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LIONS GATE

MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Sequel to Terminator. Skynet, the 21st century computer waging a losing war on humans sends a second terminator back in time to destroy the leader of the human resistance while he is still a boy. His mother is the only one who knows of the existence of the Terminators, human-like robots that exist only to kill and are nearly indestructible, and Sarah, the boy's mother is currently in a state mental hospital because of her 'delusions'. A second protector is sent back to the past by the Human resistance to protect John Connor, their future leader, at all costs.

Director:
James Cameron
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton
Writing Credits:
James Cameron, William Wisher Jr.

Tagline:
He's Back.

Box Office:
Budget $100 million.
Opening weekend $52.306 million.
Domestic gross $204.843 million.
MPAA:
Rated R.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Visual Effects; Best Sound; Best Sound Effects Editing; Best Makeup.
Nominated for Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 6.1
English Dolby Digital EX 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
English Dolby Headphone 2.0
English TheatreVision 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime:
Original Theatrical Version:
137 min.
Special Edition:
153 min.
Extended Special Edition:
156 min.

Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/19/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary Hosted By Van Ling
• Audio Commentary with Director James Cameron and Screenwriter William Wisher
• Seven Interactive Modes
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers


COMPARE DVD PRICES
DVD

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Skynet Edition [Blu-Ray] (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 18, 2009)

Say what you want about James Cameron, but for my money he remains a strong candidate for the best action director ever. Even his weaker pictures like True Lies outdo the vast majority of the competition. Terminator 2: Judgment Day isn't his best film - Aliens will likely hold that spot forever - but it's a very strong second or third, depending on how I feel about Titanic that day.

T2 also belongs on that short list of sequels that surpass the originals. (Since Aliens also resides on that list, maybe Cameron should only make sequels.) The first Terminator was a fine, groundbreaking film, but it doesn't hold a candle to T2. Begrudge Cameron's enormous film budgets if you like, but the guy deserves credit: all that money shows up on screen, and his movies are genuinely better for the extra expense. Cameron uses the bucks to push the cinematic envelope, especially in regard to special effects.

Speaking of which, the effects for T2 are legendary because they were really the first to use strong computer graphics as an integral part of the film. A prior Cameron film, 1989's The Abyss, hinted at their potential with the "water tentacle", but T2 took these effects to another level. (T2 also started the short-lived "morphing" craze of the early 1990s, but I won't hold Cameron responsible for that.)

Almost 20 years down the road, the effects of T2 show their age, but they continue to hold up acceptably well. What looked absolutely, picture-perfect realistic in 1991 seems much more artificial now, but at no point did any currently recognizable flaws in the graphics negatively impact upon my enjoyment of the film.

That latter fact probably stems from the overall level of quality found in T2. It's a nearly perfect example of how to make an action movie. Since the focus has always been on the effects and the pure action of the film, many neglect to recognize that the characters really drive our interest in T2. Without strong participants with whom we identify and empathize, all the spiffy graphics and cool explosions mean little. Cameron definitely doesn't qualify as an "actor's director" - too many of them hate him for that to be the case - but he does seem to know how to evoke the best work from his performers. Though his characters tend toward stereotypes, Cameron manages to get his cast to make them into real people.

Evidence of this comes from the ease with which one can ignore the many plot inconsistencies and flaws in logic found during T2. This isn't a "turn off your brain" movie from the point of view that it's dumb, but you're better off if you simply let yourself go with the flow instead of picking nits. If you want to do the latter, there are many faults to be found; geez, they can't even keep plot points and dialogue from the first movie straight! In this case, however, I don't see the point in doing that, because the charms of T2 easily outweigh the drawbacks.

The Terminator remains the perfect role for Schwarzenegger: an artificial, largely emotionless killing machine. Back to back viewings of Terminator and T2 show that he actually did grow as an actor during the seven year interim - he's much more stiff and rote in the first film - but we're not talking any kind of quantum leap here. I'm sure Arnie does the best he can, but his true value to a movie is simply as a presence, not as a person. That's why he's so good as the Terminator; he's there more as a force than as a character, and all of his many weaknesses as an actor mean nothing. The T-800 should be flat and mechanical, so the part really plays into Arnie's talents.

