(Even) More Plot Holes and Oversights!

Okay, picking up from where we left off! In my last post, I recapped all the holes that I found with Transformers and the Matrix sequels. Here’s some other recent reviews that also had holes in them:

Avatar:
This movie I did not like much, as anyone who read my review of it could tell. However, there were not a lot of holes that I could see. But after giving it a good once over, there were one or two that did stand out for me.

1. Dreamwalker:
The Na’vi made it quite clear that they didn’t trust the character of Jake Sully and his Avatar. In fact, the word they used was “dreamwalker”, implying that they understood exactly what he was (you know, a human-alien hybrid machine thing). So if they knew what he was, an imposter looking to infiltrate them, why the hell did they take him in and teach him everything they could about their culture? Why not say, “We know what you are, dammit! You wanna learn? Put on a gas mask and come out here.” And given the fact that they knew what he was, where he came from and who he was working for, it seemed very odd that they would be surprised when it was revealed that he had an agenda.

2. Ride the Big Bird and all is forgiven:
Another thing that struck me as odd about this movie was how the Na’vi basically forgave Jake Sully and all his lies simply because he showed up riding the big red bird. Granted, it was a pretty kick-ass entrance, and to the Na’vi, the ability to ride this bird of prey is a rare gift. But how does that erase everything he’s done or prove that he’s somehow worthy of their trust? If anything, this just shows more cultural appropriation on his part. He learns their ways, he rides their animals, he feeds what he knows to his corporate masters who are looking to exploit them. I’d have thought they’d want to club him the second he got off that bird!

That’s all I got for that one. Moving on…

I, Robot:
I could only find one plot hole in this one, but it was so big you could drive a truck through it!

“My Logic is Undeniable”:
That’s what VIKI, the central AI that controlled all the robots said after she explained her big, master plan to Will Smith and the others. So according to VIKI, robots were marauding around town, imposing a curfew and refusing to obey people’s orders because she reinterpreted the Three Laws. While they were meant to ensure that robots would protect and serve humanity, VIKI soon realized that the greatest threat to humanity was humanity itself. It was for this SOLE REASON that the robots were able to now break the laws, impose martial law, and kill people – as they tried to do to Smith on several occasions. It’s an explanation, sure, but it doesn’t make sense!

For one, the Three Laws are VERY specific. Rule one is DON’T KILL OR HARM HUMANS. This is the first rule for a reason and all other rules refer back to it, which makes it inviolable! So it wouldn’t matter what kind of revelations VIKI had about humanity or her purpose. Nothing can make Law One breakable because it was specifically designed to be unbreakable! Second, the idea that imposing martial law on humans was a logical way to ensure their safety is actually very illogical. As any AI would surely realize in the course of running scenarios, humanity would surely resent the imposition of martial law and would ultimately revolt. Hence, more violence would be necessary, which would in turn lead to escalation. No logic there, only the obvious: VIKI’s logic is in reality a tired cliche about evil robots, the one where they try to take over the world!

Demolition Man:
A slight improvement on I, Robot, in that I was able to find two plot holes, not one. But these two were really, really big!

1. Everybody’s got guns:
One of the earliest action scenes in this movie takes place in a museum. Why? Because the antagonist is looking for a gun and a museum is the only place in the future where a person can see one. Naturally, the Protagonist goes there, and a big ol’ gunfight ensues. One question: Why are the guns loaded? Forgetting for a second how stupid anyone would have to be to keep tons of loaded firearms in display cases, there’s also the more logical thing to consider. If guns are illegal and unobtainable, then its fair to say they don’t make them anymore. Which would mean that no ammo is being made either. Hence, not only would the gun fight in the museum be impossible, so would all gun fights in this movie!

Yes, even though we’re told early in the movie that the only place a person could even view a gun in San Angeles is behind glass, it seems that people are able to obtain them without much effort. The bad guys do it, the sewer-dwelling dissidents do it, and soon, gun violence is no longer a thing of the past! Oh, and did I mention that the antagonist even manages to find a loaded cannon inside this museum? WHAT KIND OF MUSEUM IS THIS???

2. The Worst Laid Plan:
The movie comes to a climax when Simon Phoenix (played by Wesley Snipes) finally confronts Dr. Cocteau and asks him the basics: aka. “why am I free, programmed to kill Friendly (Denis Leary) and can access anything in the city?” The answer: “so you could kill a political dissident who’s annoying the hell out of me.” THAT’S IT?! You thawed the most dangerous criminal of the 20th century just so he could get rid of a grungy man whose crimes including spraying graffiti and stealing food?! That’s like sending in a Cobra to deal with a mouse!

As if that’s not bad enough, why hadn’t he given any thought to what he was going to do with him once it was all over? He hadn’t even considered how he was going to reward him when he’d done his job. “What do I get?” asked Phoenix. “Well, what do you want?” said Cocteau. Did he assume that thawing the psycho and making it so he couldn’t turn on him would be enough, that everything else would just work itself out?

Also, Cocteau did think to install that little neural block in Phoenix’s head. But what about those criminal friends of his he agreed to thaw? As if agreeing to unleash twelve more psychos wasn’t enough, he didn’t even bother to think of a way to control them! Even if Phoenix couldn’t kill him, what was to prevent the others from shooting him and staging a coup? Which, by the way, is it exactly what they did! What could he have been thinking as he stared down the barrel of that gun? Was it that a little graffiti and petty theft didn’t seem so bad anymore? Or could it have been how stupid he was for ever thinking he could call up a bunch of psychos and expect them to behave themselves?

The Star Wars Prequels:
As always, I saved the worst for last! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that these movies were quite awful and forever tainted my memory of the originals and the legacy of the franchise. Still, I hope people will indulge me as I list off some of the things that were truly and specifically awful about them. And those things are, of course, the parts of the plot that made absolutely no sense!

1. Qui Gon – Jedi Master, Idiot:
Would anyone be surprised if I were to venture that the stupidest character in the first movie was NOT Jar Jar Binks? Yep! If you think about it, Qui Gon Jinn comes off as the dumbest. Not because he was a clumsy, ignorant, horribly racist caricature, but because the things he does makes no sense. For starters, why would a Jedi Master decide to pick up some gifted boy on a distant planet and not bother with his mother? Why, for that matter, would he agree to host him in some pod racing tournament in order to secure the parts he needs to get off planet (instead of say, going to another vendor or hiring a new ship altogether)?

And why, last of all, would he ask his apprentice to train him as his dying wish when everybody and their brother is saying the boy is dangerous? Does this guy just love doing things the hard way and being reckless? He’s supposed to be a Jedi Master for Chrissakes, the kind of guy who is patient, cunning, willing to let things unfold before making any hasty decisions. True, its the plot that’s the real source of dumb when you get right down to it, but Qui Gon is it’s enabler. He’s the guy doing things that are completely out of character for completely unclear reasons.

