Terminator Binge: Day Two

In anticipation of a new Terminator movie coming out at the beginning of November, I’ve decided to binge the first five movies in the series for the first time. Click here for if you missed Day One of this binge.

I’ll throw up a warning when I’m getting into spoiler territory

Okay, let’s see what part two has in store for me…

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Okay. Wow. This is a really great movie. I really wasn’t sure what the premise of the sequel was going into it, but based on the time jump between the movies’ releases, I figured young John Connor must be a character. However, I wasn’t sure how Arnold fit into it, seeing as he was destroyed in the first one. Then I figured it must just be that all of a certain model must have the same face. I was right on that one.

In the beginning, the movie tells us that two terminators were sent back, and two were sent to protect the Connors. This little piece of information was definitely a ret-con (retroactive continuity), since Kyle Reese told Sarah in the first movie that he was the only one that was sent back and the machine was destroyed so no more could be sent (or maybe he didn’t know that someone had come through after him…whatever, I’m trying not to think about plot holes, especially a big one at the end). 

The special effects in T2 are miles above that of the first one. In particular, the effect work that went into the T-1000 was very impressive for 1991. Even at the beginning, where they show some skinless terminators, the effects were noticeably better. The practical effects, explosions and the like were just as good as the first.

One of the best aspects of this movie was the character of Sarah Connor. If you remember my piece on the first one, I noted that she ended the movie as a strong, self-sufficient character. Here, she starts the movie as a badass and ends the movie as a badass. Without explaining what went on in the intervening years (because the movie glosses over most of it), you can tell that she spent all the time possible training herself (and John to some extent) for the moment the terminators came for them again. Even when John explains that she stayed with some guys just so she and John could learn something was a really impressive bit of character building and self-sacrifice. I never doubted her ability or willingness to do whatever it took. The kid playing John was fine; he came across as annoying at times, but that was likely the script he was working with. I thought he did well at both the emotional and comedic bits and played a believable character, which is all you really want from an actor.

This is when you may see spoilers. You have been warned.

The other bright spot was the T-800 (Schwarzenegger). By subverting expectations and making It a good guy, it allows the audience to see the war from another perspective. At one point, when our heroes are stopped at a gas station, he sees a couple of kids playing with toy guns, and in response to John’s question “We’re not going to make it, are we? People, I mean,” It remarks, “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.” This is a very poignant comment on the human condition, and coming from the thing that was created for the purpose of destroying humans, it rings truer than it may otherwise. I feel like the T-800 showed a remarkable amount of humanity at the end, knowing what it took to finish the job and being willing to sacrifice itself. Something we saw Sarah willing to do a few minutes prior when the T-1000 had her pinned. 

Okay, now it’s time for me to address the biggest problem I have with this movie. Actually, with this whole series. 

I HATE time travel. I think it is the most overused and misused plot mechanic it all of fiction (movies, literature, etc.), and it creates the kinds of questions that don’t have answers better than “because that’s the way it is.” For example, if you subscribe to the “time is a flat line” theory, then the first movie has a glaring plot hole, that being that John sent his own father back in time, knowing that he would become his father. But then the first time that the events occurred, there wouldn’t be a John to send Kyle back, because Kyle wouldn’t have gone back to father John (I’m doing a bad job of explaining this, but you get what I mean – if you want an example of this type of time travel, watch the movie Looper with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis, which I think fits this mold pretty well). Given that John is always born, it stands to reason that time is not a flat line, but rather a series of events that always happen, and there exists no time where Kyle doesn’t come back. It’s a rabbit hole that I’ve gone down in every time-travel based work of fiction and I don’t have the energy to anymore here. My point here is, at the end of T2, the pieces of terminator tech have been destroyed, so therefore Skynet will never be created, there will be no war, terminators will never be sent back in time, Kyle will never be sent back in time, John will never have been born, and the events of both movies would never have taken place (more evidence this series doesn’t follow the flat line theory). It drives me crazy figuring out the rules in each work of fiction that uses time travel. In these moments, I thank heavens for Avengers: Endgame (no spoilers for that movie, but if you’ve seen it, you know why I’m thanking it).

All in all, this was a fantastic sequel to a really great movie. It sufficiently answers the questions that were left at the end of the first one, but it also doesn’t act as simply a set-up for the next one. At the end of this movie, I truly believe the initial story idea was done (maybe that’s why James Cameron only directed these two). I still don’t know where the story goes in the next one since Skynet was apparently destroyed, but when the dollar speaks, we get sequels.

Come back next time for part 3!

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