Lionsgate // 1991 // 154 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // May 19th, 2009
"Come with me if you want to live." -- Terminator
In 1984, writer-director James Cameron made The Terminator, a bodacious low-budget R-rated action picture with a wicked time-hopping plot, big hair, neon dance clubs, mouthy punk rockers, the prominent use of a Sony Walkman, inept cops, Arnold Schwarzenegger in what would become a career-defining role, and killing...lots and lots of killing. The movie became a cult hit and landed Cameron the job of helming the follow-up to Ridley Scott's masterpiece of science fiction horror, Alien. On that job, Cameron proved that giving him a larger budget resulted in even higher quantities of pure awesome. With the massive success of Aliens, a sequel to The Terminator was inevitable. It came in the form of 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a flick with such a fine blend of killer cyborgs, explosions, gunfire, impalings, pool hall fisticuffs, mental institution beat downs, truck versus Harley Davidson versus motocross bike mayhem, grenade launchers, sawed-off shotguns, liquid nitrogen, and cutting-edge (for the time) CGI that it may be the closest Hollywood has ever come to action movie perfection.
Terminator 2 was originally made under the Carolco Pictures banner (fine purveyors of '80s action movies such as Sylvester Stallone's Rambo series). When Carolco went belly-up (after being kicked squarely in the financial pills by the cinematic disasters that were Renny Harlin's Cutthroat Island and Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls), the North American home video distribution rights for its catalog landed in the lap of Lionsgate, who have spent the past decade or so milking Terminator 2 for everything it's worth (which is a lot considering it was Carolco's most lucrative title). Lionsgate has released the movie at least three times on DVD. This tricked-out Skynet Edition Blu-ray follows a barebones BD from 2006. If you're one of the poor saps who has lost count of the number of times you've bought Terminator 2 on a shiny little disc-based home video format of one kind or another, and you're wondering if the Skynet Edition Blu-ray can possibly be worth reaching for the leather once again, keep reading.
It is 1995, 11 years after the malicious, self-aware computer called Skynet sent an 850 series Model 101 cybernetic Terminator back in time from the year 2029 to assassinate Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, Dante's Peak) in order to prevent the birth of her son John, who is destined to lead humanity in a post-apocalyptic war against sentient machines. Having survived her run-in with the original Terminator, Sarah's violent rants about the coming Judgment Day have landed her in a high security mental facility, while 10-year-old John (Edward Furlong, Detroit Rock City) lives in a foster home. Their troubled existences become even more troubled when Skynet sends a shape-shifting liquid metal T-1000 Terminator (Robert Patrick, Walk the Line) back in time to kill John. But the future John Connor has a gift for his young self: a reprogrammed T-101 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator) sent from 2029 to protect him. After John and his Terminator free Sarah from the mental institution, she formulates a plan much more ambitious than playing defense against the T-1000: She intends to stop Judgment Day by assassinating Miles Dyson (Joe Morton, The Brother from Another Planet), the Cyberdyne Systems engineer who is currently developing the revolutionary CPU that is destined to become Skynet and initiate a nuclear holocaust on August 29, 1997.
The modern action movie began with Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Whether we're talking about jumping a semi tractor trailer off of a concrete overpass, or tearing apart a fleet of cop cars with a 37mm minigun, or jack-knifing a tanker truck full of liquid nitrogen on a busy street, or launching a motorcycle (with rider) out of a high rise at a hovering helicopter, or ramming a shiny blade through a dude's mouth and out the back of his head, James Cameron's sequel to The Terminator introduced most of the kinetic conventions (or clichés, depending on how you look at it) that dragged the action genre out of the low-tech and brutal 1980s and into the high-sheen 21st century. Cameron's work in T2 is the culmination of the impressive action movie phase of his career, an elegant display of blunt force trauma. It isn't a perfect movie (what is?) but if you can resist being swept up in its gleeful and technically brilliant mayhem, you either have no soul or suffer from a serious testosterone deficiency. Terminator 2 is two-and-a-half hours of relentless fun.
T2 is such a solidly made piece of action entertainment that its special effects hold up quite well almost two decades after it was made. At the time of its release, the flick garnered much attention because of its ground-breaking use of then brand new computer-generated effects technology. Considering the proliferation of action sequences made entirely of 1s and 0s over the past decade or so, one would think T2's ancient CG would look rickety and old school by now. One would be wrong. The computer effects aren't as seamless as they appeared back in the early '90s, but they hold up quite well; mostly because Cameron used them judiciously as bridge material between good old fashioned practical effects. T2 is a marvel of badass practical effects and killer stunt work -- all of it perfectly choreographed, blocked, executed, shot, and edited. The flick is a clinic in action moviemaking.
