'Terminator 2: Judgment Day': THR's 1991 Review

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Linda Hamilton in 1991's 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.'
Storming with relentless, carpet-bomb intensity, 'Terminator 2' is at nucleus an apocalyptic story in the sci-fi form of Man vs. Machine.

On July 3, 1991, seven years after The Terminator became a surprise hit, James Cameron unleashed the R-rated sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day in theaters, where it would go on to gross $520 million globally. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.

Judgment Day has arrived and Tri-Star will need Arnold to secure all the Humvees in the world to lug off the loot from this.

Writer-director James Cameron has not just pushed the special techno-effects envelope, he's shredded it and sent it back to the past. Undeniably, the film's heavy-hardware violence and massive testosterone level will freak out many viewers, but Terminator 2: Judgment Day will mow down massive international boxoffice numbers.

Storming with relentless, carpet-bomb intensity, Terminator 2 is at nucleus an apocalyptic story in the sci-fi form of Man vs. Machine. Following its narrative predecessor The Terminator, when a cyborg sent back from the future was unable to kill the woman who would bear a child who would save mankind from the Armageddon technology programmed for world destruction, Terminator 2 features a more-deadly Terminator T1000 (Robert Patrick) sent to Earth to destroy the woman's now 12-year-old son (Edward Furlong).

The mother (Linda Hamilton) is now ranting and foaming that the supercomputer, Skynet, will soon be beyond human control and will unleash an unstoppable nuclear war. Her "revelations" are treated with, not surprisingly, lots of Thorazine. The only chance her son will be saved, and thus the world, rests with a more primitive Terminator, a T800 (Schwarzenegger) sent by the human resistance to protect the boy.

That the salvation of the world hinges on the existence of a scruffy, asocial Valley Kid is a wonderfully ironic mythological notion, and throughout, Cameron and co-writer William Wisher lace this dark but ultimately light-bearing vision with a crazy, transcendent reverence for human vitality.

Although the first act is somewhat constricted by hardwaring of the story arteries, chunks and bursts of raw, quirky human behavior ultimately burst into this carnage colossus. These small, funny, odd moments do much to soothe us from the bombast, as well as clue us to the film's ultimately optimistic vision.

Still, the bulk of Terminator 2 is the war between the two Terminators, and Cameron and his ace crew have marshaled all the forces of special effects technology, as well as motorcycle maintenance, to accomplish this staggering one-on-one blowout.

Throughout, state-of-the-art technical contributions thunder like explosions. Adam Greenberg's torrid cinematography; Conrad Buff, Mark Goldblatt and Richard A. Harris' kinetic cuts; Joseph Nemec III's visionary production design; together with Brad Fiedel's heart-pounding score and Gary Rydstrom's percussive sound design infuse Terminator 2 with a power and force a quantum leap beyond its generic peers.

The players, astoundingly, more than hold their own against this torrential visual/aural onslaught. Schwarzenegger is not only back, but he's more imposing and heroic than ever. His comic sense, once again, is one of the strongest parts of his arsenal and often helps to save the action from its massive musculature. Furlong's nervy performance as the nervy 12-year-old savior catapults the story to its fullest human dimension, while Hamilton is superb as his gutsy mother.

We will forgo passing judgment on the special effects contributors — Stan Winston for the Terminator effects, ILM for the visual effects — as their accomplishments are simply beyond our level of understanding. — Duane Byrge, originally published on July 1, 1991