Terminator 2

So I finally saw Terminator 2.

Which is an odd statement to make because I've never seen Terminator 1.

Not that it's all that necessary. Linda Hamilton and guy-from-the-future run from The Terminator. They fall in love, consummate the relationship, kill The Terminator. End of story.

In general, Terminator 2 interested me more, mostly for Robert Patrick, and it is easy to see why this particular movie made him an iconic sci-fi image in his own right. For a part with very, very few lines and very, very little emoting, he manages to sustain a believably villainous robotic persona throughout the entire movie. You can SEE his gears turning over when he processes particular actions. And he gets some exceedingly dry, understated funny moments.

Unfortunately, other than Robert Patrick, Schwarzenegger more than adequately playing Schwarzenegger, two or three scenes with the marvelous Xander Berkeley (he plays the foster dad), the completely underused Joe Morton, the nice cameo of Michael Biehn as Kyle (I watched the extended version), the acting is fairly awful.

Linda Hamilton is at least cool to look at. But Edward Furlong is bad beyond belief. And, surely, there were other child actors available!? For such an important role?!

On top of which, the movie itself isn't all that good. I think my expectations were too high. But it was typical Cameron: lots of flash and glam, little underlying grit.

There's lots THERE. But it's all over the place: are we supposed to get invested in Sarah Connor's search for a father for John (one of the more interesting parts of the film)? Or in John Connor's maturing process? Or in The Terminator's humanizing process? Or in Miles Dyson's decision to give up his important and, possibly, positive research because a bunch of psychopaths tell him he'll cause Armageddon?

Geez, at least T-1000 just does his job.

The movie seems to waver all over the place, and it made me realize why Avatar would likely be a waste of my time. A good action movie should have one main objective (stop the bank robbers) with one main character arc (I can inspire my partner to step up to the plate). Terminator 2 has about 50 objectives and character arcs, but it doesn't deal with any of them on a full-time basis.

Having said all that, I HAVE come to realize why the Terminator mythology has spawned such a following. The mythology is more than a little cool. The possibilities (the questions listed above) could each take their own graphic novel or book to explore. And I can think of more--like how about reprogramming T-1000 to be good? Or having John Connor take over Cyberdyne and create a more robot/human-friendly future (a la Asimov)?

Besides, it may not be the greatest movie in the world, but at least it isn't "literary".


Mike Cherniske said...

Wow.... That's harsh! I've always felt that T2 is among the best sci-fi films ever made. But, I think this is largely due to the fact that T2, much like Aliens, moved its franchise from sci-fi/horror to sci-fi/action, and in a really effective way.

While I agree that watching Terminator 1 is really not required viewing for T2, it does help establish the world and characters, helping you to care more for them.

But, we all have our preferences!

Me, I think I enjoy T2 because, well, it's just plain cool to watch! Cameron really knows how to put together eye candy. The action sequences are plentiful, and really well done. Gun fights blend into chase scenes over and over again, with some variation, but yet every time they're thrilling and suspenseful.

As you said, the mythology of the series is also very rich, and really interesting. Blending world conquering robots, time travel, and a touch of the Arthurian legend (the destined leader), the terminator movies really do fire up my imagination.

T2, I think, really knocked it out of the park on accessibility, which seems to be cameron's true talent (making a film EVERYONE will pay to watch). This movie was the first time I can remember that I and my cousin (a action junky, but in no way a sci-fi fan) and I could sit down and enjoy a movie just as much, even if it was for different reasons.

Kate Woodbury said...

Well, I do think part of my reaction was that it was the extended version. I didn't realize that until I looked up Michael Biehn and saw that he was "uncredited" in the theatrical release.

It's possible that the theatrical version was cut to have a tighter, more focused story, but by watching the extended version first I got all the in-depth, character development scenes, etc. etc. etc. and they seemed kind of random and unnecessarily lengthy.