The rest of the cast work tremendously well. Linda Hamilton shows definite growth from her work in the first film; she still plays Sarah Connor, but this is a completely different person than the rather meek victim we saw in 1984. The Sarah of T2 easily could have degenerated into a slightly more human version of the Terminator himself - Sarah'd really buffed herself up in the interim - but Hamilton brings a strong sense of fear and doubt into what could have been a one-note psycho-chick part. Sarah's the glue that holds T2 together, and Hamilton holds up her end of the bargain.

One other potential disaster involved the young actor cast as Sarah's son John. He also plays a pivotal role in T2, and had the actor chosen not been very good, it would have seriously damaged the film - hello, Jake Lloyd! Although it was his first film, Edward Furlong performed like a seasoned pro as John. He comes across as a natural actor and John seems like a real kid actually reacting to circumstances; at no point does he seem coached or prompted. John's progression from somewhat wild, overwhelmed kid into someone we believe could be a future world leader takes place slowly and subtly; Furlong doesn't resort to any showy theatrics to make the changes known. When you factor in his age, Furlong probably does the best work in the film.

Also fine in their supporting roles are Robert Patrick as the T-1000 and Joe Morton as engineering whiz Miles Dyson. Patrick functions as the bad guy, but it's to his credit that he kept away from mimicking anything we saw Arnie do in the first film. The T-1000 is a much smoother, more fluid (literally) creation, and Patrick nicely embodies this sort of artificial form.

Morton's one of those actors who has never really received his due over the years, probably in part because he seems to be stuck in supporting roles like this and his part in Speed. He deserves better; he's one of the more elegantly understated yet powerful actors around, as we see in his fine performance as Dyson. Despite the minor screen time Morton receives, he manages to make Dyson a full-blooded, realistic character, and his presence enriches the film as a whole.

Happily, we get to see more Morton in the "special edition" version of T2 found on this DVD. Actually, the disc includes three different cuts of the movie. The original theatrical rendition runs 137 minutes, 20 seconds, while the "Special Edition" version - first released on video in 1993 - lasts 153 minutes, 26 seconds. Finally, through an "Easter egg" that I’ll discuss later, what the disc's producers call the "Extended Special Edition" shows up here as well; it clocks in at 156 minutes and eight seconds.

How do all of these differ? Obviously, the biggest changes come between the theatrical cut and the Special Edition. The latter adds a fair amount of interesting information, though I don't regard any of it as crucial. Some of the shots flesh out characters. As mentioned, we find more of Morton here, and I like the extra depth added to his role. Most of the scenes essentially boast longer cuts of existing segments; for example, a significant addition has been made to the part in which John and Sarah repair the T-800.

I don't want to provide too many details about these scenes, since much of the fun comes from their discovery. Suffice it to say that compelling arguments can be made for either cut of the film. Of the three Cameron "special editions" now on the market, only The Abyss clearly fares better due to the changes; I think Aliens and T2 work differently but are both still terrific either way.

In the case of the "Extended Special Edition", it adds one scene mid-film and also changes the ending shot of the movie. Again, I don't want to discuss specifics, but the scenes in question appeared as a supplement on the 1993 laserdisc boxed set. I think the mid-film addition is slow but interesting, but I don't like the alternate ending, mainly because it's too explicit. Nonetheless, it is cool to have the option of viewing the full movie with those snippets integrated.

However, I wouldn't want to do it again, and chances are excellent that the special edition will be my T2 of choice in the future. Although I don't think it really improves upon the theatrical cut, I've seen the movie so many times that it's nice to see something different, so I'll stick with it for the foreseeable future.

How do you find the "Extended Special Edition"? You enter a code on the "special edition" menu; type "82997" - the movie's "Judgment Day" - on your remote, and you should then gain access to the "extended special edition".

Please note that all of the following remarks about picture and sound quality apply equally to all three renditions of T2. I detected no differences in those areas at any point.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A/ Bonus A

Terminator 2: Judgment Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer looked good but not quite as positive as I’d expect.