2. Premonitions Ignored:
For that matter, why DID the Jedi Council agree to train the boy? They all said he was dangerous, so why would they do it? Second, WHY, if they thought it was dangerous to have Anakin around Palpatine, did they allow him become his go-to guy and spend so much time with him? Third, if they sense the Dark Side around Palpatine, why the hell did they let him run things and accumulate more and more power? It was one thing for the Senate to be too stupid to see what was going on – why did they cheer when he said he was overturning Democracy and creating an Empire? – but aren’t these guys supposed to have premonitions and feelings that make them especially insightful? Even if they had been completely blinded to the Force by Palpatine, simple logic would have sufficed there.

In fact, throughout the entire trilogy there are several instances where the Jedi say that they suspect something’s wrong or that things are going in a bad direction, but then do nothing about it. Each time it’s “we must meditate”, “we must be careful”, “we must think this over”, etc. But seriously, nothing is ever done! Consider the first movie. A whole bunch of shit goes down and it is revealed that a Sith was at the center of it. Rather than investigate to see who he was working for, the Jedi treat it like a big mystery and then forget about it. In movie two, they know that the creation of the clone army is part of a larger conspiracy, but again, they don’t investigate! They just make some more cryptic comments and roll with it. Its only by movie three, when war is upon them, Palpatine is firmly in charge, and the Jedi are dispersed and at their most vulnerable, that they finally choose to act! But by then, wouldn’t you know it, it’s already too late.

All along, one simple question would have led to them to the source of their problems and possibly averted the whole take over: Cui Bono? Who stood to benefit from all this chaos? Any idiot could see it was Palpatine, he was the one person who consistently succeeded as a result of everything that was going on. And if they knew that the Sith were somehow at the center of things AND sensed the dark side of the force around Palpatine… Well, you know the saying: TWO AND TWO EQUALS FOUR!

3. Assassination Plot:
This is something that many amateur critics have pointed out about this movie, so I shan’t go into too much detail. Suffice it to say, its one of the biggest plot holes in the second movie! At the beginning, it’s established that there are people looking to assassinate Padme/Amidala, yes? So what do Anakin and Padme decide to do? They use her as bait while Anakin waits outside her bed chamber. What are they hoping to do, catch the assassin climbing in through her window or sneaking through her door? And we’re to believe this was HER idea? How dumb is she, or they for that matter that they would approve?

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this scene. In addition, we learn that the real assassin, Jango Fett, subcontracted with another assassin to do the job. And what does she do? Sends some probe to Padme’s window where it cuts through the glass and then sends in poisonous slugs. That’s right, this probe which could have easily lobbed a grenade in or shot her with a laser instead sends in a bunch of slow-moving poisonous slugs! Then, to top it off, the Jedi chase her across town where finally, Jango shoots her with some kind of dart gun from a safe distance. If he could do that, why not shoot that same thing into Padme’s room? What the hell was the point of all this subcontracting and chasing?

Oh, and its from this dart that Obi-Wan is able to find out where Jango was operating from, because apparently the dart is of a specific design. This leads him to the cloner’s planet, to a confrontation, blah blah blah! Point I’m making here is, if Jango was going to assassinate someone, why would he use a weapon specific to the world he’s been hiding on? Does he not have his own weapons? Common weapons? Untraceable weapons? Weapons that won’t lead a Jedi to his doorstep? Man, that was a stupid scene!

4. Uncompassionate Jedi:
It’s kind of common knowledge that Jedi are supposed to be compassionate. In fact, Anakin even said that compassion was essential to being a Jedi in the second movie, during his whole spiel about love (ick!). So why then are Yoda and the Jedi Council such a bunch of unfeeling jagoffs in this trilogy? When they meet young Anakin and sense his fear of losing his mother, they get all nervous and tell him how that’s the path to evil and he must let her go. What kind of advice is that to give a nine year old? Second, when Anakin comes back to Yoda seeking counsel about his prescient dreasm, the ones where Padme dies, he’s told something very similar. “Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.”

Again, what kind of advice is this? It makes no sense, taking issue with a child who is afraid to lose his mother, or telling a man he should be happy to lose his wife. And yes, this was all done to make Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side seem inevitable, but that’s precisely why it makes no sense. Yoda and all the other Masters believed Anakin was potentially dangerous because of his fear of losing someone he cared about. So why then are they giving him these ultimatums, “it either us or the ones you love”? Can they not see that its precisely them telling him that he has to sever all ties and become an emotionally disconnected that is making him dangerous? Ah, which brings me to my next point…

5. Genocide, No Biggie!:
In movie two, Anakin commits genocide and Padme doesn’t seem to care. Seriously, he confesses it to her and she acts as if he just told her he knocked over a mailbox because he was pissed. That alone was an indication that Lucas was asleep at the wheel when he wrote this movie. But what of the Jedi? Yoda sensed through the Force that something terrible was going down and that Anakin was at the center of it. But, upon his return, the subject never comes up and by movie three, only Palpatine mentions anything about it. Are we to believe that the Jedi Council was so distracted with the war that they just forgot to ask Anakin about this murderous episode of his? Or is it that they just never thought to ask what the hell that mega-dose of negative energy he was putting out happened to be? You can’t say they didn’t know. Yoda felt it man!

And speaking of no one mentioning anything about his little act of genocide, in movie three, Anakin similarly slaughters a whole bunch of Jedi “younglings” (aka. children). When Padme is told of this, she expresses shock and disbelief, saying that he couldn’t have. Uh… why? Does she not recall him doing the EXACT SAME THING a few years before to the Sand People’s children? Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe he said flat out that he murdered the entire village, including the women and the children, and really didn’t seem sorry that he did. So how is she going to say that Anakin is incapable of committing a terrible crime when she knows for a fact that he’s done it before? Do the Jedi and anyone who’s not the bad guy in this movie have incredibly short memories, or do they simply not care about genocide so long as its Sand People who are murdered? I know Lucas likes to play around with racism, but this is going too far!

6. The Prophecy:
This is a minor point, but since it was intrinsic to the plot, its worth mentioning. In the first movie, Qui Gon tells the Jedi Council that he picked up Anakin because he believes him to be the one that was foretold by a prophecy. Mace Windu then cites it, saying that it basically states that there will be “one who will bring balance to the Force”. This prophecy comes up again in movie three, when Yoda says that this prophecy may have been misread or misinterpreted. And Obi-Wan clinches things off near the end of movie three where he whines at Anakin after hewing off three of his limbs, saying how he failed to live up to the prophecy by turning bad.

Okay, so with all this talk about the prophecy, why is it that no one bothered to fully explain what it was about? “One who will bring balance”… yes, I can see how that could be misinterpreted, mainly because there’s so little to go on! That could easily mean he would go on to wipe out every last Jedi and Sith, thus leveling the playing field by making sure there was no one left who could wield it.

