Our reviews of Schwarzenegger: 4-Film Collector's Set (published May 22nd, 2009), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (published July 3rd, 1999), Terminator 2: Judgment Day Ultimate Edition (published September 5th, 2000), Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Skynet Edition (Blu-Ray) (published May 19th, 2009), and Terminator Anthology (Blu-ray) (published September 19th, 2012) are also available.
Same Make. Same Model. New Mission.
I tend to be a literalist, so when I heard Terminator 2: Judgment Day was being released in a new edition, I wondered how that was possible. After all, the previous edition was dubbed the "Ultimate" edition (ultimate (adj.): last in a progression or series). How could it be the last edition if another one comes along a mere year and a half later?
Perhaps, then, they meant ultimate (adj.): the best or most extreme of its kind. So in 2001, the "most extreme" edition was released, and in 2003, the "extreme" edition was released. Hmm…which would you rather own?
I guess I shouldn't read so much into things…
Facts of the Case
I can't believe there's a single one of you who doesn't know the plot of T2 inside and out, so I'll try to be brief.
Since the end of The Terminator, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, Dante's Peak, Beauty and the Beast) has been preparing for the coming war—training with weapons and weights to become the buff, hear-her-roar woman she is today. At some point, she decided to take fate into her own hands and destroy Cyberdyne Systems before the company could set into motion the events that would allow the machines to take over. But her mission failed; she was caught and locked up as criminally insane, and her son, John (Edward Furlong, Pecker, American History X), became a ward of the state, passed off to the foster care system. This is where our story begins…
The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies) is back, just like he said he would be. But this time he's the good guy, sent by John's future self to protect 10-year-old John from the new and improved T-1000 (Robert Patrick, Spy Kids, The Faculty, The X-Files), which has been sent by the machines to destroy him. John, fearing the T-1000 will pursue his mom, orders his protector to help free her. The three narrowly escape from the T-1000 and take off in search of safety.
Once they've stocked up on weapons, ammo, and a vehicle, the plan is to keep moving south to avoid the T-1000. But Sarah, remembering the message John's father told her (which he memorized at the request of future John), "there is no fate but what we make for ourselves," decides to fight, not run. She takes off in pursuit of Miles Dyson (Joe Morton, Blues Brothers 2000, Executive Decision, Smallville), whom the Terminator has named as responsible for enabling Skynet's existence. John and the Terminator quickly realize where she's gone and race to try to stop her from doing something rash.
Will Sarah kill Dyson? Would that be enough to change the future? Can John defeat the T-1000?
There's not much to say about T2 that hasn't already been said many times before. It's a brilliant movie—a precursor to The Matrix with its combination of a captivating sci-fi plot, philosophy and morality, and great action sequences and special effects. It's also a highly re-watchable film; I notice new aspects every time I see it.
So I'll focus on this new DVD edition instead. How does it compare to the previous edition?
The Extreme Edition includes the Special Edition cut of the film with 16 minutes of additional scenes, all of which are not to be missed. But the Special Edition is also available on the Ultimate Edition, so that's nothing new.
What about the transfers? One of the selling points of this DVD is that it has been "digitally mastered from a brand-new 1080p, 24sf high-definition digital telecine transfer for superior video and audio quality." And, yes, the result is definitely awe-inspiring, but is the quality any higher than that on the Ultimate Edition? For the video, my answer is "a little." Some of the scenes are a little crisper and more vibrant than before, allowing more details to be noticeable over the previous print. For the audio, my answer is "not that I can tell." Both editions offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track, while the Ultimate Edition also offers a DTS 5.1 track. But if there's a difference between the Dolby track and the DTS track, it's subtle.
So that leaves us with the extras. Here's where it gets interesting, for the Extreme Edition sports an audio commentary by director James Cameron—"the first time that James Cameron has recorded a live scene-specific commentary for one of his own films." Chiming in with Cameron is co-writer William Wisher. The first thing I noticed about this commentary is that they've separated the two voices so that Cameron's comes through the right speaker and Wisher's comes through the left—a neat trick that helps you distinguish between the two commentators. The commentary itself is just how I like it: entertaining, informative, humorous, and not too self-serving. By the end, you have a better understanding of the movie and Cameron's vision for it.
