Like everyone else, I lose track of time these days. Some people react to this kind of limbo with a vision of comfort that creates a familiar routine, like crime dramas or cooking shows. But I’m turning to a George HW Bush-era blockbuster about time travel and killer robots so I can feel a little better in the world.
The movie is called “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, and I know what you are thinking. What is so heartwarming about Arnold Schwarzenegger trading endless rounds of gunfire with a relentless liquid metal android? Why don’t I just watch premium TV, for example, or bask in the complete works of Criterion Channel? (So do I, full disclosure.)
Let’s start by making sure we’re on the same page, as I’m hearing reports that this franchise could have multiple sequels. “Terminator 2” (1991) is where Arnold’s Terminator is sent from the future to protect the eventual savior of humanity, a 10-year-old child named John Connor (Edward Furlong). Skynet, the AI computer that will nuance civilization, sends a shape-changing assassin called the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) to kill John and look really cool.
What follows is basically a chase scene from a feature film, like a bad dream. After taking the form of a policeman, the T-1000 pursues John and his mother, Sarah (Linda Hamilton), from a mental asylum. Explosions, shootouts, and stunning special effects ensue. I never said it was a calm, meditative gem. But I watch it all compulsively, like I don’t already know the future of the plot.
In all fairness, I’m a little surprised to see “Terminator 2” in public. As the highest-grossing film release of 1991 and part of the vocabulary of pop culture, it’s no discovery. Many admirers of James Cameron’s 1984 original, “The Terminator,” look askance at the slogans of its sequel and size. Not to mention that much of my career as a critic and editor at Film Comment has consisted of spotlighting much lesser-known films – often low budget or foreign, very little with Schwarzenegger.
But if I can quote Jean Renoir for free from “The rules of the game”: “Everyone has their reasons.” Here are mine.
It’s reassuring to watch a movie where the stakes are high at all times. After a day of ongoing hassle and disaster, I love to sit back on my couch and watch a seemingly invincible quicksilver angel of death hold the fate of humanity on the line.
The appeal is simple. I watch impending nuclear Armageddon and the ensuing hopeless war with callous, self-reproducing machines that possess lethal abilities that could just as easily be necromantic magic. And I’m like, “Hey, I guess things could be worse.”
You know where you are in “T2” – namely, on the verge of global annihilation and entirely dependent on the survival of a brooding and erratic preteen whose hobbies include arcade games and card fraud. credit. Some might object that the real world also faces many deadly, pandemic and other threats. Why submit to this robotic inconvenience to relax? Chamomile tea, for example, is reliably soothing and, prepared correctly, does not cause massive casualties.
I think the difference with the horrors of the world is that every time I watch “T2” it ends. Nightmares remain in the realm of fiction. (Until there.)
Live better thanks to the effects
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a breathtaking pinnacle at a pivotal moment in blockbuster filmmaking: a dazzling combination of highly expressive digital effects and thrilling analog effects – stunts, chases and action sets whose influence can be seen to this day.
These visual wonders always dazzle. I love the particular edgy weight of the T-1000’s liquid metal: you feel like you can reach for it and touch it, a rare physicality in digital effects. The mind-blowing metamorphoses serve as the scintillating physical embodiment of the story’s cold sweat paranoia: the enemy inspires awe and fear and could be anyone, anything, anywhere.
For its technical achievements, the film won four Oscars, out of six nominations in total. It’s a rare sequel with all the pistons firing, as so many franchise episodes feel mournful and airless today (including later visits to “The Terminator”).
The personal touch
Enough about liquid metal. I love the energy and the details brought by the actors who populate “T2”. Patrick delivers us one of the best androids in cinema, a model of patient threat. Hamilton is a fierce action hero, in a film starring Schwarzenegger. (A few snags about her character’s voiceover, but if I were to go over everything Sarah Connor does, I’d like to talk too.) Furlong makes a believably goofy kid. And as tech guru Miles Dyson, Joe Morton conveys the healthy curiosity that unwittingly precipitates the apocalypse.
Finally, there are the perfect walk-ons – unhappy people who cross paths with the unthinkable while having coffee or answering the door. In my mind, they all have their own friendly Terminators coming back and saving them (and giving them a boost while descending into molten steel). I don’t think too much about the possibility of time travel paradoxes. I’m just spending the day.
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