T2: Judgment Day Ultimate Edition In-depth Review
Date: April 9, 2003
By: Patrick Pilon
Disc 1: The movie
You've seen this movie so I'll get right down to it. The plot has machines sending back one of their own to the past to try to kill some guy, while the good guys also send a machine in the past, but to protect said 'some guy'.
Writer/director James Cameron thinks that sequels should be self-contained, and that you shouldn't have seen the first part (or parts) to understand the later part (or parts). That's true of this movie, but if you know 'The Terminator' well enough, you'll notice an incredible amount of parallels between the two movies, from lines of dialogue to camera angles on certain shots. I like to see that kind of thing because it shows the filmmakers know their stuff and it generally means they care a lot about the first movie. I'll say that this movie has a few errors, the biggest of which is the timeline of events (see at the bottom of the movie review for an explanation). That's such a small detail, though, that it isn't enough to take away from the enjoyment of the movie.
This DVD has 3 editions of the movie, the theatrical cut (which I haven't seen since I've bought this DVD), the special edition and the special extended edition (which is actually an easter egg). The difference between the theatrical cut and the special edition is about 16 minutes. It's mostly character stuff and stuff that expands on what might already be known by the audience. There is one scene, though, that I will always resent Mr. Cameron for cutting. It's the scene in the garage with John, Sarah and the Terminator. It's an exceptionally important character scene that's a major turning point in the movie, and I was absolutely blown away to see that it wasn't in the theatrical cut. At least that scene isn't completely lost and can be found on this DVD (and on the Extreme Edition DVD Artisan released in June 2003). The difference between the special edition and the special extended edition is two scenes totaling about 2 minutes. One of the scenes is nice but not truly important. It has the T-1000 exploring John's room. The second scene is very nice, but in the commentary James Cameron gives a good explanation of why it was taken out. That scene, incidentally, ensures that no other sequel is possible (had it been left in).
This movie is talks about the dangers of technology. It's treated much better in this movie than in 'The Matrix', mostly because the latter tries to be something more than a popcorn flick. 'Terminator 2' knows what it is: an action movie through and through. It carries a message with it and has some dramatic bits, but those things are only there to make the action better.
The action is insane. The scale and scope are very big. As an overall action movie, this movie has not been topped yet by Hollywood. It stands at the pinnacle of blockbuster movies. No other action movie has had action scenes that were better done, better shot or better edited. That channel chase, and that Cyberdyne sequence, and especially that ensuing police truck/helicopter chase are all incredibly intense, and incredibly well done. They all have this energy to them and are very exciting. It's a good thing that Mr. Cameron knows how to do action because in another director's hands, these scenes wouldn't have had that special touch Mr. Cameron brings (take a look at part 3 to see what I mean). They're big and they look big without trying to look big. Not many directors can pull that off.
In addition, the acting is actually good. James Cameron is always known for his strong female charaacters and his best is probably Sarah Connor. Linda Hamilton is tremendous in her role. You can totally believe her character's evolution from the first to the second movie, and you can totally believe her being Sarah Connor. She had to go through a lot of training and character introspection to get to be the tough Sarah Connor in this movie, and she pulls it off incredibly well. She also brings a lot of empathy to her character, which is an odd thing considering what she does a few times in the movie. Edward Furlong (in his first movie!) handles himself quite well next to the likes of Mrs. Hamilton and Mr. Schwarzenegger. He's very able and gives a very good performance. Mr. Terminator doesn't say much, so he's very good in here. He has some very nice character moments, which bring out a lot of empathy, even though he's a machine and even though he doesn't talk too much.
This is one of those movie series where the sequel is generally thought of as being better than the movie. There's a reason for that: it is. The characters are developed more, their relationships are better thought out, the action is bigger and better (thanks to the enormous budget), and the story and the themes expand on the first one and evolve in a better way. It's superior in every way. I think the 7 years experience between the two movies helped a lot. (I'm sure the budget had a lot to do with it also, though.)
'Terminator 2' in a thrill ride. It's the blockbuster that all other Hollywood blockbusters since have been compared to (either consciously or not). In my opinion, none have been able to top it. It's a non-stop action movie with a message to say and great characters. The action is great and is the main reason one would choose to watch this movie. I say go find it and rent it. Try to at least find the special edition. It adds some depth to the characters, and has an extremely important character scene that isn't in the theatrical cut. If you like action, you won't be disappointed.