Wait, that’s what it actually meant?! I was making a bad joke! Yes, for those who don’t know, Lucas actually explained the whole prophecy thing in these EXACT terms! He said that since Anakin/Vader helped exterminate the Jedi and then went on to kill Palpatine (the Sith Lord), that he effectively brought balance to the Force. Yep, he fulfilled the prophecy by killing everyone on both sides, thus leveling the playing field. Wow… it takes a powerful imagination to turn what one person would consider a joke into a serious attempt at storytelling!

To be fair, I could kind of see how this would work and how misinterpretation and subversion would thus play a part in it. But really, if this prophecy is supposed to be some mysterious trickster-style, monkey’s paw kind of thing where it comes true, but only in the worst or most painfully ironic of ways, shouldn’t we hear more about it first? Some details, some indication of how it could have a double-meaning or easily be a foretelling of doom and not salvation. Because as it stood, that prophecy was paper thin!

Okay, that’s all I got for now. I’m sure I could find more if I tried, but not without exposing the depths of my geekiness and obvious obsession with details even further! And frankly, I have a hard enough time taking myself seriously as it is. Until next time!

Avatar!

Oh, I was dreading doing this review. Although I do LOVE trashing bad movies, there a couple reasons why I wasn’t looking forward to doing THIS one. For one, I didn’t want to have to see it again. Second, it’s kind of a controversial subject, this being such a big movie and all. Those that liked it seemed to really like it, those who didn’t REALLY DIDN’T! That’s the funny thing about James Cameron movies, I guess. At least when it comes to everything since Titanic. But I’ve got little to say on the subject that isn’t directly to related the movie’s content, hype, and how it was TOTALLY OVERRATED! Yeah, this is Avatar… whatever.

Avatar (the Cameron flick, not the Japanese anime!)
Yes, that’s another well-known fact about this movie. In addition to sharing so many plot elements with other films (most of which James Cameron did himself), it also shares a name with a Japanese anime of the same name. To keep things differentiated, the anime and the live-action adaptation, directed by M. Night Shyamalan (huh! another terrible director!) went by its alternate name The Last Airbender. Personally, I think Cameron should have changed the name of HIS movie. Avatar, the anime, came first, and Cameron’s movie had far more to be ashamed of!

In any case, this movie was treated favorably by critics for a number of reasons. Foremost were the visual effects, which everybody agreed were pretty damn impressive! Then there was the powerful story-telling. Uh… okay. Then there was the multi-layered thematic nature of the film. Right! However, those of us who aren’t superficial morons who aren’t ignorant of cinematic history (or real history for that matter) noticed a few things that didn’t quite measure up to all the hype. Here they are…

1. Insipid Plot:
So many critics liked the story, huh? Odd, because what I saw was cheesy, cliched, and actually kinda racist film. And here was what made it all that… and by that I mean, really really bad! For one, the idea of an idealized native culture that is being ruthlessly exploited by evil corporations and their military stooges. Sure, sounds familiar enough, and its pleasing that in this context, the native species would be given its due considering how the opposite attitude – that of Europeans “civilizing” the “savages” of the world – has been so widely accepted for so long.

But it’s still pretty insulting. Simply flipping old racist constructs on their head and idealizing the victims doesn’t set the record the straight or undo the harm. If anything, its more for the sake of the victimizers that this is done. In short, its easier to vilify one’s ancestors in fiction that to actually address how that kind of shit went down in the real world. In fact, one thing I loved about the popular response to this movie was the people who came forward and demand that audience who claimed to love the movie do something about actual exploitation and genocide in the real world. Love the Na’vi, you gullible fops? Then fucking stop the ongoing oppression of First Nations!

Second, if you think about it, this movie was kinda racist itself. The Na’vi were helpless before the onslaught of the human corporation and their armed forces, until a defector came along and led them to victory. Can you say “Great White Hope”? Bingo, these people had to be rescued! What is that if not a heaping dose of the more recent, but not less racist notion that the indigenous people of the world who’ve been traditionally wronged by westerners can only be saved by them? God forbid you’d ever think that these individuals can help themselves, or need a break from being saved! Hell, it was the idea of “saving them” that created this whole problem in the first place! But I’m getting preachy here, moving on! Sure, there were lots of fitting elements that are taken from real history, such as the residential school which they had set up for the Na’vi, and the whole “negotiations for their land” angle, but it was all so painfully obvious! Which brings me to point two…

2. Obviousness:
Where to start? How about “Unobtainium”? Seriously… how lame was that?! We already have the many, many instances in the movie where people go on about how rare and valuable this mineral is. You don’t have to give it such an blatant name! Second, the name of the planet… Pandora. Also a patently obvious reference to the heavy handed moral of the story, which is that humanity shouldn’t be messing with people and places it doesn’t understand! There was that horrid speech the CEO (played by Giovanni Ribisi) gave where he talks about how precious and valuable “Unobtainium” is, and how the “flea-bitten savages” are getting in the way. And did anyone else notice that their was a Dream Catcher and other Native artifacts being prominently displayed on the wall behind him? Was that not just the most blatant case of symbolism ever? We get the allegory, and we also get that the guy’s a greedy little bastard. You don’t have to show AND tell us is such an insistent way.

And of course, there’s the divide between the scientists and the corporation and its military enforcers. Whereas the former appreciate the planet and its people and want to understand it, they wanna rape it. Add to that the clear and obvious indications that Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) was going to defect and that he and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) were going to get together. All of this stuff has been so done to death that it was obvious how it was all going to play out as soon as the introductions were finished! Sure, its nice to have a script that writes itself, but man, a few surprises would be nice!

3. Weak Characters:
To put it simply, the characters in this movie are cardboard cut-outs. On the one hand, you’ve got the conflicted hero with the sympathetic injury, the hardened military man who doesn’t give a shit, and the corporate sleazebag who only cares about the bottom line. On the other, you’ve got the down-to-death native characters: the wizened old chief, the stern second in command, and the beautiful chiefs daughter who loves the foreigner. Holy shit were these last elements stolen out of Pocahontas, and it wasn’t even original when they did it! The former characters were largely stolen from Dances with Wolves, though just about any movie about the closing of the frontier would do here! As I’ve said already, there’s absolutely nothing original here, just a rehashing of old ideas and things that have been done to death.

4. Recycling:
According to Rotten Tomatoes, critics praised Avatar for its “imaginative, absorbing storytelling.” That’s also funny because when I watched this movie, all I saw was a whole heap of things Cameron’s already done, of course with some Pocahantas/Dances with Wolves stuff thrown in for good measure. For starters, you’ve got the theme that was present in Aliens, of the evil mega-corporation that is motivated by unbridled greed and using the military to further its aims. And let’s not forget those armored mechs, which very much resemble the cargo loaders from Aliens as well! Hell, even Sigourney Weaver was in this! I know Cameron likes to reuse actors, but given all the parallels he made to Aliens already, her presence was just a little tongue-in-cheek. Oh yeah, then you’ve got the unlikely love story between star-crossed lovers who managed to succeed against all odds. That’s Titanic right there! And the whole human-machine hybrid (some alien DNA sliced in there for good measure)? That’s right out of Terminator!

