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