(Not that this is really a spoiler for the movie, I just didn't include in the main review because I didn't feel like it. Here's the error: when the T-1000 checks the police file on John Connor, it says he was born on February 28th, 1985 and is now 10 years old. This would put the the movie in the year 1995. Okay so far. When the Terminator talks about Skynet, he says that soon the system goes up and works fine for 3 years, and in August 1997, the bill is passed to automate everything. Judgement day then occurs on August 29th 1997. That's only 2 years, not 3 years. Because of that, John Connor's age is screwed up in the third part also, if I remember correctly.)
Commentary by... oh, what the hell, by some 26 cast and crew members, namely creative supervisor/DVD producer Van Ling, co-writer/producer/director James Cameron, sound designer Gary Rydstrom, Fantasy II VFX supervisor Gene Warren, Jr., 4Ward VFX supervising DP Dennis Skotak, composer Brad Fiedel, casting director Mali Finn, co-producer Stephanie Austin, key makeup artist Jeff Dawn, actor Robert Patrick, actress Linda Hamilton, actor Michael Biehn, production designer Joseph Nemec III, actor Joe Morton, actor Edward Furlong, stunt coordinator Joel Kramer, ILM CG animation supervisor Steven Williams, ILM VFX supervisor Dennis Muren, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, special makeup/Terminator effects creator Stan Winston, police technical advisor Randy Walker, production sound mixer Lee Orloff, visual effects designer John Bruno, film editor Mark Goldblatt, ILM assistant VFX supervisor Mark Dippé, weapons master Harry Lu.
These are in order of appearance. Fantasy II, 4Ward and ILM are the special effects companies that worked on the picture. Everybody is separate. Mr. Ling says the track was made from interviews by the various people. This is a very informative track, to say the least. It's not the liveliest thing I've heard but everybody involved is enthusiastic about what they're talking about. I won't go through everybody, but it should be obvious that the actors talk about their characters, the sound people talk about the sound, the effects people the effects and so on. The track has ample amounts of information about everything, including some funny stories from the set. For example, when Mr. Patrick was shooting his nude scene at the beginning of the movie, an Amtrack train passed by where they were shooting and he stood there waving at the entire train of people. Mr. Ling is the one who talks the most and he explains and expands on what's going storywise more than anybody else. He also points out the technical side of things like the camerawork and style of editing at times. The actors mostly talk about their character but also mention one or two scenes that were cut and some behind the scenes stuff. The visual effects people talk about how the effects were done, but don't really go into any real detail (the second disk does that, though). If you understand the jargon, it's clear enough. The sound people about how the sound effects (like the gunshots) were achieved and how hard it was to mix the entire movie together. The action people (stunt coordinator, police advisor, weapons master) talk about how the stunts were done and why they chose real live action instead of miniatures during the Cyberdyne explosion and the ensuing chase. The commentary is packed with information about every aspect of the film. It's very interesting and well worth listening. You get answers to a lot of questions you might have.
This section has biographies and complete filmographies of actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick, co-writer/director/producer James Cameron, co-writer William Wisher, director of photography Adam Greenberg and composer Brad Fiedel. It's nice to see complete filmographies for once. I was surprised, albeit very glad, to see 'Future Hunters' in Mr. Patrick's list of accomplishments.
Disk 2: The extras!
You have three choices: Information Programs, Data Hub and Visual Campaign. I'll start with the simplest one and move on from there.
These are a bunch of teasers and trailers: the teaser trailer (1:24), two theatrical trailers (1:48 and 2:07), the Special Edition trailer (2:40), two Japanese teasers (36 and 41 seconds) and 3 Japanese trailers (1:29, 1:39 and 1:49). They're all nice and good, with the teasers being true teasers and not showing any of the movie but at the same time making you interested in seeing the movie...
- The Making of 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'
This is almost 31 minutes long. It's basically a glorified EPK, but still very good. There isn't any of that praise stuff you find in most EPKs, which is a good thing. It's very formal, with a narrator taking you through the documentary. Throughout, you have interviews with James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong and some effects guys talking about various things. You see a lot of behind the scenes stuff, including some fooling around, some pyrotechnics and other things. The doc takes you on location for some stunt work and explosions, then takes you to see how some of the effects were done. It's a bit general, but it's a very well made feature and you see a lot of fun things. This was made back in 1991.
- 'T2': More than Meets the Eye
This is roughly 22 minutes long. It's kind of like the deleted scenes documentary from 'The French Connection' DVD (here, if you're interested), only this one has most of the main cast and crew instead of simply the director. This special was made in 1993 with the release of the laserdisk (I think). It was shown on Showtime. It goes through most of the cut scenes, with interview clips of James Cameron, Stan Winston, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn and Edward Furlong. It's interesting and insightful. It gives you a good explanations of why the scenes were cut and how it affected the rest of the movie. Very nice but some of the things are repeated in the movie's commentary.