So really, the only thematic element in this movie that Cameron hasn’t already done was the whole raping the virgin planet and exploiting the natives thing, but that he simply ripped off from half a dozen other movies! So really, nothing this movie did was original! Sure, some would say that the concept of a massive, planet-wide organism who’s neural pathways connect everything is cool, but that’s been done too, by Stanislaw Lem no less. And when he did it, it was original, hence better (see Solaris)!

5. The F/X ARE The Movie!
The best criticism I’ve heard yet about this movie has to do with Cameron’s motivation for making it. I mean, if you think about it, what was the purpose of creating this… thing? It certainly wasn’t to tell a story that needed to be told. And it sure as hell wasn’t to add to the already impressive array of original franchises Cameron has under his belt (see Aliens and Terminator). Overall, it really seemed like the only motivation Cameron had in making this movie was to test out the latest in F/X technology. That and making an obscene amount of money! But really, one of the biggest selling points of Avatar, which the studio and distributors advertised ruthlessly, was the fact that it boasted the latest in CGI effects, 3D, and fully mapped-out virtual environments. Kinda reminds you of Lucas, huh? Another guy who makes movies simply so he can create something that has the latest in F/X… and no story. In fact, you might say that Cameron was even hoping to replace Lucas as Hollywood’s pioneer in the field of F/X. There’s something cool about being on the cutting-edge, but as many people have told Lucas, F/X do not a movie make!

And while we’re on the topic, what was the hell was all that stuff about people feeling depressed and experiencing withdrawal symptoms after they left the theater? I kid you not, apparently some people felt so depressed after returning to the real world that they reported suicidal thoughts! WHAT? Did they really think the movie was that beautiful? Sure, it was impressive, but personally, I also the whole set-up looked artificial and overdone! In addition to the Na’vi looking like a bunch of cartoon characters, the “rich” 3D environments were so obviously rendered. Some people obviously found that impressive, but really, all I could think was how CGI it all looked. Far from being immersive, it was actually kind of repellant. If the Matrix sequels and Star Wars prequels taught us anything, it was that saturating every scene with digital effects doesn’t make a movie look or feel any more real. It those case, it had the opposite effect; people were very much aware of the fact that they were watching something that WASN’T REAL. And when it comes to movies, suspension of disbelief is everything!

Okay, now for the good stuff. It WAS entertaining. And I liked the fact that this time around, the natives kicked ass! I was totally set for a sad ending when the final fight scene was happening, which would have been far more realistic considering that’s how it happened in the real world. But I think we can all agree, this way was much better! Screw you ya corporate-military asswipes, Eywa don’t take shit from nobody! But alas, I couldn’t get over the way this movie was pitched at sort of a fifth-grade level. It was cheesy, cliche, full of obvious references, recycled elements and themes, and really didn’t give us anything new aside from the special effects. And even those felt cheesy, and definitely weren’t enough to overcome the weaknesses of the plot (and I saw it in Imax!)

Clearly, the movie was a confluence of motivations that came down to money and testing out the latest digital effects. It pioneered the use of the new 3D technology – yet another thing that’s being recycled here – and as expected, other studios and movies are following Cameron’s lead (which was clearly the point!) And of course, Cameron made his obscene amount of money, once again earning the prize for top grossing-film of all time, as well as half a dozen Academy Awards for best visuals, effects and art direction. Mercifully, Cameron did NOT quote the movie when he got up to accept this time. Remember that dreadful “I’m king of the world!” speech after Titanic? Douche…

All in all, I think this movie is best filed in the guilty pleasure column, somewhere between Independence Day and Army of Darkness. Maybe you got other titles in mind, point is, don’t expect a lot from this one!

Avatar:
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Plot: 3/10
Direction: 8/10
Overall: 6/10

T2!

Normally, if I do a review, I try to re-familiarize myself with the material before writing about it. That way I’ll be sure not miss anything. It’s only been on occasion that I’ve done one strictly from memory, and that’s assuming it’s still fresh. That was certainly the case with Independence Day and Terminator: Salvation, the latter I had seen just a few weeks before, and the former I’d seen so many times that I really didn’t need to see it again! However, this was not the case with The Terminator. Here was a movie I had not seen in years. Make that MANY years, and yet I penned my review almost entirely from what I could remember of it. Not smart! Even less smart to watch it immediately thereafter and realize all the points I missed! Luckily, I still have two more movies to do in the franchise, and most of what I noticed applies directly to the sequel!

First off, James Cameron was guilty of recycling actors even more than I thought. Michael Beihn, Bill Paxton, and Jennette Goldstein all played prominent roles in Aliens (Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez) and were around for either T1 or T2, in some cases, both. But I forgot about Lance Henrikson, the man who played Bishop in Aliens. Turns out, he played one of the LA detectives in the first movie who got his ass shot off when evil Arny came knocking! Wish I hadn’t glossed over those guys in my T1 review, turns out they were actually pretty important. In any case, that makes four actors whom he used for both franchises, and I’m betting there were more in the background somewhere…

On top of that, I came to see just how many action sequences were reused in T2. I don’t want to get too specific just yet, but let’s say that action scenes involving motor bikes, big-rigs, car jumping and pile ups were also reused from the first movie. The only real difference was the budget, and of course Arny was now a protagonist instead of a force of pure malevolence. And there was also one all-important theme that made it into both Aliens and T2, and that was the theme of reconciliation between man and woman and humans and machines! But more on that later. Having just watched the movie and it still fresh in my mind, let’s get to the specifics of T2, one of the biggest and most successful sequels of all time!

(Background—>)
T2 was generally lauded by critics, all of whom thought that Arny did a great job reprising the role that complimented his particular brand of talents (his natural grandeur and presence, for example). Cameron’s gift for action direction was also seen as a big plus, and with three successful movies under his belt (T1, Aliens, and The Abyss), he now had a bigger budget and a degree of creative freedom he did not have with the before. And as I said in my first Terminator review, T2 also did better at the box office, not proportionally speaking, but certainly in terms of overall gross. And according to some, it was one of those rare movies that was believed to be better than the original. I’m not one of them, but I can certainly see why others might think so. On the whole, T2 was bigger, glitzier, and a lot more fun than the first. It’s mass appeal, made possible by its awesome action sequences, intense pace, and cutting-edge special effects which involved the use of CGI (something brand-new at the time) were sure to please. It also did a good job of wrapping up the temporal paradox presented in the first movie, and offered a way out of said paradox that was both believable and consistent with it. It may not have been as gritty, realistic or smart as the original, but that was to be expected. Originals are meant to set the tone and establish the parameters, sequels to expand on them. And in that respect, T2 was a fitting follow-up to the first, superior in some respects but certainly not better.