I am planning to watch T1 (my library had the whole set, but T1 got stolen--go figure--so I have to get it through Videoport). What do you think of the later ones?

Mike Cherniske said...

Ah! I think we found your problem! T2 was the first extended cut where I thought "oh, they just edited in the deleted scenes!" which is all the did. the theatrical is much tighter, with a much better flow. the extended is really for those of us who wanted a 5 hour, slow as heck movie that showed EVERYTHING we wanted to see.

I have some friends that enjoy T3, but I found it.... blah. I have no strong opinion of it, though it offers the opposite argument of T2, saying that we CAN'T change our destinies. They eventually catch up with us. It's... ok.

Salvation is fun, in that it hives us a full film in the future world, and there are a couple scenes that really make it fun for a fan to watch. Again, though, it's only so-so.

The best recommendation I can make (apart from the back to the future mash-up i showed you!) is the Terminator televisions series, which picks up directly after T2, and moves the story line into the present in a brilliant way. They only made two seasons, and both were short, but it does have summer glau (from firefly) and does a great job playing with the world created by the films.

Joe said...

Most extended/directors cuts stink. There is much to be said about having forced discipline when editing your works. I believe that the biggest problem with "famous" artistic types is that they simultaneously believe they understand their craft enough that they don't need that discipline and those that could offer it are too intimidated to stand up to them. King and Rowling are two excellent examples of their work being seriously hampered by extremely lax editing/critiquing. Cameron is another. (So is Lucas, but he's hopeless beyond design.)

Back to T2. I like it as brainless fun. I think seeing T1 does help since it establishes the universe and gives a lot more gravitas to Schwarzenegger.

I'll disagree with Mike on the series. I thought it was a horrid soap opera with no thought to consistency. Summer Glau was, of course, great, but they never did the obvious, like having lots of Summer Glaus showing up.

Of course, speaking of the obvious; the solution is to go back in time when Sarah's mother was pregnant and what her and Sarah along with Reese's ancestors.

And I do think Kate's idea was brilliant--the alternate solution for the humans is to, say, plant a virus in the robots early on. Except that disrupts the "technology is evil" cliche all the movies depend upon.

And I'm apparently one of the few like liked T3.

Eugene said...

Joe's right. I've never seen a director's cut that didn't make a good movie much worse, Star Wars being a case in point. If you ever see Blade Runner, the theatrical cut is the only version worth watching. Film purists make a big deal about how the studio demanded the narration track, lending it that whole retro-noir feel. The studio was right. Left to their own devices, too many directors start believing they're "artists" instead of storytellers.

Kate Woodbury said...

The theatrical version is much better! It moves far quicker through the beginning LA scenes. (The final action sequence still goes on and on and on, but it is an action movie, so I guess I shouldn't complain.)

The theatrical version does away with a nit or at least a contradiction with the first movie. In the extended version, when John wants to know if The Terminator can learn, it turns out that The Terminator's "learning switch" is off. John encourages his mother to help him turn on the switch.

This doesn't make much sense. In the first movie, The Terminator obviously learns when he processes which modern expletives to use towards his nosy landlord. In the second movie, the Robert Patrick Terminator is capable of learning and copying cultural norms.

It is possible that what needs to be turned on is The Terminator's empathy switch, but why would he be built with one in the first place?

Without the extended "explanation," The Terminator's character arc still works. I think this particular explanation is one of those over-thought script moments.

The extended version is worth watching for more of Sarah's state of mind/background. And Reese shows up. But the theatrical version makes a far better movie.

(Though I still don't buy that Dyson would trust the psychos who shot up him and his family, especially after Sarah's anti-technology rant. People just don't give up their worldviews that quickly, and Dyson is no Unabomber. Me, I'd be calling the police on my way to supposedly "blow up" my lab.)

Still, it's a good movie, and it does help to see T2 *after* seeing the first movie; it gives the conclusion more pathos, especially Sarah shaking The Terminator's hand before he sacrifices himself for the human future.