Sharpness appeared good most of the time, though some judicious use of digital noise reduction sometimes gave the movie a flat, muted look. This meant a lack of expected detail in more than a few shots. They never became genuinely soft or fuzzy, but they failed to deliver the level of accuracy that they should.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Source flaws were minor. I noticed a few small specks, but nothing substantial.

Colors seemed accurate. The production design of T2 cast much of the movie in a metallic blue tone and this came across properly. In addition, whenever other hues appeared, they were bright and bold; I saw some excellent reds at times, for instance. Black levels were fairly deep and rich, and shadow detail was good, as all dimly lit shots came across clearly and smoothly. The excessive use of noise reduction meant this wasn’t a killer presentation, but it nonetheless looked good most of the time.

For this Blu-ray, we get a DTS-HD MA 6.1 soundtrack. It provided a pretty robust soundfield that encircled the viewer throughout the movie. The forward spectrum sounded lively and active, as I heard audio from all three front channels nearly all the time. In addition, the mix provided a nicely integrated sound, as the audio in the front blended and panned between channels very cleanly and smoothly.

The surrounds kicked in a great deal of ambient information; they didn't quite keep up with the forward channels, but they held their own and added a nice dimensionality to the track. All in all, it's a fine mix that really helped involve the viewer in the experience.

Quality also seemed excellent. Although much of the dialogue had to be dubbed - and further altered, in the case of Furlong, since his voice changed during the shoot - speech always sounded natural and distinct, with no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Brad Fiedel's excellent score sounded crisp and warm, with all aspects of it seeming clear and well defined. Effects were clean and realistic – or hyper-realistic, when appropriate - and they showed no signs of distortion, no matter how loud the track got. The entire package kicked in some taut and strong bass throughout the film, and the result was an impressive soundtrack.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 “Extreme Edition”, the best T2 presentation to date? It offered improvements, though not tremendous ones. Ironically, the higher resolution of Blu-ray makes the mild softness of the original photography more obvious. While the prior release looked sharp given the restrictions of DVD, I could better see the light softness here.

Don’t take that to mean the DVD looked better than the DVD, though. At its best, the Blu-ray outperformed the DVD, and it consistently provided stronger visuals. I also felt the lossless audio packed a better punch. The prior disc sounded very good, but this one had just a bit more oomph and involvement to it.

This Blu-ray “Skynet Edition” of T2 mixes old and new extras. Both previously created audio commentaries show up here. Originally assembled for the 1993 laserdisc and also found on the 2000 Ultimate Edition, the first provides a production commentary. Narrated by "creative supervisor"/visual effects coordinator Van Ling, the track includes info from director James Cameron, sound designer Gary Rydstrom, casting director Mali Finn, composer Brad Fiedel, production designer Joe Nemec, visual effects creator Dennis Skotak, lead makeup artist Jeff Dawn, co-producer Stephanie Austin, composer Brad Fiedel, ILM Animation Supervisor Steve “Spaz” Williams, sound mixer Lee Orloff, police consultant Randy Walker, stunt coordinator Joel Kramer, ILM visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, effects designer John Bruno, puppet creator Stan Winston, editor Mark Goldblatt, ILM’s Mark Dippe, Fantasy II visual effects supervisor Gene Warren, and actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Michael Biehn and Edward Furlong. It features recordings of participants that were done individually; no, they didn't cram 26 people into one room.

Although the commentary provides a nice general look at T2, I must admit I've always found it moderately unsatisfying. Partially this occurs because of the mass of participants; we hear so many different voices that continuity can be an issue. Ling does a nice job of wrangling all the speakers, but he ends up doing much of the talking.

While Ling's a good source of information, it seems illogical to have so many different options yet we get so much from one fairly minor member of the film crew. No offense to Ling, but I'd sure rather hear more from Cameron, Schwarzenegger or any number of other more prominent contributors. Ultimately, I like the track and think it adds some solid information, but I still feel it could have been much better.