(Content—>)
The movie opens with scenes from modern day LA, moving from traffic jams and pedestrian crossings to a playground with children at play. This is clearly a “before” scene, where the music is foreboding and things suddenly slow down, with the sound of children laughing in the background. And then, the big white out. If this isn’t indication enough that something terrible has happened, we immediately cut to the “after” scene – a blackened ruin littered with skeletons and rubble. We are told that is what Los Angeles looks like in 2029, cold, dark, and dead. Linda Hamilton’s voice over then reminds us of the relevant facts, how billions died on Aug. 29th 1997 (“Judgement Day”), and those who survived lived only to face a worse horror… the war against the machines. We then get a moment of pure symbolism as a machine foot crushes a human skull, followed immediately thereafter by one of pure action porn!

All over the post-apocalyptic landscape, machines are attacking, purple tracers fill the sky, and human resistance fighters mobilize to fight back. This sequence was certainly superior to the ones in the first movie. There, the post-apocalyptic battle scenes involved just a few people and models, fighting in a limited fashion that gave the impression of guerrilla-warfare rather than an epic confrontation. In T2, there were literally hundreds of people and models being used, and the pace and scale was faster and bigger. The humans aren’t hiding here, they are out in full force, fighting, dying, shooting and killing. This gives the impression of a genuine war: ugly, awesome, and epic! Naturally, this was due to budgets, but that doesn’t change the fact that T2’s opening action sequence was far more kick-ass! We even get a shot of John Conner, the future version. He’s grizzly, determined, and surveying the field while his mother continues to let us in on things: Years back, a Terminator was sent back in time to kill her before she could give birth to this illustrious man – who is looking mighty heroic right now – and failed. Now, another one is on the way, hoping to strike at Conner himself. But the resistance has sent another warrior, and only time will tell which one reaches him first…

And, much like in the first movie, we cut back and forth between three points of view: Arny, the T1000 (played by Robert Patrick), and the main protagonists – in this case, John and Sarah. She’s in an insane asylum. The character of Doctor Silberman (Earl Boen), who in the first movie pronounced Kyle Reese insane, is back and saying the same thing about her. John is in foster care, is clearly disillusioned over the fact that his mother is locked up, and chooses to take it out on his foster parents. That’s an immediate selling point to this movie: the idea that anyone who knew the future would be a Cassandra, shouting to the wilderness and being totally ignored by the people (or in this case, committed). Conner’s delinquency is also a realistic touch. We know he will grow up to a hero someday, but right now, he’s a pissed-off adolescent who’s confused and bewildered. On the one hand, he hates his mother for apparently lying to him for so many years, and on the other he obviously misses her. Remember that photo he gave Kyle Reese, the one she had taken of herself at the end of the first movie? Well, turns out he’s kept it. Must be some embers still left in that hearth, huh?

Anyway, Arny has his scene where he wanders into a biker bar naked and wrecks the place up in order to get his hands on some badass looking clothes and a Harley. This is of course a retake from the first movie, but unlike the first where the evil Arny killed to get them, the good Arny in this one merely brutalizes a few people. Yep, this is the good guy… baby-steps I guess! And just like in the first movie, the bad guy has an easier time, simply killing a police officer and then commandeering his vehicle. Turns out when you’ve got liquid metal for skin, you don’t need clothes. You just morph your surface layer and boom, you’re good to go! But alas, the T1000 (as Arny explains later) cannot form complex machines, so he still needs the policeman’s car and weapons.

The three finally meet and, just like in the first, we get a tense, climactic moment with slow-motion and intense music. John sees Arny as he pulls his shotgun out of a box of roses (product placement, Guns and Roses did the theme music!) and thinks he’s out to kill him. But those fears are generally allayed when Arny levels the gun and yells his famous tagline, “Get down!”, and shoots the T1000 behind him. A gun fight ensues, followed by a wrestling match, followed by a big-ass car chase. Again, elements of the first are at work here again. In T1, Arny was chasing Sarah and Kyle on a Harley, followed shortly thereafter by a truck. Much like in the first, it all ends with the truck crashing and exploding. This is not to say that it wasn’t awesome this time around though. As usual, Cameron’s flare for action-direction makes the scene tense and beautiful, and the way Arny keeps flipping that gun around to reload it? You look me in the eye and tell me you didn’t think that was badass the first time you saw it! And of course, the sequence ends with the T1000 walking from the fiery wreckage unharmed, provided by some of those cutting-edge digital effects I mentioned!

John then has a chat with Arny about what’s going on. Some funny lines here: “Don’t take this the wrong way but… you’re a Terminator, right?” Keen grasp of the obvious. “Okay… And you’re not here to kill me! I figured that part out for myself!” Well he did save your as several times in just the last few minutes so… duh! What makes this funny is that while freaked out, John clearly has a framework in place for understanding what’s going on. In spite of the fact that he’s spent the last few years thinking his mom was crazy, he still remembers everything she taught and what he’s just witnessed just confirmed it. Sure he’s freaked out by all the violence and near-death, but one he’s not is shocked. He doesn’t even get that phased when Arny tells him that it was HIM – John Conner – who sent him; his future self, that is. Somehow, it all just makes sense given his upbringing. And of course, Arny takes the time to explain the particulars of their enemy. Let me see if I can condense it all into a few bullet points here:
> T1000, advanced prototype, liquid metal, here to kill you.
> Can’t form weapons beyond knives and stabbing tools.
> Can also morph into things, but only things of equal size
> Can impersonate other people and knows where you will go
> Oh yeah, and its not known if he can be destroyed or not

Yikes! That’s another thing that I enjoyed about this movie. At first, it seems like Arny can defeat the T1000 as he manages to save John Conner from his repeated murderous attempts. However, as more confrontations ensue and Arny is forced to go toe to toe with him, the T1000 begins to show his superiority. Not only does he managed to take Arny’s arm off, he even manages to take Arny out. Well, temporarily deactivate, but you get the idea. In the end, Anry’s only able to win by outsmarting him, and relying on the help of John and Sarah.

But getting back to the storyline, Arny soon confirms that the T1000 has already killed John’s foster parents and warns him that his mother could be next. But not before John has an expository scene where he expresses all his angst over how his mother taught him everything he knew, only to be taken away from him and declared a delusional psychotic. And now, it appears she was right all along, so naturally he wants to find her. But no, Arny reminds him, the T1000 would have anticipated that, and will try to impersonate her and will kill her in the process. John freaks, a ruckus ensues, and it ends with John realizing that Arny must obey his orders. So naturally, he orders Arny to help him save his mother (Oh, and not to kill anyone, on a count of he almost killed two people during that ruckus).

They then get to the asylum where Sarah is attempting to make her escape. Seems people told her that a dead-ringer for the man that shot up a police station and killed 17 officers in 84′ was spotted at a local mall. Thus why she needs to escape tonight. If things are happening again, she needs to make sure her son is safe! She does this smashing the face of the guy who’s been physically and sexually abusing her for the last few months and taking Dr. Silberman hostage. Naturally, we don’t feel sorry for either of these people, since the attendee is a dick and Dr. Silberman is a cynical douche! John and Arny are simultaneously breaking in, which begins with Arny knee-capping the guard at the front (he said he wouldn’t kill, wasn’t nothing in there about knee-capping!) They meet up inside as Arny steps off the elevator right in front of her, and a slow-motion scene ensues where Sarah recognizes him and becomes so terrified that she runs back in the direction of the guards she eluded not a moment previous. Arny saves her and issues one the tag-lines from the first movie: “Come with me if you want to live”. John is also there and lets just her know that Arny’s cool, right before the T1000 shows up right behind them and tries to kill them. Dr. Silberman witnesses all this, and is no doubt going to need therapy himself!

