Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Director's cut) Review

The Film

Of the films that made James Cameron's name, and I am not including Piranha 2 in that list, they share a similar interest in motherhood and creation. In the original Terminator film a soldier from the future must travel back and protect the mother of the future of mankind, and in Aliens a childless woman befriends a girl and protects her from a Queen Alien in a final conflict of maternal instincts. Terminator 2 takes this theme even further when it shows that the mother from the first film has taken her parenting responsibilities so seriously as she has began to feel like the protector of the human race, and become a certified screwball with it.

Her son, the future leader of humanity against the forces of technological redundancy, has decided that his mum is a loser, a nutjob and a complete wacko who has left him severely maladjusted and unhappy. In the course of the film, John Connor's disillusionment is first shattered by learning that his mum is not delusional just super tough, and he acquires a male guardian, ironically a friendly machine. This interest in child rearing sits alongside a technology that is born out of predominately male creativity, and the result of which will destroy the world.

Smarter film-makers would enjoy these themes and work through philosophical complexes after all the basic concept of both Terminator films is the old Hitler dilemma - if you could have killed him before he caused the second world war and the holocaust, would you? James Cameron's films are not given to such flim flam though and the film-maker is not the kind of screenwriter to have a very personal take on such ideas. Instead, things are very simple, as long as you don't analyse them.

And that is the best way to enjoy the second Terminator film, by not stopping to think too hard. When the action is flowing, the high octane chases are in motion and the guns are firing, Terminator 2 is exceptional undemanding entertainment. Any messages it has for the world are rather shallow or conservative as the adult audience of the first film is widened to include the right honorable Arnie's future family friendly demographics. Clearly no deadpan emotionless killing machine is ever complete until he has learned it is wrong to kill people, and that it is much more fun to do everything with catchphrases of staggering banality. In short, the Terminator refuses to terminate as it might make him look bad with his electorate later on. Instead of splatted baddies we get lots of knee-capping in a very dubious toning down of cinematic violence.

The shortfall in Arnie brutality is happily more than made up for in his antagonist Robert Patrick, a new fluid metal morphing terminator whom is quicker, better, and stronger than the Austrian oak. I must say that for what was released at the time as a 15, this is a much more violent and gory film than the original, but the stylising of Patrick skewering people is probably why censors let the film off a dreaded 18 rating. I am not complaining though as the violence and mayhem are the principal joy of this film and even now the action is still impressive and the stunts jaw dropping.

What doesn't work so well is a very long running time with a middle act that causes Cameron and his co-writer to give the characters thoughtful dialogue and to play up their humanity. Some of the lines are just plain dreadful and I am yet to sit through a movie of Cameron's where he proves that he can write good, consistent and intelligent words for his actors. This is especially the case for Hamilton who gets locked into some terrible monologues of plain awful moralising.

When it is left up to the images and the actions, Terminator 2 is brilliant and as a straight chase movie it is at its best. Make yourself a cup of tea when they disappear off to the desert or stick your brain on neutral to get through this sequence and rejoin the movie in its triumphal conclusion of ice and fire. Great sci-fi, shame about the words.

The Disc

This is again a port of the previous HD-DVD transfer with the same encode which Colin covered some time ago(you'll find his review in the grouping drop down tab below). Looking at the original materials, the print seems strongest in the interior sequences with greater age showing in the location shots such as the chase on the underpass and the middle act in the desert. The effects shots hold up well in the age of hi-def, although some of the stunts become clearly obvious when the actor is being doubled. Given these unavoidable limitations this is a very nice transfer with fine sharpness and detail, negligible edge enhancement and strong colours which ensure the variously lit scenes, check the screenshots, are reproduced well with natural flesh-tones assured. The cut of the film used is the longer director's cut and all of the feature is of a similar fine quality with good black levels and an appropriate level of grain.

The extra audio options on the HD-DVD of a standard def DTS track is not included here as the sole option is that of a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. This needs a bit of boosting on your receiver as it is a little quiet overall and I felt that the opening half of the picture lacked a bit of punch from the percussive music but this seems to improve in the later more climactic parts of the film. The side and rear channels are used extensively and voices are mixed spatially rather than front on throughout, most importantly your sub-woofer is in for some serious exercise as the action picks up.

As has been their wont with their recent releases of older material on Blu-Ray, Optimum offer no extras other than a A/V configuration wizard. This is a dual layer Region AB coded disc.


A fine A/V treatment which I find difficult to imagine has been surpassed by the standard definition versions of this film. The previous HD-DVD contains more audio options and a basic trailer so existing owners of that release may not want to upgrade here, but Blu-ray owners can expect a fine picture and a barebones disc if they choose this new release.

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Category Blu-Ray Review

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