From the 2003 Extreme Edition, we get a track with director James Cameron and screenwriter William Wisher. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. The publicity folks at Artisan made a big deal of that fact, as this was Cameron’s first-ever commentary of this sort. That set up some high expectations; happily, the track met them as it offered a very entertaining piece.

Not surprisingly, Cameron dominates the commentary, and that causes my only complaint: he frequently interrupts Wisher to interject his own thoughts. Actually, this tendency decreases as the program progresses, largely because Wisher starts to give Cameron a taste of his own medicine; I guess the writer decided to turn the tables on his old boss, and it worked.

Problems with interruptions aside, the commentary really does offer a lot of great information. The pair cover many different aspects of the story and the script and explain how various parts of it came to be. Cameron also discusses a lot of technical aspects of making this complicated flick, and he still finds time to toss in many fun and interesting anecdotes from the set. I wouldn’t call this commentary one of the all-time greats, but it’s well above average and T2 fans should really enjoy it – I know I did.

The “Skynet Edition” packs in seven separate Interactive Modes, some of which can be activated at the same time. That makes for a crowded screen, as various elements crop up in various parts of your set, but it beats watching the movie umpteen different times to catch them all.

First comes Visual Implants, which gives us “picture-in-picture video about the making of the film”. This means a number of behind-the-scenes clips from the shoot along with interview clips. These feature Cameron, Patrick, Hamilton, Furlong, Schwarzenegger, Warren, Finn, Muren, Williams, Austin, Bruno, Skotak, Kramer, Winston, Nemec, weapons trainer Uzi Gal, ILM CG supervisor Mark Dippe, designer/illustrator Steve Burg, visual effects creator Robert Skotak, ILM computer graphics shot supervisor Jay Riddle and an unnamed steel worker who observed a set. We find little factoids about effects, cast, training and performances, research and storyboards, and stunts. These prove reasonably engaging, though some repeat info from the commentaries.

Don’t attempt to watch these as you check out the movie. They don’t pop up very often, and they interrupt the flow of the film. Happily, the Blu-ray lets you access them in a more satisfying manner. When you highlight “Visual Implants” from the bar at the top of the screen, you can click down to access a button to skip to the next segment. This allows you to run through all the clips without having to wait for them to appear on their own. That’s the way to go; taking them in as a running component just becomes an annoyance.

A box found in the lower left of the screen, the Trivia Data Overlay features “text commentary and trivia”. This essentially replicates the text commentary found on the “Extreme Edition” and digs into a wide array of production subjects. These focus tightly on the film itself. Many text commentaries branch off into tangential facts; for instance, the sight of a Harley Davidson might prompt notes about those bikes. “Trivia Data” stays on target, though, and digs into the film’s elements. It throws a ton of info at us as it goes and becomes very satisfying.

More text info appears via the Production Data Overlay. It provides “specific shot methodologies”, which means details about the film’s photography and sequences. For instance, we learn about the specific effects methods used for each shot. This means the “Production Data” goes blank when the scenes don’t involve significant effects, so don’t expect a constant level of information. Still, it adds cool details to the process.

Linked Data Modules “branch out from the film to view behind-the-scenes slideshows with audio”. These clips pop up 56 times during the movie and last a total of 104 minutes, 25 seconds. Across these, we find notes from Cameron, Robert Patrick, Stephanie Austin, Jeff Dawn, Steve Burg, Robert and Dennis Skotak, Joe Nemec, Gary Rydstrom, Brad Fiedel, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve “Spaz” Williams, Edward Furlong, Lee Orloff, Randy Walker, Mark Dippe, and Joel Kramer.

The usual array of subjects gets attention here. We learn more about various effects, of course, but we also get info about music, sound design, cast, story, and other topics. When we view the segments, we see behind the scenes photos, storyboards, and the two deleted scenes added to the ESE.

Like “Visual Implants”, this feature adds a fair amount of good information. Like “Visual Implants”, the format can be somewhat cumbersome, and I wouldn’t recommend that you attempt to really watch the movie as with it activated. Once again, we find an option to skip from one segment to the next – or back – so you can navigate the “Modules” without being forced to sit through the film. That’s the way to go, and it allows the “Modules” to become informative and enjoyable.