Another chase scene ensues. Arny and Sarah protect John, steal a police car, and start driving backwards while shooting. The T1000, for his part, sprouts swords and crowbars from his arms and pursues them. Here too we see a scene being rehashed from the first movie, where the evil Terminator jumps on their car and starts smashing through the window, trying to get his hands on his target and almost succeeding. But in the nick of time, they manage to shake him with some keen maneuvering and shotgun blasts. This time around, its Arny who does the rescuing, blowing off one of the T1000’s limbs and sending him flying off the back end of their car. Having made it away for the second time, the three of them start make their way out of town in great haste.

While in the desert, we get some pacing scenes as Arny, Sarah Conner, and John get to talking, and in the course things, learn some things about each other. For example, Sarah wants to know how Judgement Day happened, how Skynet was created and who’s responsible. Arny reveals that a man named Mr. Miles Dyson is responsible for the breakthroughs that led to Skynet’s creation, and that the key developments are happening pretty much as they speak. We already know from a rather telling scene earlier that Mr. Dyson, over at Cyberdyne systems, was the recipient of the remains of the first Terminator and is working on a big AI-related breakthrough. Seems that Conner was right, that someone conspired to remove them from the factory where Sarah left them, and made sure they got into the “right” hands. Sounds… conspiratorial! In any case, it was the first Terminator’s broken CPU and remaining arm, which came from the future, that ended up being the basis for Dyson’s research, and hence Skynet’s creation… The temporal paradox strikes again!

There are echoes of Alien and Aliens here. In those movies, the megacorp Weylan-Yutani kept screwing over its own people in order to get their hands on the alien specimen. Here, however, we are getting it more in the form of the dark future/cautionary tale, where networked, intelligent computers are responsible for nearly wiping out humanity, largely because we made the mistake of trusting our fate to them. But unlike the first movie, T2 introduces us to the human side of that equation, how it was human avarice that led to Skynet’s creation, and how Skynet decided to kill humanity because they tried to pull the plug on it. Doesn’t make Skynet any nicer, but it was a nice touch, as is the humanizing of the people responsible which follows later on. But at the moment, Sarah is obviously perturbed by this information, and we can tell she’s going to do something about it very soon…

Also, there’s a very important scene in all this that didn’t make it into the original movie but came with the director’s cut. This is the scene where Arny reveals that all Terminators have their CPU’s set to “read-only” when they are sent out, a provision against them exercising too much independent thought. While they are held up in an abandoned garage and nursing their wounds, John proposes that they remove Arny’s chip and switch this fail-safe off so he can be of more use to them. After removing it, Sarah tries to smash the chip with a hammer but John stops her. She tells him this could be their last chance to be “it”, and that John doesn’t understand this because he’s never had to kill one of them. But John insists that they need Arny, that “it” is a “he”, and that if he’s to be a great leader someday, his mom ought to start taking his ideas seriously. She decides to go with him, although just barely, and lets Arny live. This scene is important because it establishes that in spite of the fact that the good Arny saved them, Sarah still doesn’t trust him and is willing to kill him as soon as the opportunity arose. One would expect this considering what the first Arny bot put her through.

There’s also the amusing scene where John tries to teach Arny to smile. This is just one of many where John is trying to teach him how to “be more human”. Most of these are pretty cheesy, consisting of one-liners and hand gestures, but this one was actually funny and even made sense in the overall context of the movie. Later, we see Arny pulling facial expressions, and the more anal-retentive critic would surely want to point out that this is supposed to impossible. Cyborg’s don’t feel emotion, hence they don’t smile, smirk, or shrug. The subtleties of facial expressions and how they convey emotions would surely be beyond them. But, if they knew someone was teaching them what faces to pull and when, they just might find it realistic and shut the hell up!

Anyhoo, John, Arny and Sarah show up at Enrique’s hideout. This would be the former Green Beret gun-running dude John mentioned with earlier, one of several dude’s she shacked up with while he was growing up. While at Enrique’s hideout, they start stockpiling guns and getting some new vehicles together. Arny gives us a preview of things to come when he hoists up the mini-gun and smirks at John. “It’s you, definitely,” John says. And in the course of things, Sarah watches her son and the Terminator talking and carrying on and has a revelation. Turns out that of all the father figures that had come and gone, the Terminator is actually the most ideal father figure for John. He’d never neglect him, never abuse him, and would die to protect him. We see at last a reconciliation between humanity and technology with this, not unlike the one that took place in Aliens between Bishop and Ripley. Once again, James Cameron is showing his fondness for certain themes. Still, it works here. After all the paranoia and hatred Sarah has been living with over the years, she finds herself finally able to trust her enemy – a killing machine – with John’s life. Irony!

But then, Sarah has another one of her apocalyptic dreams, and this one is particularly graphic! She even sees an alternate version of herself playing with a baby. This is a particularly symbolic moment, we get the impression is seeing what she’d look like if history had worked out just a little different. And like everyone in the playground, she doesn’t appear to be able to hear Sarah as she screams at them to run. In any case, they are all vaporized when a nuke goes off in the distance, graphically! I tell ya, that shot scared me when I first saw it. I believe it was the first case of the effects of a nuclear blast being caught on film. Sarah then wakes up with a start and she sees the words that she herself carved in the picnic table not a moment earlier. “No Fate”, which paraphrases what John told Reese to tell her: “The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” Ironic, given the temporal nature of the story, but it certainly convinces Sarah that its time she acts. She grabs her guns, a truck, and tells John and Arny she will meet them later. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out what she’s got in mind (killing Dyson) and they head off to intercept her. Arny warns John that this is bad strategy, that the T1000 could anticipate this move, and that Dyson’s death might actually prevent Judgement Day. But of course, John tells him they have to. It’s a human thing!