This Extreme Edition also contains an interactive text commentary, which consists of a brief description of each shot at the top left of the screen, a running commentary on different aspects of the production at the bottom of the screen, and an occasional Cyberdyne logo at the top right of the screen. When the logo appears, you hit Enter to access additional behind-the-scenes or documentary footage pertaining to the current scene. If it sounds complicated, you're right, it is. First of all, the text moves surprisingly quickly. I'm a fast reader, so captions usually move too slowly for my taste, but not these—these were a struggle to keep up with. Blink at the wrong time, and you'll have to rewind. Glance up to read the scene description, and you'll miss something below. Add to that the appearance of the Cyberdyne logo, which pops up on average about every two minutes, and watching this feature becomes quite a chore. But if you're willing to invest the time and attention, you'll learn more than you ever thought possible about the production of T2. By the end, not only was I exhausted, but I felt I could recreate the movie, scene-by-scene, without any additional information. I knew how the special effects were created, I knew how the work was divided between the actors and their stunt counterparts, and I even knew the labor laws regarding child actors. If you are an aspiring filmmaker, watch this commentary. I must also add that a significant portion of the footage for the interactive commentary is just chopped up bits and pieces of the behind-the-scenes and documentary features from the Ultimate Edition. In other words, if you've watched the Ultimate Edition, you may not be getting quite as much new information as it seems.
The Extreme Edition also includes two featurettes: "No Feat but What We
Make," a 24-minute look at how T2 pushed the computer graphics
envelope, paving the way for many other films, and "T2: On the Set,"
an eight-minute montage of funny and cool behind-the-scenes footage (including
Arnold in a pair of "jams"). In addition, there is an Easter egg to
unlock the theatrical version of the movie (though I'm not sure why you would
want to watch it) and another to view a trailer for the Ultimate Edition DVD
(though I'm not sure why you would want to watch it either—to see what
you're missing?). Finally, there are three DVD-ROM features, which sound
intriguing but wouldn't work properly on my computer:
Finally, a word about the packaging. Like the packaging for the Ultimate Edition, it looks cool but isn't very functional. In the previous edition, the metal slipcover was too loose and the case fell out easily. This edition also has a metal slipcover, but now it's too tight and you're almost guaranteed to damage the inside case when you try to insert it into the slipcover. Artisan obviously listened to customers' complaints when designing the new case but didn't bother to test this one either.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'm not a man between the ages of 18 and 49, so according to Artisan, I'm outside the target audience for this disc. Hence, you should probably disregard everything I say. What's a girl doing reviewing "the greatest action movie ever made," anyway?
It all comes down to one question: should you buy this disc? Well, it goes without saying that you ought to own at least one edition of T2 on DVD. How can you call yourself an aficionado (or a real man, for that matter) if you don't? But should you own this edition? Yes. I recommend purchasing the Extreme Edition over the Ultimate Edition.
But what if you already own the Ultimate Edition—should you buy the Extreme Edition as well? I'd say it's at least worth a rental. It's the only place you'll find the brief glimpse into James Cameron's brain that occurs during his commentary and the only place you'll find the "Filmmaking for Dummies"-ish text commentary. Regardless of the similarities between the two editions otherwise, these two commentaries make the disc worth viewing. But unless you're one to watch extras more than once, the differences between the transfers are so minimal that owning both editions probably isn't necessary.
If you're an aspiring filmmaker, disregard the advice I just gave and buy this DVD no matter what. The information you'll gain from the text commentary will be invaluable.
T2: Judgment Day, the Extreme Edition DVD, and Artisan are found not guilty. Any and all charges have been terminated!
Hasta la vista, baby.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director James Cameron and Co-Writer William Wisher
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