Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, 1991)

“On August 29th, 1997, it’s gonna feel pretty fucking real to you too. Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day. Get it?”


Randomly, I bought this before watching The Terminator. Reason being that I was going through the early-DVD phase of my life and, in a tin box … with loads of special features … a ‘classic’ film I hadn’t seen … I had to buy it. Ironically, I am sure that this film marked the end of my watch-the-film-and-special-features-all-in-one-go phase … so many special features, many of which are relentlessly dull, simply stalled me pretty soon and I decided I’d bail on the special features, content that I’d watched a ‘classic’ film. Then I watched it again when Sarah’s Mum visited. Lets see what we can pull from the ‘flames’ of Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Future before Modern Day

So, in the same way as its predecessor, the opening delivers the background to ‘The Terminator’ whilst also setting the scene for entire film itself. As if the previous film did not exist, this film sets Sarah Connor up, now as narrator explaining the nuclear war that killed the vast majority of humans. The nuclear war still happens, the future is still set – and this film is about stopping the nuclear war from happening – opposed to the previous film whereby the focus is Sarah Connors survival to give birth to John Connor, the leader of the resistance. Cameron explands the universe and, as if in a dreamlike-state, we are walked through this nuclear attack: childrens play on swings, the laughter and fun drowned out by the intense light and heat destroying all human kind. This is Sarah Connor’s fear – and, the storm clouds that approached at the end of The Terminator has clearly hit home as she is currently in an asylum, whilst her son – John Connor – is a rebellious youth.

Rehash and Renew

In the same way as in The Terminator, he returns in the same way – his point-of-view tinted in red whith details highlighthing his actions. The clock-like ‘tick-tock’ soundtrack beating as he makes his move. He even finds his ‘look’ very quick -finding leather and sunglasses to update his style. This is within 10 minutes. I heard the following information from Andy and john on The Hollywood Saloon. If you can imagine watching  Terminator 2: Judgement Day up until he confronts John Connor, you are – again – unsure about his motives. You are supposed to think he is the same terminator, with the same motives – on a rampage and killing John Connor… but things have changed. The terminator has a new motive – he has, in fact, been sent to protect. This is lost on so many people now because the terminator is seen as the protector – the same role played in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Hope and Humanism

I believe this film has a primary focus on how humans and their personal perspectives is what needs to be valued. There is ‘no fate’ – no inevitable options. Humans “have feelings” and are “afraid”. It is these emotions that stop hope from blooming. But then again, it is these emotions that make people reflect on their actions. T2 builds on the argument set-up in T1 …captialism and a lack-of-foresight into the effects industrialism. The SKYNET company is given more depth – that one hand being the reason for the quick evolution of technology. We know Cameron’s very pro-nature attitude and this is clear in this film too – but it is our ignorance of the bigger-issues that is the concern. We are all responsible.

Miles Dyson – the scientist directly involved in the development of the technology that will, in turn, create the war on Judgement Day – is a good guy. He has a family. He has children. He could be anyone who simply wants to be successful – who doesn’t want to be successful?

When Sarah Connor finishes the film, narrating over the ongoing road ahead – she ends on a message of hope – “If a machine, a terminator, can learn the value of life, maybe we can too”. The question is – who is she talking to? The Terminator himself? Or the clueless development of military machinery and nuclear power – are they not terminators themselves? Putting the cogs together for someone, with less good intentions, to use. Is that too much depth? Who supplies the armies in the middle-east with their weapons? Technology can be a dengerous thing in the wrong hands …


  1. Nice analysis. T2 is a great film from the master of the sequel. Still, The Terminator is the better film in my opinion – written by Cameron when he was going through a particularly dark period of his life and that comes throught the film.

  2. Well Dan – have a gander at my analysis of The Temrinator why don't you! I think its a tough call between the two because the second one – like say Back to the future 2 – is not much without is predescessor. The whole film relates and links to th first one, whilst additionally expanding on the film.


  3. Your article reminds me of the definitive collectors box of Bladerunner with all the various movies, added bonus features, never before seen stuff and what have you and the reality is – once you watch it once, you probably wont watch it again unless you’re writing a review or have a bunch of people over and need something to play in the background to the folks who don’t drink or social very well.

    I think it would be strange to watch T2 before T1 but I don’t think it would ruin anything. I almost think in some respect it would be interesting to see where the film went and then discover where it started, much like prequel only in reverse in this case. Or something like that.

    I’m not following your whole take on understanding whether the Terminator is a good guy or bad guy but I see your point. I think it was a smart move, story wise, and cleverly puts the audience in a completely different mind set now that the bad guy (who everyone really liked much the way we all always like the bad guys even when they are doing really bad stuff) and this twist keeps the story interesting while the characters don’t really change that much. This really gets at James Cameron’s talent as a story teller and something he uses again and again through out his movies. He knows when to turn the table over and he knows when you’re going to expect the very opposite thing (mostly).

    I enjoyed the article and will pop back over from time to time. Feel free to do the same over at Above the Line.

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