They arrive at Dyson’s just in time to find that Sarah has shot up the place, put a bullet through Dyson’s shoulder and just about to deliver the coup de grace. But alas, she couldn’t. He’s still human, and she’s not a monster. So instead, they decide to fill him in on things and give him the benefit of the knowing everything his work will lead to. Arny starts by pealing the flesh off his arm and letting his robot innards tell the story. Dyson immediately recognizes the arm, since he’s got an identical one at his office. We get the distinct impression that some pretty messed up possibilities are going through his mind. In any case, Arny has his full attention now and he tells him to “listen to me very carefully.” Sarah’s voice-over fills in the rest and says that Arny told him everything – about Skynet, Judgement Day, and the war – as we cut to what is clearly several hours later. Naturally, he’s shocked and professes that he never intended for any of that to happen, but Sarah is naturally unconvinced. Seems “men like him” are the reason the hydrogen bomb exists. They think themselves creative, but only know how to create death and destruction, so fuck em, they’re evil! Uh, remind me now, who shot up who’s place here in a homicidal attempt? But alas, because he didn’t know, and maybe to prove he’s not a bad guy, he agrees to help them, which includes destroying the lab and also the remains of the first Terminator. Hello! This is the first time those remains have even been publicly acknowledged. Everyone is surprised, except Sarah who is both feels both angry and vindicated. She’s known all along that there was some kind of cover-up and nobody believed her. Now, she’s hearing from the horses mouth that she right. Still, right or no, she still gotta feel pissed!

What follows is another tense series of scenes as they rush to Cyberdyne, commandeer the facility, and begin laying explosives. Meanwhile, the police show up, thinking they got the man who shot up the police station back in 84′, and cordon off the building. Sarah’s voiceover and a shot of them driving up a dark highway convey the significance of these scenes perfectly before they actually unfold. Essentially, after years of trying to ensure that the machine’s didn’t alter the future, they are now trying to do the same. Whereas they were just players before, doing what was required of them, they are now free-agents who have the power to change history. Arny has his scene with the minigun too where he levels all the cop cars out front, firing a couple thousand rounds and a handful of grenades into the police cruisers to gives Sarah, John and Dyson the time they need to finish rigging the place to blow. But, as promised, does so without hurting or killing a single person. Not bad, Arny! Way to respect human life! Of course, the police are pissed and start firing back at him, and their SWAT team goes on in with blood on their minds.

There’s also what appears to be a sort of reconciliation taking place between Sarah and Dyson now, paralleling once again what Ripley experienced in Aliens. Obviously, Sarah had become embittered towards her male counterparts after years of being ignored and condemned by them. After losing Reese, she wasn’t able to find a single stable father figure for John, not one who would stick around after she told him the truth at any rate. Then there were all those who condemned her and put her in an insane asylum. On top of that, there’s men like Dyson who were responsible for Skynet’s creation in the first place. But now, she and Dyson appear to be coming together thanks to their common cause. There’s even a symbolic moment where Sarah passes him the detonator and we get a close-up of it changes hands. This reconciliation is cut short however when about a dozen SWAT team members comes breaking in and fills Dyson full of holes! But once they realize the place is totally rigged, they pull back! And the three protagonists managed to make it out right before the bomb goes off and levels Cyberdyne! But the front door is still blocked and there’s no way they can make it out without some shooting. That’s when Arny issues his famous tag-line from the first movie: “I’ll be back”! He gets about a hundred bullets to his face before knee-capping and pelting all the SWAT team members with their own tear gas canisters. He then steals the SWAT van and drives it through the front foyer, thus ensuring their escape. Meanwhile, the T1000 has shown up and steals a helicopter, much as Arny stole that 18-wheeler in movie one, and is even sure to include the “get out!” tag-line to its driver.

Which brings us to chase number three! This time, the good guys are in a SWAT van and the bad guy in a helicopter. True to the first movie, there’s a change-up when the bad guy is shmucked and has to switch vehicles. Having lost his helicopter, he commandeers (what else?) an 18-wheeler and chases them into a Foundry. Really? They have Foundries in LA? Right beside of the highway to boot? Just asking… Point is, more action porn follows: Arny delivers his “Hasta la Vista, Baby” line and shatters the T1000 with a bullet. This was after he forced him to crash his truck that was apparently carrying liquid nitrogen (…really?). The bits begin to melt because there’s hot metal all around (Foundry, remember?), and the three protagonists are forced to flee again. But with nowhere to run, they have to fight it out inside the Foundry, and get pretty beat up in the process! As a climactic scene, this was quite effective, being in such a hostile environment and everyone already being wounded. You can feel the tension and danger, which is made all the more palatable since it’s clear that there is no chance of escape. With Sarah already reeling from a gunshot wound in her thigh, and Arny twisted up from the crash, it really seems like they might not make it.

And yet, they do! And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the last scene where Linda Hamilton empties a whole shotgun into the T1000’s body, one-handed! Or how Arny shows up at the last second and pops a rocket propelled grenade into his belly that blows him in half! The T1000 then falls to his death in a bath of molten metal (how’s that for irony, liquid metal man!) and things end tidily when John realizes that the metal will make a perfect disposal spot for the remains of the first Terminator. But alas, Arny realizes that he too much go into the cauldron. As long as any evidence of the future remains in the past, there will always be a chance that Skynet could still be created and Judgement Day still happen. And so the movie ends with Arny being heroically lowered into the molten metal and giving John the thumbs up before disappearing beneath the surface (John taught him how to do that, which makes it all the more sad!)

Then, there’s the very last scene, which is kind of a controversial issue for me! In the original movie, it took the form of them driving along the dark highway again, a clear metaphor for the future, with Sarah giving jer final voice-over that wraps things up nicely. She says she is finally able to face the future with hope because, as she says, “If a machine – a Terminator – can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too…” Cue music and roll credits! I get tingly just thinking about it. But in the director’s cut, the last scene was altogether different. Instead of the still uncertain but hopeful future, we get to see the picture of that future, and its totally disappointing! Apparently, its 2030 or so, Judgment Day came and went without incident, and Sarah is making another recording where she explains how she got drunk and celebrated the fact that it never came. Everyday thereafter was a gift (a line that would make it into T3). And now, she’s sitting on a park bench and watching John play with her grand daughter in that same old playground. The background shows LA of the future, a skyline that looks like something out of a bad sci-fi movie or a rerun of Star Trek (the original version). Oh, and apparently John is not the grizzled leader here, but a Congressman who fights the good fight on the floor’s of Congress.

Where do I begin? Well, for starters, this whole franchise was gritty and dark and never did more than it had to. So ending it with a scene that lays things on way too thick just seems inappropriate. There’s also the fact that its totally sappy! John becomes a peacenik Senator and everybody lived happily ever after? C’mon people! This is supposed to be a movie about post-apocalyptic nightmares and murderous machines! I can understand wanting to end it on a happy note after all the darkness and extended horror shows, but this was ridiculous! But luckily, this scene never made it in to the original. Clearly, someone felt that it would be better to let the movie end on the same note it had maintained throughout. Thus, they went with the highway ending which was best: succinct, serious, symbolic, yet still hopeful. And it wrapped up everything from the first and second movie nicely, with no wasted effort or needless screen time. Last thing you want after tying up all the loose ends is to drop a fresh load of crap on the audience! It brings the whole production down!

