Thursday, July 16, 2015

Terminator 2: Judgment Day ★★★★

Image result for the terminator 2 1991 film stills

    There are many notable similarities when it comes to James Cameron's "The Terminator" and its critically acclaimed sequel entitled "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." (The former being a film that is thoroughly infused with a mood of the grimmest proportions and the latter being widely considered Cameron's magnum opus.) 

    We have the introduction to our first preternatural visiter, which consists of an indirect-subjective close-up of a semi, followed by a lateral panning of the camera until this darkness enshrouded and mysterious figure is fixated upon; the external conflict of a futuristic and rather fiendish robotic assassin, who just so happens to utilize the vehicular equipment of LA's finest police department in an effort to stalk his prey; as well as the use of a plethora of stock characters (in this instance becoming the foster parents of the rambunctious young savior in John Conner and the same cynical psychologist that appeared in the original installment) to add a hint of credibility to our settings.    

    This is in addition to a routine execution of the low camera angle (which lends a subtle quality of dominance to our steel framed antagonists), a number of chase scenes characterized by a frenetic sense of energy, and a climactic and pulse-throbbing ending that takes place in the confines of an inner-city factory; all of which are attributes shared by the two pictures. Even our story here is practically the same: In the year 2029, during an all out brawl between man and machine (coined the "War of the Machines"), two individuals are sent back in time to alter, or to protect, the current state of events. 

    So what is it exactly that separates "Judgment Day" from its predecessor? (Beyond, of course, the increased presence of branding--even Subway and Pepsi make an appearance this time around--and the first clothed appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger, coming complete with George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone," in which it becomes glaringly obvious that we are not indulging in the same somber experience provided by the first film.) 

    The answer is surely engraved in its emphasis of action and excitement (a bigger budget certainly provides more opportunities for spectacular explosions and downright eye-catching stunts--imagine a semi truck, albeit with no trailer, racing through traffic, ultimately driving head first off a concrete bridge) and in a theme and moral riddle that speaks to the director's hopeful and inquisitive mentality.

Image result for Terminator 2 film stills Arnold ending
    I mean, the ambition is clear. James Cameron expresses his distinct message throughout the context of the picture via dialogue between characters (this comes in the form of conversation between our youngest protagonist, John Conner, and the cold-blooded T-800, and includes attempts of the adolescent boy trying to teach the cyborg how to understand emotion, and how to be more human-like for that matter), as well as directly to the audience in a heartfelt concluding statement.

    The study of "what it means to be human" (or "the value of human nature") has been a topic of some concern for years in the genre of science fiction. Even Commander Data, an artificial intelligence being from the timeless "Star Trek" television series, continually examined what it meant to be more like his flesh bearing colleagues and religiously attempted to adopt that same cast of mind. "T2" not only touches on this subject matter in the most flattering of ways, but it unveils the purity and innocence of human emotion in a conclusion that can only be designated poignant in form. (There also seems to be some insinuation to humanity's ability to change its brutish instinct, as Sarah Conner elects not to kill in an intense moment of hatred, and while we become bombarded with messages that convey the idea of an uncertain future, with an opening for peace.)

    Despite what has been previously stated, however, it is the performances of Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton that carry this picture to masterpiece status (as asinine as that may seem); if for no other reason than for the difficulty of embracing their individual changes in character and still providing that warranted air of sincerity. Sarah Conner is courageous, strong, and assertive in disposition here, as opposed to the weak and frail nature of her previous showing, which seemed to be plagued by a heavy dosage of situational irony. Hamilton gives us a gut-wrenching performance, which certainly comes off as heartfelt in the end.          

    As for Schwarzenegger, there are moments where I want to cringe and then others where I simply give in to the charisma of the character. Let's face it: This is quite an arduous role for the action star, considering the fact that our Terminator has now become the reprogrammed hero and because now it is his sole responsibility to provide exposition to an already inexplicable plot. (Although the former is a strong suit for Schwarzenegger, the latter is not.)

    Now, it is true that most of the Terminator's dialogue comes in the form of memorable one-liners and lines that evoke a smidgen of humor, but in one particular instance--being our iconic climax and arguably the most important scene in the entire film--there is no room for error in Schwarzenegger's delivery. It is at this moment when our robotic counterpart must display some hint of emotion while not seeming too insincere. There is absolutely no justifiable argument as to how or why Schwarzenegger makes it work, but he does; that folks is the magic of the art of film.  

No comments:

Post a Comment