), he flies into a furious rage at having to answer his questions and being held captive when the Terminator is out there, relentlessly hunting its prey.

Sarah slowly evolves from a meek, frightened victim to a capable and proactive young woman.

Far from the capable and competent character she would later become, Sarah is a meek and relatively uninspiring waitress in The Terminator; the literal definition of a nobody, she’s overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated at work and, despite having friends and a social life, is relatively lonely and unassuming at the start of the film. Disturbed to find that women baring her name have been brutally shot to death across town, Sarah does the smart and logical thing by trying to contact the police but her distress is only increased when she notices Reese following her. When Reese saves her from the Terminator and begins to bark orders at her and rant about a dystopian future and cyborg assassins, she is overwhelmed, clearly scared out of her mind, and, naturally, doesn’t believe a word of what he says. In their earliest moments together, Sarah actually shows some fire when she tries to fight Reese off but, gradually, she comes to see that his ravings are all too true and shows a shadow of the potential she has as an assertive individual by first tending to Reese’s gunshot wound and, in the finale, inspiring him to continue fighting even while mortally wounded and, ultimately, overcoming her pursuer through her own initiative.

The T-800 is a remorseless cyborg assassin who won’t let anything stand between it and its target.

Of course, when you’re talking about The Terminator, you have to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger; since he’s a walking mountain of a man, it may be difficult to believe that the T-800 was ever an effective infiltration machine but Arnold plays the part of a cold, emotionless cyborg to absolute perfection. The T-800’s monotone voice, unblinking stare, and relentless tenacity make it a chilling villain alone but its menace is only increased by its human appearance; unlike slasher villains and other movie monsters, the Terminator looks and acts human, even sweating and bleeding, and its inhumanity is only revealed in its fittingly machine-like efficiency and the degradation of its outer skin over the course of the film. Cold, remorseless, lacking both empathy and pity, the Terminator doesn’t hesitate to gun down or eviscerate those on its path and is, for all intents and purposes, absolutely unstoppable with the weaponry available to Reese.

Relentlessly hounded by the T-800, Sarah and Reese take advantage of every precious moment.

Because of this, The Terminator is, largely, an escort mission for Reese and a constant race against a unrelenting antagonistic force. Constantly on the defensive, hounded by the Terminator and the police at every turn, Reese and Sarah have few chances to stop and catch their breath but make use of every moment they have together. At first, this means acquiring new vehicles to evade pursuit, finding lodgings, and cobbling together more effective weaponry but, in time, Reese, admits that his motivation to travel through time wasn’t just out of blind devotion to his much-respected commander-in-chief, it was also out of love for Sarah. Though he struggles with these feelings and to stay completely focused on his mission, Sarah, grateful for his affections, protection, and all that he has sacrificed for her (and deeply sympathetic towards the unspeakable horrors he’s lived through in the future), reciprocates his feelings and, amidst the terror of their predicament, they come together (both literally and figuratively).

The Nitty-Gritty:
One of the first and most striking things about The Terminator, thanks to its simple but effective title sequence, is Brad Fiedel’s iconic Terminator theme; a rhythmic, synthetic symphony that resembles a heartbeat, the theme is both memorable and versatile, emphasising the Terminator’s ominous presence whenever it is onscreen and being sped up, slowed down, or played on different instruments to punctuate more emotional or energetic moments of the film. The Terminator also has a grimy, bleak aesthetic and tone that is in stark contrast to its more outlandish science-fiction elements in a style that Cameron described as “Tech-Noir”; sadly, too few films try to emulate this style of filmmaking, to say nothing of The Terminator’s many sequels, which emphasised blockbuster action over tense, atmospheric dread and the unsettling horror of the T-800.

The Terminator’s true nature is revealed the more it takes damage, stripping it of its human façade.

The Terminator is almost genius in its premise; the idea of a cybernetic assassin that is purposely made to appear human means that the film can build towards its more striking sci-fi elements and allows it to use its budget wisely in service of a steadily increasing pace. It isn’t until nearly forty minutes into the film that we first see through the T-800’s eyes or see (and hear) how ineffective conventional firearms are against it and, as the T-800 is further damaged by gunfire, car crashes, and explosions, more and more of its mechanical innards are revealed. This leads to some ambitious practical effects and animatronic shots, such as the T-800 fixing damaged servos in its wrist, amputating a wounded eye, and sporting a bloodied chrome skull beneath its torn skin.

Ambitious and impressive stop-motion and puppetry bring the T-800 endoskeleton to life.

