It’s easy to dismiss a sequel as just a cash cow follow-up to a successful film, but there’s a number of sophomore features that manage to match (and often beat) the brilliance of their predecessors. James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day is definitely one of them. It took the blueprints of the iconic original, telling a story of a future overrun by deadly cyborgs wiping out the human race, and used them to create something as captivating, powerful and violent as the original.
August 29th 2017 marks 20 years since the eponymous ‘judgement day’ that saw androids officially take over the earth, rendering the entire human civilization as nothing more than burning embers and dust. Don’t worry if you haven’t see it though: to celebrate our fictional demise, James Cameron has carefully restored his nineties classic, meticulously converting it into 3D for a special series of limited screenings around the world.
If you’re yet to see it or feel like checking it out when it hits theaters, here are five reasons why Judgement Day is more than just another sci-fi sequel destined for the discount rack at the video store.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Hits Peak Badass
Although he was a bonafide action star by this point, having already appeared in Conan the Barbarian and the original Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s killer performance as the grimacing android in Judgement Day is undeniably one of his best. While the first film saw T-800, Schwarzenegger’s robot character, act as a cold-blooded killer, this time around he returns as a kind-hearted doppelgänger, summoned by a young John Connor (son of Sarah, the woman he tried to kill in the original) to protect him from a more sinister, upgraded android called the T-1000.
He’s got a much softer touch this time around, but Arnie’s character is still relentlessly violent and seemingly unstoppable, firing bullets and beating up bad guys like it’s what he does on the daily. There’s an iconic scene at the beginning of the film when T-800 is first summoned back to 1995, and is on the lookout for a uniform and weapon. He winds up in a bar (naked, it should be said), approaches a biker and demands that he hands over his clothes, boots and motorcycle. When the dude gets smart, Arnie throws him and his pals through panes of glass, onto burning hot stoves and stabs them in the back, thwarting punches and stab wounds like it’s nobody’s business.
“Hasta La Vista, Baby” Has Permeated Pop Culture
The ’90s was a golden era of great, quotable movies and Judgement Day proudly takes the crown for having one of the most famous lines ever: “Hasta la vista, baby”. First mentioned during a car ride conversation in which John tries to teach the Terminator some earthbound lingo, Schwarzenegger’s character uses the catchphrase in one of the film’s final scenes, as he finally shatters a liquid nitrogen-frozen T-1000 android with a single gunshot.
Since appearing in the 1991 film, the quote has gone on to be listed as one of the American Film Institute’s Top Movie quotes of all time. Schwarzenegger himself famously used it against George H. W. Bush’s opponent Pat Buchanan in the 1992 election, just after the film hit theaters.
On the less serious side, The Simpsons has always used the Terminator franchise as a source of comedic inspiration, reeling out the ‘Hasta la vista’ line on numerous occasions over the years. The writers even managed to work one in to a well-formed gag involving the assassination of Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.
James Cameron Proved He’s a Master Action Scene Designer
James Cameron has a habit of pioneering technology that makes the films that came before his own look like child’s play in comparison. But before he tipped the Titanic on its stern, or created a new, eerily lifelike alien universe, he was trying to find a way to turn actors into bullet-dodging shape shifters. Watch it again, and think about it: this movie was made in the late ’80s, and motion capture was nothing more than a far flung idea. Still, Cameron and his team managed the use the bare bones of the technology we use now to turn his T-1000 enemy into a bullet-bending fiend, painting a grid over the star Robert Patrick’s body to help recreate him, head to toe, in chrome.
CGI aside, the film still manages to pack in an killer collection of action set pieces, armed with an endless array of bullets and explosions. If you’ve only seen Judgement Day on DVD, now’s the time to change that. In the blistering new version, you can feel the ricochet of gunfire and the heat of the explosions. Even Cameron himself has said that there’s only one way to truly appreciate his insane, sci-fi action classic: on the biggest screen possible.
Blockbusters Have Learned a Lot From It
Judgement Day may seem like a standard trigger happy sci-fi on the surface, but Cameron’s tight-knit relationship with his work makes his films much richer than those who occupy the same genre. In fact, his Terminator sequel merges action themes with those of a stalker-like horrors; some may say that the film’s villain bears similarities to the icons of scary movies, like Freddy Kreuger and Michael Meyers, who also stalked their victims with a supernatural style of elusiveness.
You could just as easily label Judgement Day a dystopian western, with its unlikely hero, dusty South American setting and fondness for a gun fight. In fact, it’s at this point we can notice a brilliant noughties film that owes a lot to it: Logan. The X-Men spinoff, directed by James Mangold, follows a superhuman outcast being enlisted to protect a valuable young mutant from a higher power, hellbent on destroying her. To us, that sounds a lot like the relationship between the Terminator and John.
It Helped Prove Hyperactive Violence Doesn’t Make a ‘Dumb Movie’
There’s a common, perhaps understandable, misconception that films full of violence are stupid and that destruction is used to distract the viewer from the fact that there’s no plot or message behind it. While Judgement Day is a work of gun-toting, sci-fi insanity, you’d be a fool to deny that Cameron is one of Hollywood’s greatest and most political storytellers.
Much like the original, Terminator 2 toyed with crazy ideas that would come to feel all too real as the years passed. Here we see a film, one in which the world is overrun by artificial intelligence and threatened by a nuclear apocalypse, that features a cyborg villain who adopts the identity of a police officer. All of the threats in this fictional film feel very real in modern society, in America especially, but they’re subtly masked as big, bombastic entertainment. This has become Cameron’s filmmaking hallmark today, and it says a lot about his character too: he’s taking topics that are important and influential and deciding to wrap them up in something attractive, boisterous and brilliantly entertaining.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day’s 3D re-release rolls out in cinemas worldwide from today.
Now check out the seven best modern westerns for your must-watch list.
- Lead image: TriStar Pictures