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Terminator 2: Judgment Day DVD Review

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

August 5, 2003

Director: James Cameron,
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Danny Cooksey, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley, Leslie Hamilton Gearren,

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DVD Review

Since the birth of DVD the format has spread faster than CD audio, due to some hard-core film fanatics, some large scale marketing campaigns and the odd fantastic DVD release. Lethal Weapon 4 showed us what DVD was capable of in the shape of extra features, deleted scenes, trailers and generally anything you could want to know about Mel Gibson’s sleeping habits. The Matrix upped the ante’ with a truly sublime animated menu, DVD ROM features, web links and the interactive ‘follow the white rabbit’ hidden features gimmick. Gladiator made DVD mass market, as even my dad was interested in seeing it and he thinks DVD is a disease to be treated with cream. Now comes Terminator 2 Ultimate Edition and the standard by which all others are judged has been raised once more.

Since its release in the US Terminator 2 Ultimate Edition has been regarded by viewers, experts and passers by as the greatest DVD release of all time, but is that really warranted? In a word, yes. Sit yourself down, slip on your shades and slap another cartridge in your pump action while I tell you all about it.

Before we talk about the gems concealed away in this DVD, let us look back at the 1991 Summer blockbuster that is Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

On August 16th 1991 (my 15th birthday incidentally) T2 opened in the UK to packed theatres throughout the country, and what an impact it had. Schwarzenegger was at the top of the box office tree and the film had already pulled in $200,000,000 in the US alone. The main crux of this second Terminator film focused on Schwarzenegger’s transformation from evil Terminator to heroic protector, something that the actor himself and his publicity machine would have insisted upon. We were treated to not one, but two Terminators battling for Earth’s future, in the present.

The plot of the film is thus: After the failure of the first Terminator Skynet have sent a second prototype Terminator from the future to strike at Sarah Conner’s son John, who is only 10 years old. The resistance, led by a forty plus John Conner, have sent a reprogrammed Terminator to act as a protector for John as a child. There you have the basic plot. The two Terminators battle each other for the life of John Conner, who himself tries to become a great world leader at least in the eyes of his mother. She, he rescues from a mental institution with the aid of the Terminator and together they set out to prevent the war ever happening.

Since the release in the US of the Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition DVD Americans all over internet forums have been spouting rhetoric from the DVD claiming that they now know all about making movies. The ‘I’ve seen one making of DVD so now I know how all films are made’ generation.

That’s the legacy this DVD has built, and it’s not very hard to see why. The account this DVD gives on the making of Terminator 2 is comprehensive to say the least. It takes you from initial script, through pre-production, shooting, editing, foley, marketing, promotion, news, special edition re-release, DVD production and so on. There are 50 chapters of the film making process in a feature known as ‘Data Archive’, each packed with information, stills and video footage.

There is a video archive with 60 different video segments taking you through the film’s creative process. The best of these are the last few which feature deleted scenes that aren’t even included in the re-edited special extended edition. These all have commentary by James Cameron of course. My head’s starting to go dizzy at this point.

If documentaries are your thing, this film has three of them. One has been shown before on network television, released on video and with the laserdisc but the other two are original. One about the T2 3D ride at Universal Studios and the other about the special edition of the film. The latter documentary reveals something very interesting about one scene cut from the theatrical release.

There is a scene where Sarah and John Conner take out the CPU from the Terminator’s head so that it can be set to ‘write’ as opposed to ‘read only’. This involves cutting open his head and removing the CPU chip, which they do in front of a mirror. The camera tracks around showing that there is a massive whole in Schwarzenegger’s head as he sits in front of the mirror, now how did they do that? Simple, there was no mirror. The Schwarzenegger in front of the camera is a puppet, the mirror is clear and the real Schwarzenegger sits opposite. Linda Hamilton (Sarah Conner) is also in front of the camera probing the puppet’s head, her twin sister (sheesh) is in the fake mirror doing the same thing to the real Schwarzenegger. Confused? This took much rehearsal to get the movements the same so that they looked like reflections, and then it was cut from the theatrical release. Typical.