- The Making of 'Terminator 2 3D': Breaking the Screen Barrier
This lasts a bit more than 23 minutes. I haven't seen this particular attraction so I can't say if they accomplished what they set out to do with it. This shows you a lot of behind the scenes from the shooting of the picture. It also has James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the attraction's producer coming and talking about it. It shows you some rehearsals for the live part of the show, then moves on to principal photography of the 3D parts, then finishes with the post-production. The story behind this mini-movie seems kind of cheesy, but I can only see bits and pieces from this feature. It's interesting and you can that it's a James Cameron picture - even though it's an attraction in a theme park, the scale is huge. I preferred the other two docs over this one.
Three choices. Get ready for this!
- Source Code
This is the shooting script. It's fairly close to what's in the movie. I believe that ultimately, what ended up on screen is better than the script. There are some stunts that are in the movie but not in the script (the canal chase is much longer in the movie), some stunts in the script that aren't in the movie (a really neat motorbike explosion in the elevator of the hospital would have been really fun to see) and some stunts that differ a little (the tanker truck chase is more intense in the movie). Some scenes are different, but the basic idea is always there (the Miles Dyson family scene right before he leaves for Cyberdyne is a bit different in the movie). The dialogue is in different places at times, also. One big surprise is that the 'alternate power' bit isn't in here. For a director who's always concered with logic and detail, this is a pretty big hole in the script. This is an example of starting out with a great script, and along the way making small changes to end up with an even better movie.
- Interrogation Surveillance Archives (or, Video Segments)
There are 60 (yeah that's right, sixty!) short video segments talking about everything. They range from 17 seconds to just over 3 minutes. In total, the segments are 66 1/2 minutes (that's including the commentaries, which by themselves are about 8 minutes). The clips talk about: the writing, the research, the design and production design, the CG (like previz and T-1000) stuff, the casting, the training and weapons the actors use, the Terminator makeup and bodies (Terminator and T-1000) Stan Winston designed, the stunts, the T-1000 itself (the building of the CG model, the animating, the compositing, the stunts and the reformation gag), the future war sequence, the use of stop motion and process photography, the nuclear bomb blast, the editing, the sound (sound design and sound effects editing), the score and music mixing, the movie's special edition, some convention footage and the 'I'll be back' line in different languages. A few things that are really interesting: you have a multi-angle stunt sequence (the motorbike/helicopter stunt) with the date that the particular shots were taken. In that 2 ½ minute sequence, shots were taken in November, in December, in February, in March and in April. There are a few multi-audio bits. A gunshot, the 'Hasta la vista' scene and part of the steel mill fight have different layers of sound to show you how sound design is done. Gary Rydstrom has a commentary over those scenes (a second in the third scene). Two cut scenes, the T-1000 searching John's room and the future coda scene are presented, both with commentaries (the first with Mr. Cameron and Robert Patrick, the second has two commentaries, one with James Cameron and Stephanie Austin, the other with Stan Winston and Linda Hamilton). One last thing is that they show the transfer process. James Cameron shoots his movies on Super 35 film, and this shows a scene with the film's negative with what you'd see on widescreen and pan & scan.
That's not all. In all those videos there are a bunch of behind the scenes from the shooting of the movie. These behind the scenes clips show the costumes, the location and stage shooting, the stungwork of various kind, the many T-1000 props, and the puppets (like the nuclear Sarah and the Terminator).
Throughout all of these video clips, there is a tremendous amount of information. For example, the reset time for the nuclear blast was about 2 ½ days. To compare, the reset time for the lobby scene in 'The Matrix' (here) was about 6 hours. Incredible amount of information in there. These videos can be viewed elsewhere on the disk.
- Tactical Diagrams
These are storyboards from 17 sequences. They are: Future War, Arrivals, Nightmare #1, Mall Battle, Canal Chase, The Voights, Hospital, Nightmare #2, Dyson's Death, Helicopter, Van Chase, Tanker Chase, T-1000 Reforms, Mill Fight, Two Sarahs, Molten Pit and Future Coda. Most of the scenes are pretty much the same as shot, save for camera angles and inserts and things of that sort. The biggest differences came in the nightmare sequences. In the first nightmare, it's the Terminator that leads Sarah to the playground, not Kyle Reese like it is in the movie. It also goes on for longer. In the second nightmare, there isn't a bomb going off, there are a bunch of missiles rising out of the ground, heading for whatever target they're going to go hit. Also, Dyson's death is slightly different. I really wish they would've kept one of the details in it. In the second where he dies, the camera goes into one of his eyes and he sees Judgement Day (i.e. he sees the bomb going off, killing people). Then the camera pulls back, he dies and the building blows up. It's a real nice touch that I think should've been kept it. It was probably taken out because it would've killed any suspense, but still... The canal chase is also much longer and much better in the movie. In the storyboards, the Terminator sees John being chased, he jumps in, saves John, then the truck crashes. The sequences vary between 20 and 130 boards or so. They're very nice and fairly detailed. If you added colour, it would be like watching a comic book!
