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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – DVD Review

Terminator 2: Judgment Day Extreme DVD cover art


Written by: James Cameron & William Wisher
Directed by: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton


  • Special edition version of the film with sixteen additional minutes of footage
  • Running audio commentary with director Cameron and co-writer Wisher
  • “Extreme Interactive Mode” with text and graphic commentary and branching-off bits of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews
  • No Feat But What We Make documentary on the FX and its legacy
  • T2: On the Set montage of behind-the-scenes footage
  • DVD-ROM:
    • T2: High Definition, the complete theatrical version of the film, designed to be played on Windows Media 9 on your PC
    • Infiltration Unit Simulator and T2 FX Studio
    • Skynet Combat Chassis Designer game

Released by: Artisan
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]In the future, the machines are going to rise up and hand humanity their collective ass. Upon the brink of extinction, one man rose up to lead his people against the metal bastards. That man was (or will be, rather) John Connor. Previously, the machines got clever and decided to go back and kill John’s unsuspecting mother (Hamilton) before she even conceived the guy. However, the humans from the future led by John intervened and sent a soldier (played in both films by Michael Biehn) back to protect John’s mom. Let’s not go into details about that, the whole bloody thing is complicated as hell.

Anyway, it’s not over yet. A brand spanking new terminator unit (Patrick) is on the scene, ready to kick ass and take names–and the only thing standing between this machine and John (Furlong) is another machine. Namely, it’s another model like from the first film (played again by Schwarzenegger)–trouble is, it’s hopelessly outmatched.

This movie is a ride, pure and simple. Sure in retrospect, the acting is good, the effects (especially considering the time the film was made) are very impressive, the writing is solid–all the other aspects are strong, but what I remember most about seeing this flick for the first time in the cinema is that it seemed bloody relentless. It still retains that, but with a bit more cinema-viewing under my belt, it’s fairly impressive even action aside. Hamilton truly body-sculpted herself into a killing machine for the role and Schwarzenegger actually got to act a little bit opposite then newcomer Furlong. Still, the standout for me is Robert Patrick, who is ostensibly a Zen killing machine in a cop’s uniform. The fact that he was able to walk through showers of sparks without flinching–among other little actor feats–is truly impressive.

Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2
Furlong, Hamilton and Schwarzenegger see through time to Crow: Wicked Prayer...and know that humanity is doomed.

This new “Extreme” edition of the film is nearly flawless. The first disc is a dream come true. If you watch it through, I urge you to take the commentaries one at a time–doing the graphic and text interactive mode along with the director/writer commentary is enough to kill a normal human. The graphic commentary is so extensive that in one scene it’s literally pointing out the matte line on the screen. At the same time you’re getting a text commentary at the bottom of the screen (a la what they had on The Abyss) along with more specific commentary up top on where and how the shot took place: for example, if the shot is a composite between ILM’s CG work and on set action, it specifies this.

Parsing an FX shot from Terminator 2

To add madness to insanity, when a Cyberdyne logo appears in the upper right hand corner of the screen, hit the Enter key on your remote and you branch off into numerous extra bits: everything from behind the scenes footage of what Arnold was really wearing when he initially appears and walks into that bar to interviews with Cameron, musical score provider Brad Fiedel, FX god Stan Winston and numerous others. Pretty much every stunt, or gag, produces the logo which then takes you to a mini-featurette on the stunt or at least behind the scenes footage. The nuclear nightmare sequence pretty much gets its own featurette as they take you through every aspect of it, from the computer work to the buildings being destroyed to the closeups of streets–extensive and exhaustive. All of this must add a few extra hours to the screening of the film, although I didn’t time it. What it did impress upon me, though, was just how much of this stuff was done without the use of computers. This is probably one of the last big summer blockbuster films to have to rely on miniatures and whatnot, when digital would just make lives a lot easier. Just amazing. The only nit I have with the whole interactive bit is that you had best have your remote handy, because sometimes the logo is only up for a few seconds and if you miss it–oh well, time to rewind.

That’s pretty much Disc One, and isn’t that plenty? Disc Two is where you have a featurette regarding the impact of the film on the industry and how it pushed the envelope of CG technology. Now, granted, I myself don’t have the cinematic wherewithal to debate the subject of how much the industry owes to T2 in this respect, but it was nice to hear from Stan Winston, a live-action kinda guy who didn’t freak about the impending new technology, and also from Peter Jackson, and what T2 meant to him as a filmmaker. So it has its merits. Also of amusement value is the montage of behind-the-scenes footage, peppered with enough clowning on the part of the cast to make it worthwhile, although the best line goes to Cameron. At a birthday party he quips that the gift better not be “a flying piranha.” Look it up.

James Cameron from Terminator 2

DVD-ROM features are fairly extensive. First up, you get the theatrical cut of the film in UberMongo Hi-Def mode, playable using Windows Media Series 9 on your PC. However, you need to have a hella PC in order to be able to pull this off. Recommended requirements are XP, 512MB of RAM, 3Ghz processor, 128MB/3D video card and a 24 Bit 96Khz Multichannel Sound Card. And even better, the recommended resolution is “1600×1200, 1920×1080 or higher display setting.” They’re not joking around, either. I tried it, just for kicks, on my 1.8Ghz machine–the disc ate it alive. Sound went through fine, though, so all I can tell you is–sounds kickass. And from what spotty video I could create, it looked great too. What can I say? I possess not the God Machine.

There’s also a morphing studio on the second disc, which lets you do two things. First, you can take a headshot of yourself (or someone else–I used Chazz) and turn him into a T-800–revealing the endoskeleton beneath with a series of damage controls. So that’s fairly nifty. And you can also take a headshot and have it morph into the T-1000. The bits are all fairly easy to figure out, and it imported JPGs from my machine no problem. It even lets you save the end result so you can show your little sister what she’d look like with a glowing red eye socket.

The Terminator 2 DVD morphing studio
The Chazzinator!

The only weak point of the entire set, in my opinion, is the “Skynet Combat Chassis Designer.” The gist is that you get to create your own little HK machine and balance out the intelligence vs. the weapons vs. the armor so that it can go out in the field and fight other HK machines and kick metal ass. Now, first of all, there’s no real way to get started–you just have to move sliders until it looks okay and then go in the field and get destroyed. Eventually, after a few iterations, guided by the computer (after you die), you get a machine that can go out and win against an opponent. Then the machine is saved up on a server somewhere and used against others. So you’re left to create another one.

Now, granted, it beats the hell out of the settop games you normally find on, say, discs by Disney, but still–after a few times of creating machines and not being able to do much else with them–I’m sure the game will, like all others like it, be forgotten. Like I said, it’s the one weak point of the entire set. A for Effort, but that’s about all.

The fan of this film or the fan of Cameron in general will want this set for the movie alone. But with the audio commentary, coupled with the graphic and interactive versions, it’s a downright deadly set. Pretty much any fan of the DVD format will want to have this for the nice clean transfer and the deep bonus features. Now while Cameron is taking time off, let’s go back and do this to the other films, shall we?