Terminator 2: Judgement Day

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Terminator 2(1991) is a sci-fi action genre film and is James Camerons1 continuation of his great directing career with the explosive sequel to the 1984 hit film, “The Terminator”. It is one of a few sequels to surpass the success of the original2, grossing well over $200 million and breaking box office records worldwide. It won four Oscars and two Baftas in 1992, awards such as Best Special Effects and Best Cinematography3.

Our expectations are set up by the title “Terminator 2:Judgement Day” the same idea as the first film, “Terminator” suggests danger and death, while “Judgement Day” in reference to people means the day we will have to account for (and pay for) our actions to determine our future. The tagline “I’ll be back” on the poster underneath the powerful image of Arnold Schwarzeneggar as his character on his now famous motorcycle, emphasises what we can expect from the persona of the Hollywood star himself. Arnold’s star image was strongly defined by 1989, by his American citizenship and fame from his movies. This was his 10th film in relentless action, on screen killings adding up to a high body count, physical fitness and his most famous one-liners delivered in his stiff Austrian accent4.

Some of the credits are shown over images of people living everyday lives in Los Angeles on a hot summers day. There is traffic a glittering herd of cars and people faces are distorted by heat ripples it shows children in a playground, laughing, it is all so dream like. This shows the people’s unawareness of the future and what it holds. It slows down the pace and fades slowly but then instantly cuts to Los Angeles in the year 2029A.D and the images once before are layed out the very same but are rustic rubble and decay, this establishes it as a Dystopia and a fearful reminder of what the world could look like in the future5.

Again the plot, like the first Terminator plunges us in to the story, it uses a voice over to describe the scene of destruction and war. The story is set up through dialogue, which fills in the past and present, but also through mise en scene of deadly flying machines, terminator robots, guns and the waste land background setting. Over which Sarah Connors (Linda Hamilton) voice tells the audience what happened. This war between man and machine creates another film genre a war/action genre. This outlook sets up the time and place of action and because it’s a sequel, the credibility of the story depends on giving the audience enough information to see what’s going on. Within the first few scenes, the audience knows everything they need to know about the main characters, Sarah Connor; her son John; the Terminator sent back to protect him; and the T-1000, sent back to kill him.

1 James Cameron was to follow the success of Terminator 2 with another collaboration with Arnie in True Lies (1994) another action film. Then with his beautiful film Titanic (1997)

2 Sequels are often not as good as the first film although on occasion this changed, as Aliens and Godfather 2 were better than their originals.

3 The special effects were done by Stan Winston who worked on both films and created many other special effects for films such as Predator (1987) and Aliens (With James Cameron) Adam Greenberg was the head cinematographer for the two-Terminator films.

Through the second part of the credits introducing the actors, flames are shown and then we slowly zoom into the eyes of a Terminator coming through the flames and then it cuts scene. The music is by Brad Fiedel, it is much like the old song, but it is more emotional and slower like “heroic” music that comes back into some scenes during the movie.

This instantly plunges us into the first real scene of the film storyline.

Our expectations are that we will not have to wait long for the introduction of the characters i.e.: The terminators, so the action can start.

The first scene of the introduction to the terminator T101 (Arnold) is done by the sci-fi genre convention of time travel. At this time we are unclear of the actual character of Arnie and what his purpose is? The audience expect him to be the killer, because of the first film, because the bad terminator came first.

The fact that the characters come naked helps authenticate realism and believability of actual time travel6.

He finds a near by bar ‘again’ to accommodate his need for clothing and a vehicle of match size. As he did in the first film which makes you wonder how he will obtain these items. The setting he walks into is a very American country biker bar and his is an action film and we know it immediately because of the fight that follows, the bodies are tossed around the room. They show Arnie to be the Terminator, but without him actually killing anybody. The music played in the background manipulates the audience, because in the first section of the film its not clear if he’s bad or good. The music is used during this scene to show his strength and sheer force that is awesome but yet a little scary. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s bad, but the music starts to change as he humanises more throughout the film.

When he walks out the door, the song “Bad to the bone”7 is played this sets the tone for the character as it comes out of nowhere. The audience is reminded of all the trademarks from the previous film, the leather jacket, sunglasses and motorcycle. Not only do the audience know who he is, but they’re given a good visual introduction to the terminator and also see him in action. They know he’s a badass, but it’s not until the introduction of the next character, that they fully know that he is the protector of John Connor.

4 Arnold’s previous films and most recent to date have been mainly had high action, destruction and some sci-fi elements like Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), Predator (1987) and Total Recall (1990)

5 Films during the eighties and nineties proved popular for showing more fearful movie ideas of the future such as Blade Runner.

6 The progression of technology since 1984, allowed them to create a whole new Terminator (T-1000) using special effects, and vastly upgraded the visual depictions of the future in this film these improvements were helped greatly by previous movie effects as you can see the difference between the Terminator in the first film and the one in this film.

7 ‘Bad to the Bone’ songs, was recorded by George Througood and The Destroyers.

Then it moves rapidly onto the next scene to introduce the second terminator (T10008Robert Patrick), the audience may think that because in the first film the second character was the good guy that they can assume this is the protector of John Connor. The T1000 takes on a persona of a police officer, a good guy persona unlike the T101 who looks bad, because of the biker appearance. The sneakiness of his actions toward the cop he kills is somewhat cold and severe; there is no regard for human life. The T101 never threatened to kill any of the bikers and he had the power to do, so this partly reveals both of their intentions.

The T1000, in the policeman’s uniform climbs into the squad car and punches in the focus of his mission John Connor, this again is one step ahead of the other Terminator, showing he’s very efficient to gain information so quickly, this could also make him a very efficient killing machine and hard opposition. The audience are shown visually who he is and what his purpose is. Compared to the first film the audience will expect a lot of action between the two Terminators and will be glad to see the new effects of the T1000, this is because it is machine on machine and not quite the same as the previous Terminator.

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