Despite its status as one of the greatest action flicks ever made, Terminator 2 is not a perfect film. Chief among its flaws is Edward Furlong's uneven performance. His delivery of dialogue is sometimes spot-on perfect, sometimes wooden and awkward. His most convincing moments are when he's allowed to play John as an incorrigible delinquent. His least convincing moments are cutesy interchanges in which he teaches the Terminator to talk like a wiseass kid. When John Connor needs to weep, Furlong's performances completely unravels. His inconsistencies are shored up by a Schwarzenegger performance that is easy to take for granted (his steely deadpan is perfect) and, more importantly, a powerhouse turn by Linda Hamilton. Having apparently learned a few lessons from Aliens' Ellen Ripley, Cameron transformed Sarah Connor from the ankle-twisting female victim of The Terminator into a hard-asses mother-warrior in Terminator 2. Hamilton sports lean muscle, bitten-down fingernails, and a crazed intensity that drives the movie's breakneck pace. Even if T2's action sequences were pedestrian (they aren't), it would still be worth seeing for Hamilton's performance alone.
This Skynet Edition of Terminator 2 is sleek to the say the least. Upon initial boot up, the disc displays a computerized HUD with a map of North America and the message that "Skynet has detected a potential target located in this area." If your Blu-ray player is profile 2.0 compatible and connected to the internet, the HUD displays your location, the time of day, time zone, the current weather in your location, and the name of your ISP. It's a little creepy that Skynet plans to use our home theaters to terminate us. Clicking "Continue" takes you to the disc's main menu, where you can access the feature as well as a ton of extras.
Through the magic of seamless branching, this dual-layered 50-gigabyte BD contains both the 137-minute theatrical and 154-minute Special Edition cuts of the movie. But that's not all. Choosing "Select Version" from the disc's main menu, highlighting the asterisks at the bottom of the expanding menu, and entering the code "82997" (the date of Judgment Day), will add a "Play Extended Special Edition" option to the menu. This is the 156-minute cut of the movie that was also a hidden Easter Egg on the Ultimate Edition DVD. The 1080p VC-1 transfer on all three versions of the movie offers a stark improvement over Lionsgate's previous Blu-ray release of the theatrical version. Color accuracy and black levels are superior, as is detail. The image is pristine, showing no signs of dirt or damage. Unfortunately, the transfer suffers from an overuse of digital noise reduction, resulting in a smooth, glossy image that is a tad weak on textural details (especially in close-ups).
The default audio option is an absolutely bombastic DTS-HD lossless mix in 6.1 surround. Fine detail and spatial imaging are excellent. Action sequences deliver the noise in the form of rumbling semis, shattering glass, and sharp gunfire. The mix is a huge improvement over the vanilla DTS track on the original Blu-ray. Other audio options include a Dolby 5.1 EX track in English, Dolby stereo surround tracks in French and Spanish, a special headphone mix in English, and a Dolby 5.1 TheaterVision option that includes an audio description for the visually impaired. Subtitle options include English, Spanish, French, and English for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
The deep stack of supplements begins with two audio commentaries. The first is the 26-person production commentary included on the 2000 Ultimate Edition DVD release. The second is the track recorded by James Cameron and his co-writer William Wisher (Judge Dredd) for the 2003 Extreme Edition DVD. Each commentary is worth a listen. Both are subtitled in English, French, and Spanish.
An Interactive Modes option on the main menu expands to offer eight different in-movie experiences. "Visual Implants" is a picture-in-picture feature pieced together primarily from the interviews and behind-the-scenes and production footage in the documentaries and featurettes on the previously released DVDs. In addition, you can access any combination of the following in-movie options: "Trivia Data Overlay" (a text-based trivia track), "Production Data Overlay" (a text-based production information track), "Linked Data Modules" (branching behind-the-scenes image galleries accompanied by crew audio commentaries), "Source Code" (a text-based and screen-specific presentation of the movie's screenplay), and "Schematics" (a screen-specific presentation of the movie's storyboards). As if that weren't enough, "Query Mode" is a Terminator 2 trivia quiz and "Processor Tests" is a series of remote control-based games and puzzles that are playable while watching the movie. All of the in-movie experiences accompany the Special Edition version of the film.
An Ancillary Data option on the main menu leads to a teaser trailer, two theatrical trailers, a trailer for the Special Edition, and a Terminator-specific version of the THX Deep Note audio logo. There are also two deleted scenes -- "T-1000's Search" (1:27) and "Future Coda" (1:50). The scenes are accompanied by an optional commentary track by Cameron, actors Robert Patrick and Linda Hamilton, and effects supervisor Stan Winston. The trailers and deleted scenes are presented in high definition.
Skynet Access leads to the BD-Live features menu. Nothing was yet active at the time of this writing, but the menu includes options for "Downloads," "Database," "Simulations," "Parameters," and three "Classified" tabs that will presumably be fleshed out at a later date.
The disc is also D-Box enabled for those who like to add a little rumble to their Blu-ray viewing experience.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a nearly perfect storm of testosterone-fueled action magnificence. If you own a Blu-ray player, there's really no excuse for not owning it on BD. With three cuts of the film and a boatload of supplements, this Skynet Edition is worth the cost of upgrading from the previous Blu-ray or any of the DVDs.
Hasta la vista, baby.
Review content copyright © 2009 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 6.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, TheatreVision)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Headphones)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 154 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Three Versions of the Film
* Audio Commentaries
* Text Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Trivia Quiz
* D-Box Enabled