Okay... This is... the informative part of the DVD. You can choose to start from the beginning or go to a specific chapter. This is mostly written information in here. The videos and the script are a part of this extra also. All throughout these chapters, some nice pictures are found. Production photographs, on the set photos, behind the scenes pictures, posters, designs and other such things are found. This is detailed stuff, you know, so when they talk about makeup, they talk about all the makeup, including face makeup, all the prothetics and Terminator makeups. Similarly, when they talk about ILM, they go through all the CGI effects done by ILM.
I'll name off all the chapters, that should give you a good idea of the type of information you'll find if you decide to wade through this. There are a total of 50 chapters: Introduction, Table of Contents, Development, Screenplay, Research, Design, Storyboards, Pre-Production, Casting, Production Logistics, Location Scouting, Sets, Training, Production, Props and Costumes, Makeup, Cinematography, Location Shooting, Stage Shooting, Stunts and Practical Effects, Weapons, Visual Effects, Industrial Light and Magic, Stan Winston Studios, Fantasy II Film Effects, 4-Ward Productions, Pacific Data Images, Video Image, Pacific Title, Process Photography, Post-Production, Editing, Sound Design, Music, Printing Process, Video Transfer, Restoration, Omitted Scenes, Publicity, Marketing Concept, Teasers and Trailers, Poster and Ads, Press materials, Promotions, Critical and Public Response, Merchandising Catalogue, International Appeal, T2/3D, Epilogue, and Disc Credits.
Going through the chapters one by one would be insane and would fill up a book. The titles give you a good enough indication of the type of information that's found. Instead, I'll talk about things that stuck to me. Let's start: in the research chapter, there's an extremely interesting essay by Larry Yaeger in here called 'T2 and Technology'. It gets kind of technical and memories from my brain behaviour class helped me a lot. He talks about the technology talked about in the movie and how close it is to the real world. The only really iffy thing is his explanation of the T-1000. He proposes a possible explanation of how it would function (he talks of nanotechnology), but it doesn't convince me very much. His talks of why Skynet makes the choices it makes regarding its machines and how computers could become self-aware are much better. In the design section, they show you drawings of machines that would've looked really cool, but that were never made because the script changed a lot and they would've cost too much. In the makeup section, they say it took around 6 hours to put on Linda Hamilton's makeup for the Future Coda scene. In the location shooting chapter, you learn that the crew actually paved a stretch of road for the tanker chase. In the Video Image section, they say that the static in the 'alternate power' shot was actual static - Van Ling put the animation on a cassette, played it back while shooting a tv set and fiddled with the video connection. In the printing process chapter, all the steps the film negative has to go through to find its way into theatres is extremely interesting. You also learn that the movie had 2274 prints when it was releaed in the US. In the marketing chapter, you see that T2 had it's own jawbreaker (!?!?). Well, 'Hulk' had its own gummi bears (er... gummi Hulks, I guess), so I suppose jawbreakers aren't too bad. In the T2/3D section there's a very long and very detailed article (originally printed in Cinefex) about the making of the ride. That's it.
If nothing else I gained after watching and reading everything, I can now write Schwarzenegger without checking for spelling. There's also over 2 ½ hours of video stuff (2 hours, 35 minutes and 57 seconds by my count (give or take a few seconds)). That would be enough for a lot of people, but that doesn't even begin to count the script, the storyboards, the filmographies and the film-school thing. Awesome set, with a tremendous amount of information to wade through. Great work by Mr. Van Ling.
You can choose DTS if you want to. I listened to the 2.0 stereo track and I was very happy. Some great directional and surround effects. When the bullets fly, they really fly. The very nice score was always strong but never overpowered the other sounds. The dialogue was always crystal clear, throughout everything. A terrific balance between dialogue, effects and music.
2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a very good picture. It has tiny bits of grain once or twice, a few specks and that's it. The colours are tremendous. The many hues of blue come out clear and detailed. The rest of the colours are just as clear. The black level is very strong. The print is very good and has very good detail. This is one of the best transfers from a movie made in the early-'90s. I don't know how the Extreme Edition stacks up but it's supposed to be better. That's quite impressive to hear.