The Best Sequels Ever! T2: Judgment Day
Date: May 2002
By: Jason Cara
Following up one of the most exciting and infleuntial movies of the Eighties was an immense challenge for James Cameron, not least because Arnold Schwarzenegger was, by the early Nineties, the biggest action star in the world and, consequently, heroism was the only dish available on the movie menu.
Re-imagining the Terminator as a father figure and protector to errant teen John Connor - the saviour of Earth's future - was one of three inspirational decisions that marks out as one of the finest sci-fi sequels ever made. The odd couple relationship between boy and cyborg provides some of Arnie's best ever 'acting' moments, as John teaches the Big T compassion, a sense of humour and some snappy one-liners to drop in just before he's blowing something up.
Of course, a protector of this magnitude needs one mean mother of an adversary. Enter the T-1000, a memititic poly... and mimetic paly... a liquid Terminator who can run like a cheetah, punch like a prize-fighter and drive like a nutter.
It's the visual representation of Robert Patrick's malleable body that made this movie an instant classic, ushering in a new era of special effects via digital technology. Following the impressive computer generated visage of the water tentacle in The Abyss, Cameron and effects chief Dennis Muren didn't so much push the envelope of available digital technology, as tear it up into a thousand pieces. 'Morphing' was born, allowing the T-1000 to absorb bullets, assume disguises, alter fingers into jagged weapons and blend eerily into a chequered floor.
Here was one of cinema's most imaginative villains, a relentless killing machine who could be invisible in any surroundings (Arnie did stick out a bit in the first film) and had no obvious weaknesses. It's a rare occurence in star-led blockbuster when halfway through you think to yourself 'How the hell are they going to stop this geezer?' But Cameron had throught this one through beautifully, an industrial burial representing a trip to molten hell for the vanquished T-1000.
Although both Arnie as heroic protector and the jaw-dropping digital trickery would probably have been enough to guarantee this films classic status, Linda Hamilton's extraordinairy contribution should not be overlooked. Wearing his screenwriter hat, Cameron reasoned that living with the knowledge of Earth's future nuclear annihilation would have a devastating effect on Sarah Connor's mind. In other words, she's turned from a scared, vulnerable waitress into a tough, aggressive killer, wit an muscular physique to match. It's a startling physical transformation that adds a whole other level of psychological credibility to Sarah's character and makes this a convincing continuation of the Terminator saga.
Although rightly celebrated for both its astonishing action set pieces and T-1000 effects, in sequel terms Cameron's achievement goes beyond this. Not only does it stay true to the spirit of the original, it expands upon its themes, turns characters on their heads and puts them in startlingly inventive perils. You want a follow-up as impressive as the original? No problemo!
The Terminator (1984)
Back for more:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton
New kids on the block:
Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton
Whatever happened to...?
Michael Biehn (killed by the Terminator from the first film, although flashback scenes featuring Biehn were filmed for the sequel, cut from the theatrical release, then restored for the Special Edition release)