Summer of Schwarzenegger - "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" (1991)
Do I need to tell you that Terminator 2 is good? No, probably not. You've probably already seen it about twenty million times like I have. It's one of those movies like Star Wars or Jurassic Park, except it makes both of those look bad. It's so ingrained in our cultural consciousness that, whether we know or not, we've probably seen it at some point in our lives. Like, I'm pretty sure it's required viewing if you want to pass an American citizenship test. It's the law, I think. For real.
So, look, we all know it's good. We all know the story. Let's talk about why it's so good, then. What makes this movie such a goddamn classic? Well, everything, really. Pretty much all of the acting is great. Every action sequence is basically fucking incredible. The plot is the right balance between "ridiculous" and "thrilling." Brad Fiedel's score is goddamn electrifying from start to finish.
But look, aside from all those specific elements that make T2 great, there's something that elevates it leaps and bounds above other action flicks: it's actually a good movie. See, when we say an action movie is good, we usually say "for an action movie" right after it. There are several, several action flicks I love, but would never actually say they're good movies. They're good action movies, yeah, but not good movies. Not so with Terminator 2. James Cameron found the perfect marriage of artistic sensibilities, grade-A storytelling and in-your-face action, and the result was this gem of a film. And honestly, nobody had even come close to touching it until this year, when George Miller blessed the unwashed masses with the glorious creation that was Mad Max: Fury Road.
Have you seen that yet, by the way? Because if you haven't, stop reading my shitty blog for two or three hours, go see it, and then get back to me. It's amazing. 11/10 entertainment, right there. Okay, what were we talking about? Oh, right. Terminator 2.
Terminator 2 is also 11/10 entertainment. Because, like I mentioned, it's not just the action that makes it good. I mean, of course, that is good. Most of the effects are practical, and CG is only used when it needs to be. Like, you know, most movies that are worth a damn. So, big motorcycle jumps? Vehicle crashes? Explosions? Somebody did all of that in real life, and that makes it so much better.
Actually, when I was watching Avengers: Age of Ultron, I constantly thought about Terminator 2 as an example of a better movie when it comes to special effects... along with everything else. See, Age of Ultron used so much CG that it never felt plausible, and by consequence, didn't have any real sort of tension. I stopped caring, and thought back to how James Cameron used CG and made it work, simply by barely using any of it. Stuff feels a lot more urgent and visceral when you know that some dude actually jumped off a bridge while riding a motorcycle, and wasn't just CG'd onto one. Everything here just feels... I dunno, real.
The believable characters add to that, too. Linda Hamilton, who will be my eternal Sarah Connor (sorry, Daenerys!), is a total badass, and plays her role of a hardened woman who's seen some shit with the utmost conviction. She's yet another strong female role from Cameron, who seems to have a knack for them. And Arnold? Christ, man, this is probably his best performance in a movie. I know "he plays a good robot" sounds like a backhanded compliment, but I totally don't mean it that way. He does stoic and deadpan so, so well that you'd think he's actually a Terminator himself. I mean, maybe he is. That would explain a lot.
So, yeah. I've seen this movie too many times, so this is much less "let's recap this film" and much more "I'm gushing about why I love it and by the way I can't wait for Genisys because holy shit it looks great." Which is good, I guess, because if for some strange reason you haven't seen T2 (what the fuck, though, is that even possible?) then I'm not spoiling anything. It's a masterpiece. Pure and simple. Nobody can convince me otherwise.
Next time: Arnold makes fun of himself a lot and it's really good even though nobody else seems to think so! It's Last Action Hero!