This DVD is so feature packed that even the sound setup screen has more functions than most DVD releases. Is it any wonder that this DVD is used to demo DVD equipment in the US?

I could go on about the features of this double disc set, but to be quite honest we’d be here forever. The DVD gives you more entertainment in terms of hours than many video games, and costs a bit less too. Lets just say that Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition does not disappoint in terms of content.

I’m going to say something controversial now, so hold your breath. Terminator 2 isn’t as strong a film as the the first Terminator.

If anything, this special edition DVD with its behind the scenes features goes some way to proving that. On the first Terminator James Cameron had a limited budget with limited shooting schedule so the script had to be as tight as possible before he even picked up a camera. With T2 he had a much bigger budget so was able to experiment more with character defining scenes, making him shoot things that should have been cut out at the script stage. This led to the final cut having inconsistencies in characterisation that the first film didn’t have. The introduction of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s character ‘T-800’ showed him acquiring his clothes from a group of bikers, yet he didn’t kill any of them, even when they attacked him. The T-1000 played by Robert Patrick killed the first person he encountered. As the T-800 hadn’t started to learn about human values from John Conner yet his first instinct should have been that of a Terminator, kill all who interfere with the mission. As he did in the first Terminator movie.

Unfortunately the marketing decision to make Schwarzenegger the ‘good guy’ interfered with the characterisation of the T-800.

The fact that T2 had a planned shooting schedule even before scripting had started, and that the script took just eight weeks to complete tells you that the characters were unlikely to be fully defined. The first Terminator script was written, completed and polished before a studio came on board, and it was only until Cameron sold the shooting script for $1 with his himself attached to direct that anyone was interested in making it.

Terminator 2 isn’t about what is or isn’t a great piece of film making though, it’s about entertainment on the grandest scale, and if you ask me which of them I’d rather watch on a Saturday night I’d have to say T2! It’s not the greatest action movie ever made, but it certainly is the biggest and coming from the director of Aliens, True Lies and Titanic you’re in the hands of the best action movie director in Hollywood. Not bad for a man who’s film debut was the incomprehensible Piranha 2: The Spawning. If you haven’t seen this film, you don’t know low budget. Let me just say this, flying rubber fish.

Let me ask you a question, what is the most memorable line in film history? ‘Use the force Luke’, ‘That’s not a knife, that’s a knife’ or is it Schwarzenegger’s classic ‘I’ll be back’.

The marketing campaign around T2 focused on Arnold ‘being back’, his catchphrase at the time. We watched T2 in the cinemas waiting with baited breath for Arnold to say those immortal words ‘Wait here, I’ll be back’, and as rumour has it he may will be in Terminator 3. Several times the proposed T3 nearly went ahead without Schwarzenegger and Cameron, which would have been disastrous but now it seems a real possibility. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s word on the subject? Well, he’ll be back of course.

I expect we can then look forward to a DVD trilogy box set in a few years, oooh the mouth waters!

So, after getting through all of that, and it took a while, is this really the ultimate DVD? To be honest I probably prefer the Ghostbusters disc, it’s a better film and has the first ever video commentary. The animated menu is truly interactive and better laid out. Having said that, Terminator 2 has more features, a lot more. The sound and picture quality are the best I have ever experienced and the information it get across about the filming procedure is second to none.

This double disc set will probably appeal to you if you are interested in films in any way, have ever liked watching films or you generally like being entertained. In short, get it.

Darren has enjoyed an interest in film for many years, studying the subject at Newport Film School where he worked on the film ‘Cop on the Edge IX: Prelude to Justice‘ in a directing and acting capacity. The official site can be enjoyed here. Darren setup WhatDVD.Net in 2003 to further his love of films and to write passionately about the movies he enjoys, and about those that he doesn’t.

Although his day-to-day activities mean that he now has less time to review movies than he would ideally prefer, he still tries to review new releases, and DVDs from his extensive collection, whenever possible.
view all DVD reviews by Darren Jamieson

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Rating: 91%

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