If you want to compare the script to the movie, go to the Source Code. This enables you to “view the original screenplay in sync with the film”. That means we can see how the two compare in real time, and that’s a lot of fun, especially when the two differ. I like this part of the presentation quite a lot.

More comparisons come via Schematics. It uses a box in the lower right corner of the screen to show us storyboards. We get a good array of these that appear as we watch the movie; it’s a satisfying way to compare the boards to the final film.

By the way, for the most efficient use of your time, I’d recommend that you run the storyboards, the trivia track, and the production data all at the same time. This makes for a crowded screen, but you should be able to absorb all of them as they go. Oddly, you can’t check out the storyboards and the script concurrently. If you try, the storyboards box will appear on screen, but it won’t display any images.

In a more annoying vein, Query Mode offers a trivia quiz throughout the flick. This means that during many spots, the movie pauses and you jump to questions about the movie. I made it through about five minutes of this before I quit. For one, the items were all pretty easy for T2 fans. For another, the clunkiness of the interface made the game maddening. Those frequent interruptions meant it was impossible to enjoy the film in any way, and the game itself wasn’t fun enough to compensate. If better executed, this might’ve been acceptable, but as it stands, the “Query Mode” was a mess.

More games show up in Processor Tests. It has you “test your skills with minigames during the film”. 15 times during the film, these contests have you use your remote’s arrow buttons to do things like solve photo puzzles, arrange combinations of letters and numbers, and “shoot” at targets. That last element – “Protect John Connor” – proves to be the most annoying, as its execution becomes awkward; if you’re expected to “shoot” the first option, forget it, as it flies by too quickly for your response to register.

The other two are more successful, though not exactly delightful. These games aren’t as annoying as the “Query Mode”, largely because this one allows you to skip from game to game; yeah, it interrupts the movie, but at least you can zip through all the games without waiting for them. Still, there’s not much fun to be found here, and there’s no real reward at the end of the rainbow; you get to submit your initials for a high score, but I doubt anyone will play enough to accumulate many entries.

A mix of elements wind up under Ancillary Data. This area includes five trailers, all of which appeared on the “Ultimate Edition”. We find the classic teaser, two theatrical ads, a promo for the SE version of the film, and a cool Terminator-related THX piece.

Terminated Scenes features two clips. We locate “T-1000’s Search” (1:27) and “Future Coda” (1:50). These are the segments reinserted into the Extended Special Edition. Both are interesting, and it’s nice to get them on their own if you don’t care to watch the ESE. (I do wonder why idyllic visions of the future always seem to include hackysack, though.)

We can view these scenes with or without commentary. For “Search”, we hear from Robert Patrick and James Cameron, while “Coda” presents notes from Cameron, Linda Hamilton, and Stan Winston. They include a few good remarks about the sequences. Note that if you watch the “Production Commentary” with the ESE version, you’ll find the same info there.

One complaint about the disc: the Blu-ray makes it tough to quickly move among elements. Remote entry often responds at a slow rate and feels awfully clunky; I got quite frustrated much of the time, as it was a pain to navigate even simple menus. The disc also requires longer than normal load times for various elements. Expect some irritation as you work through the disc.

One of the all-time great action flicks, Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains very entertaining and exciting after 18 years. The movie doesn’t qualify as my favorite in the genre, but it’s quite close to the top. The Blu-ray boasts excellent audio and a broad collection of extras. Picture quality is a mild disappointment, though; the film looks good most of the time but not as strong as it should.

That issue aside, I like this “Skynet Edition” Blu-ray. It offers the best single T2 package to date; it doesn’t reproduce all the extras from the two main DVD special editions, but it gives us many of them. It’s definitely nice to finally have both audio commentaries in the same place. Don’t be surprised if this one gets an update in the future – umpteen T2 releases are a fact of life – but until/unless that happens, this is the one to have.

To rate this film visit the review of the Ultimate Edition

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main