Lockdown Cinema #7 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Reel DMC
Reel DMC
Lockdown Cinema #7 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

The seventh in an ongoing series of film conversations where I track my daughter’s reaction after she’s been introduced to one of my favorite movies.

What’s the movie about?

A young boy and his Austrian stepfather conspire to help the boy’s mother escape from a mental institution.  With a police officer in hot pursuit, the three go on a crime spree conducting home invasion robberies, destroying corporate facilities, and repeated instances of grand theft auto.

Why did I pull this particular movie out of the cabinet?

Because it’s really the only reason I suggested we watch the original Terminator, and with that box checked, we had to continue.  However, we’re going to be pumping the brakes hard on additional sequels, only The Terminator and T2 exist in this dojo.

What did I think of the movie upon revisiting it?

It’s one of the most amazing sequels ever made, and probably Schwarzenegger’s best film.

Why do I like it?

 When I think if this film, the word “craftsmanship” comes to mind.  Sure, it’s a sci-fi yarn involving cybernetic organisms doing battle to change the future, but it’s remarkably well made.  The practical effects and stunts are great (the Cyberdyne building is one of the biggest explosions in film history) and nothing looks cheap.  The script is tight, the character’s choices make sense, and the film moves at a brisk pace – most modern action films pale in comparison.

Schwarzenegger is great, playing a Terminator doesn’t require him to have much in the way of range, but he fills out the character nicely.  As the film progresses, he’s allowed to express empathy and humor  – if you don’t laugh when he picks up the mini-gun and flashes a wry grin, you’re watching the wrong movie.

Linda Hamilton’s transformation remains legendary.  Sarah Connor in this film is a legitimate badass – gone is the meek waitress from the previous film.  Now she’s an ass-kicking,  gun-toting, fatigue wearing tactical strategist.  The performance rides the edge of being too over the top, and Cameron acknowledges this by having her son take her down a peg when she’s monologuing about man’s destructive power.  Still, for fans of the first film, it’s an exciting progression for her character. 

Upon rewatch, what didn’t work for me?

I’ll push aside the logical questions one might have about the rules for a “liquid metal” body and instead focus on a couple of minor nitpicks:

The scene where Schwarzenegger is confronting the S.W.A.T. team uses practical effects to showcase damage to the Terminator’s face.  Much like the fake head in the original film, it looks surprisingly bad when compared to everything around it.

Something else which always stuck me as being weird – when Sarah Connor is in restraints, Cameron chooses to have one of the orderlies lick the side of her face:

Why am I not shocked Linda Hamilton divorced James Cameron….

It’s an interesting choice – I get Cameron does not want you to have sympathy for this guy since Sarah is about to crack him over the head with a broomstick, but I always think about the fact Linda Hamilton was his wife when they filmed this.  I’m guessing maybe he did not take her script notes…..

Anything else I’d like to add?

*Initiate nostalgia mode*

This was one of the all-time great movie experiences of my life.  I was 20 years old – with two years of college under my belt, I had the feeing of true independence but still the comfort of a two-month residence at my parent’s house.  It was a great summer of driving to Santa Cruz, working my summer job, and hanging out with friends.

For most movies, I would have gone to a local mall or a theater close by – but for event films, my friends and I would choose to drive over to the Century domes over on Winchester Ave in San Jose CA.

How I miss you…….

Big screens, great sound, and wide open parking lots to stand in and bake in the summer sun.  For T2, we did just that – the Century theaters would put out signs for future show times and let you start lining up hours early.  We all knew T2 would be selling out so we got to the theater over two hours early and secured a good place in line.

When we were making plans to see the movie, word spread, somehow we ended up with a good sized crowd – probably 12-15 of us.  We stood in line reconnecting, screwing around, telling stories about High School shenanigans, and sharing our expectations for the film.  We’d all seen Cameron’s Aliens and The Abyss, so we were super curious (and excited) to see what Cameron would do with the sequel – we were not disappointed.  Everybody walked out super pumped up, excitedly talking about the film, it was awesome.

Sadly, those dome theaters are now gone.  I haven’t lived in San Jose for almost 30 years, but when I found out the Century theaters were closing it was like somebody reached into my chest and gave my heart a little squeeze – I was genuinely sad.  I found out Century 21 was planning to show Raiders of the Lost Ark as their final film (great choice) so I snapped up tickets.  And, although it was technically a school night, I drove down with both kids, met a bunch of close friends, and we watched the show.

A sad but amazing sendoff.

It was one of the greatest “Dad days” I ever had with my kids, having my daughter see Raiders for the first time in the same theater I did was magical.  Both of my kids will mention that day once in a while, and it always brings a smile to my face.

Am I still happy I chose this to share with my daughter?

Totally – now she’s prepared for other Schwarzenegger offerings – See you soon Predator.

  So, what did she think?  Check out the podcast to find out!

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