If it were a person, Terminator 2: Judgment Day could be getting its Master’s Degree. Twenty-five years is a long time and in an industry where science fiction films are aged out of relevance more often than not, James Cameron‘s 1991 classic deserves a little special attention for what it means to its genre. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is 25 years old. Let that sink in. Many of you were but a twinkle in an eye when this film was released. Some of you may have been conceived because your mother’s haircut reminded your father a little of Linda Hamilton. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s time to reflect on a very important movie.
What is it with James Cameron sequels and me seeing them before their predecessors? Both Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day got in there first and were formative parts of my early childhood love of sci-fi action, and I think that’s the case for many folks. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed back to preferring the original films but even I understand the fondness people have for T2. To steal a line from Max Landis, The Terminator is one of the best movies ever made and T2 is one of the best action films ever made. The semi truck chase alone is a landmark piece of set piece cinema that still sets the bar high. In an age where every momentous action scene is done in front of green screens and crafted on a computer, the stunt work and practical action effects in T2 continue to make my mouth gape in amazement. The shootout at Cyberdyne is fist-pumping excellence as Arnie deftly wields a minigun and somehow manages to purposefully avoid any casualties. I hate to say something as tired as, “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” but T2 is one of the few films that deserves that axiom. As blockbuster action has become comprised more and more of animation, it’s the tangible awesomeness of T2 that keeps me coming back again and again.
And the way Arnie cocks that shotgun while he’s on the motorcycle? That’s the coolest way I’ve ever seen a gun reloaded in a movie. (Drew Dietsch)
The theatrical poster for Terminator 2: Judgement Day immediately captured my attention as soon as I saw it. The cold blue steel and menacing design featuring the image of Arnie sitting on a motorcycle at night, shotgun raised and staring back at me blew my seven-year-old mind. “He has a red eye!” is what I said to the kid standing next to me. We were in line with the rest of our summer daycare group to see a special screening of The Rocketeer, and all I cared about was Terminator 2. I had already seen RoboCop, Predator 2 and Total Recall by that point, so I was primed and ready to go.
You know what happens when you see T2 at a young and impressionable age in the early 90s? You become an Edward Furlong fan. Terminator 2 is one of the reasons I even gave Brainscan a chance. John Connor was my way in, and I still to this day look at the performances laid down by Nick Stahl, Christian Bale, and Jason Clarke, and I don’t buy it. John Connor from Judgement Day would never have grown up to become those dweebs. I still remember how amped up I got when John and Budnick from Salute Your Shorts hoped on the back of the dirt bike and sped off blasting You Could Be Mine by Guns N’ Roses.
I was obsessed with T2 as a kid. I saw it before the original and held it on a higher pedestal for years as being far superior and more entertaining. In many ways Terminator 2 is technically better than The Terminator, but as a kid I didn’t particularly care because Judgement Day was just so cool and taboo. Kids my age weren’t supposed to be watching movies like that, and at times that cultural staple even hit home. To get around being restricted from the film, I begged the parents and family to hook me up with action figures and video games and I played with everything I could get regardless of quality. Looking back, T2 was a pivot point in my formative years and I still value it immensely. (Andrew Hawkins)
I didn’t get a lot of sleep as a youth thanks to James Cameron. I saw Night of the Living Dead at a far too young age and survived. Then there was A Nightmare on Elm Street. I managed my way through that too. But then came Terminator 2: Judgment Day and it’s like I was confronted with my deepest fears.
That opening scene, it sent a shiver down my spine. There’s something so terrifying about those cold steel robots wandering a decimated future landscape. Their skeletal smiles, their smooth menacing movements. And those eyes. My god, those beady red eyes. When the robot turned and looked towards the screen at the beginning of T2, I could practically feel my nightmares forming. These were merciless killing machines, hell bent on wiping out humanity. That meant every man, woman, and child – including little old me, who sat transfixed and shaken to my core.
James Cameron isn’t given enough credit for creating such an ultimate terror. The T-1000s rank up there with Freddy, Jason and the rest of horror movie monsters. They are straight up scary. I know because I occasionally still see them in my nightmares. (Brandon Marcus)
My birthday is July 3rd. In 1991 I was a year out of high school and over fifteen years into my movie obsession. In those pre-internet days, it was a lot harder to find information about upcoming movies, but the stacks of magazines that littered my bedroom floor gave me as much of the data there was out there about the sequel to one of my favorite movies. July 3rd, 1991 was more than a special day for me and I was way more excited about Terminator 2: Judgment Day than I was about my measly birthday. That morning my father (R.I.P.) decided to make my special day as special as possible. The first stop was to IHOP for a great breakfast. And food poisoning.
I was so sick that my father planned for us to skip the movie until I was better. It’s hard to enjoy a movie about killer machines when you’re constantly throwing up, but there’s a thing about film fanatics. They have resolve. They have priorities. So, I went to that movie. And it was luminous. Anyone who saw Terminator 2: Judgment Day when it was new in theaters knows what I speak of. The confidence. The coolness. The special effects. The sheer balls of James Cameron and his considerably directorial swagger. The movie may be imperfect and Edward Furlong’s performance may be nearly unwatchable now, but this movie moved the needle upon its release and not in a small way. This was a pivotal step for big-budget Summer fare and for better or worse it influenced the Emmerichs and Bays of the world and helped lay the foundation for so much of what we take for granted.
That was also the last time I threw up. (Nick Nunziata)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is from the glory days when an action blockbuster could be anything and everything. It could be R-rated but also kind of a sentimental kids movie. Action-focused, but also solid sci-fi, and borrowing heavily from horror. The Terminator is much more of a horror film than T2 (the whole unstoppable man-monster thing is pure horror). But I think the dashes of horror we get in T2 are more developed than in the first film, and provide a sense of black humor that wasn’t as present.
In the film’s opening, the young John Connor (Edward Furlong) is living with his foster parents, Janelle (Jenette Goldstein) and Todd (Xander Berkeley). To better facilitate the return of John to his institutionalized mother, the foster parents are unpleasant people who fall prey to the T-1000. When John calls his foster home from a payphone, Janelle picks up.
The conversation starts innocuously enough, but when the German Shepherd out back starts barking, Todd yells “Hey! Shut up, you worthless piece of s***!” Nice guy, eh? John’s new cybernetic pal hears the dog, takes the phone, and speaks to Janelle by mimicking John’s voice. The T-800 turns to John and asks “What’s the dog’s name?” “Max,” John replies. That’s when the T-800 makes a brilliant move: “Hey Janelle, what’s wrong with Wolfie?”
Back in the foster home, Todd is still loudly complaining about the dog, which we now know is named Max. Janelle’s left arm reaches up, and KA-CHUNK! Something happens out of frame. “Wolfie’s fine, honey. Wolfie’s just fine,” she coos.
The T-800 hangs up the payphone. “Your foster parents are dead.” And as John has to deal with that horror.
But Cameron’s not done — he reveals that the KA-CHUNK we heard earlier was the T-1000, impersonating Janelle, stabbing Todd through the mouth with a long metal arm. It’s a great moment in a film where the moments are everything. (Travis Newton)
Thanks for the memories, James Cameron.