While many of these shots now look rather dated, especially compared to the vastly superior special effects of the second film, they’re still impressive for the time and considering the budget of the film. The Terminator also features some complex and remarkable model shots and miniatures, specifically whenever it jumps to Reese’s nightmares of the future war, and concludes with an ambitious, if clunky, stop-motion effect to bring the exposed T-800 endoskeleton to life. Thankfully, this is only for a brief scene and animatronics and puppets are used for the remainder of the conclusion and to astonishing effect; with a practical, tangible effect to work against, Reese’s final and tragic last stand against the T-800 and its ultimate destruction are all the more compelling and cathartic since it actually feels as though these characters have overcome a very real and very dangerous threat.

Though necessary to the escalation of the film’s villain, it’s a shame to lose Arnold’s presence.

If there’s a downside to The Terminator, though, it’s that Arnold’s alluring screen presence is lost in this finale; although it hardly speaks a word throughout the film, the T-800 has a commanding and captivating screen presence thanks to its unflinching, stoic expression and ability to emulate voices to pass as human. Its human façade erodes over time just as Reese’s rational, machine-like efficiency gives way to human emotion and affection, and it becomes noticeably more aggressive and bolder in its pursuit of Sarah. Initially, there’s a sense that you could survive an encounter with the T-800 if you simply acquiesced to its demands for clothes and weapons but, by the end, it’s storming a police station and gunning down countless police officers without any hint of subterfuge or subtlety. Similarly, while it initially tries to mask its decaying exterior, it abandons all pretence and pursues them, gammy leg and all, as little more than a remorseless, inhuman, mechanical monster.

The film isn’t about changing the future, but preserving it to ensure mankind’s ultimate victory.

Of course, a central theme to The Terminator, and the entire Terminator franchise, is of fate. Reese carries with him a message from John, to Sarah, that there “is no fate but what we make”, which is designed to inspire her to allow Reese to protect her and to fight to change the future. Reese describes 2029 as a “possible future”, again indicating that humanity is not necessarily doomed to extinction and extermination, but the very fact that Sarah and Reese’s unity results in her pregnancy ends the film on an ominous cliff-hanger that suggests that, while the future may not necessarily be set in stone, it is destined to happen one way or another. Later films and Terminator media would greatly expand upon this and use it as an excuse to continue the franchise, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so, but, thanks to an excised sub-plot, there’s little in the film to suggest that the goal is to change the future. Instead, the idea is to preserve the future; by ensuring Sarah’s survival, Reese ensures (at the cost of his own life) that John is born, and humanity is victorious in the future. Fate, however, dictates that this future timeline remains on course since not only does Reese inadvertently become the father of the future (so to speak) but they practically bring about the creation of Skynet through their final confrontation with the Terminator; while this is, obviously a major part of the sequel, the fact that the film purposely ends on a cliff-hanger and with a few unresolved loose ends suggests, however implicitly, that fate is as inexorable as the Terminator itself.

The Summary:
The Terminator is another of the formative films of my childhood; it was, to my earliest recollection, one of the first films I watched to revolve around time travel and present a dystopian, nightmarish future where humanity has been reduced to pockets of underequipped soldiers. It had a lasting effect on my imagination thanks to its bleak visuals, horrific special effects, and thought-provoking approach to time and fate, and was directly responsible for my appreciation and affection for the works of Arnold Schwarzenegger over the years.

As great as the sequel is, The Terminator has a gritty, bleak quality that makes it a timeless classic.

Though the future is a dismal, desolate landscape filled with ruins and suffering, The Terminator is a film as much about hope as it is about inescapable destiny; even with everything lost, humanity continues to fight back against the machines and, even though he’s far from the ravages of that war-torn future, Reese continues to adhere to his mission, whatever the cost, in order to ensure that humanity will, ultimately, triumph. It’s tricky to decide which is better between this and the sequel but, while Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991) may be bigger, better, and more impressive in almost every way, sometimes it’s just as entertaining to return to the grim, gritty original, which is much more like a traditional slasher or horror film than a sci-fi/action piece and, as a result, just as entertaining in its own right thanks to its simple, but ambitious, story and effects.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What are your thoughts on The Terminator? How do you think it holds up today, especially compared to its other sequels? What did you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance in the film and do you think it made sense for him to play the titular cyborg? What did you think to the film’s portrayal of fate, especially considering how the later films skewed the concept somewhat? Would you like to see another Terminator film more in the style of this one rather than the bombastic sequel or do you think it’s better to leave the franchise as it is after everything its been through? How are you celebrating Judgement Day today? No matter what you think about The Terminator, and the Terminator franchise, feel free to leave a comment down below.