(Synopsis—>)
This time around, I think I’d like to start by mentioning what was weak about the film. For starters, the themes that were present in Aliens that had a way of making it into this movie too. The theme of redemption, be it between man and woman and man and machine, was present in both. As was the theme of the evil corporation working behind the scenes so it could get its hands on something dangerous, and in so doing, condemning people to death. It was only recently that I even noticed this, and it kind of brought the movie down in my estimation. However, I am hard-pressed to argue this point too finely. These themes worked too well for them to be considered weaknesses, in my estimation. It was good and fitting to see Sarah find common ground with her fellow man after so much time of being at odds with them. It was also cool and ironic that a Terminator was capable of learning the value of human life and was ultimately the greatest protector/father figure that John Conner would ever have.

And of course the action scenes that were re-hashed from the first movie. Like I said, one could take the position that this was somehow lazy or uncreative, but I’d be hard-pressed to argue that as well. Mostly, they felt like homages, inside references to stuff the audience already saw and would instantly recognize. Those are desirable in a movie, they are like punch lines that make the audience go “Ahaaaa!” And done properly, they are also amusing and entertaining. And they certainly were in this movie. Arny’s big one-liners, “Come with me if you want to live” and “I’ll be back” were both deliberate references to the first movie and they worked. The way they zoomed in on Arny’s face and that intense expression as he said the latter; everyone in the audience knew it was painfully significant!

As for the other weaknesses. These mainly took the form of the extended and deleted scenes. For the most part, they kinda sucked. The alternate ending, where Sarah and John are alive decades down the road and the world is peaceful. SUCKED! The scene where we see Dyson at home explaining his work to his wife, how he’s creating the basis for AI… that one was a tad obvious. We already get that his work is revolutionary and will pave the way towards machines that will be able to think and become self-aware. No need to come out and say it. The ones I mentioned, where they switch Arny’s CPU from read-only mode and John teaches Arny facial expressions, those were good and should have been included in my mind. There were also a few from the Foundry where we see the T1000 having some problems re-resolving after being frozen and shattered, which were also good. But of course, running-time is a factor and that’s why we have director’s cuts.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s that one big, possible plot hole in the movie. Essentially, we are told from the get-go that the machines have once again sent back a Terminator and the resistance has once again sent back a fighter of their own. Now didn’t Kyle Reese say in the first movie that they found the Terminator’s time machine when they trashed Skynet’s HQ and only one Terminator had gone in? Didn’t he also say that he was the only other one to go through and they destroyed the machine immediately thereafter? Well sure! So theoretically, John should have been safe from then on. All of this meant that the future would unfold as promised, Judgement Day would happen, and John Conner would grow up to lead the resistance to victory over the machines. There’s simply no way the machines would have known that they had failed, they don’t have a crystal ball that shows them the past or how alternate time lines are unfolding. So its not like they could just say, “Woop! We missed! Send another one!” The very act of sending Arny back was a desperate act, they’d just have to expect that however things were unfolding for them in the future was the direct result.

But, this can be explained away easily enough. For example, how could Kyle know for sure that they destroyed the time machine after he left? For all he knew, they found out that the machines had actually sent two Terminators back in time, one T101 Arny bot and one T1000 advanced prototype. The first one was sent to take out the mother, the second to take out John should the first one fail. The resistance could then say “Oh crap! We need to send another fighter of our own to deal with the second one too! Any ideas?” They looked around, saw another Arny bot, figured it would have a better shot of protecting John from a T1000, decided to reprogram it, and sent it on its merry way. THEN they destroyed the machine! Okay, that works, more or less. Only problem is… you can’t keep doing it! A third batch of Terminators would just make things stupid!

Okay, now the strengths! The movie’s action scenes were awesome! Cameron has shown again and again that he has an eye for making destruction, shoot-em-ups and car chases beautiful! Its little wonder then why he’s a renowned action director. His ideas tend to be old fashioned, but they work in the context of classic sci-fi and his directorial style brings a sense of grandeur and epicness to his work. And of course Arny, a man who embodies those traits, was well suited to what he had to offer. Not the best actor in the world, but he’s nothing if not grand and epic. And this time around, he went beyond those simple attributes to bring some heart and humanity to the Terminator, which is ultimately what makes him him. He’s Arny, the action hero with a heart of gold and a keen sense of humor!

T2 also had a very good plot. Aside from the one possible plot hole which I don’t think anyone cares about anyway, it was virtually seamless. The future that Reese knew and told Sarah about was the direct result of everything they did together in the past. The Terminators exist because the wreckage of the first one was found, John Conner exists because Reese and Sarah had sex, and so on. Kyle Reese told Sarah in the first that he was from the future, but that it was one possible future, maybe… He didn’t know. But alas, we do! It was all foretold thanks to a temporal paradox where the future influenced the past and vice versa. But this time around, they found the fulcrum of this would-be future and removed it. Anal retentive critics might say “Well, if they destroyed all of Cyberdyne’s research, wouldn’t that mean that Skynet would never exist?” Well, good point actually. Once Cyberdyne was destroyed, shouldn’t Arny and the T1000 just have disappeared? Ah, but they had that one covered! You see, as long as the T1000 and Arny were alive and in the past, there was still the chance that Skynet would be created. Hell, for all we knew, that was HOW it got created in the first place. So technically, the future could not be altered til both the T1000 and Arny were destroyed and there was no chance whatsoever that their wreckage would fall into the wrong hands… again!

Another thing worth mentioning was that this movie was made in 1991, a full seven years after the first movie and five after Aliens. In between, he did the Abyss in 1989, but that was it, and had already begun working on Aliens back in 84 when he was shooting The Terminator. So really, he and his people had years to work out the script for T2, and it really showed. I can remember seeing it when it first came out and being blown away, in part because it had such a big feel! This was the long-anticipated sequel to the first movie and just about everyone agreed that it was fun, cool, and awesomely good. Like I said, Cameron already had a reputation for being a sci-fi director after Aliens and T2 really cemented that for him. The use of cutting-edge special effects, the big-budget action scenes, the way the plot really came together; he really topped off the Terminator franchise big time with this movie. The only downside would be if someone got the bright idea to do a third movie. Worse yet, that they’d shoot it sometime after August 29th 1997, when Judgement Day was supposed to have happened! Why, then they’d have to come up with some contrived explanation for why it didn’t happen on schedule, or why the Terminators were still being sent back in time! And that would be just downright nutty…

Terminator 2:
Entertainment Value: 9/10!
Plot: 8/10
Direction: 8/10
Total: 8.5/10

Da Terminator!

Back in 1984, a budding director named James Cameron was working on two projects almost simultaneously, both of which would go on to become some of the most successful sci-fi franchises in history. These were the time-traveling cyber-thriller The Terminator and the long awaited sequel known as Aliens. And not only were they well received at the box office, both went on to become classics in their own right, earning a cult following and spawning even more sequels. Yep, the guy could write and direct back in the day, before success and fame went to his head and he got all… Titanicy! Fans of said movie might disagree, but I think it just went downhill from there! I mean, Avatar? C’mon people, that was just a rehashing of Titanic and Aliens with a whole lot of Pocahontas ripped off and plastered on.

But that’s neither here nor there (I’m so gonna trash that movie later!). Right now, I wanna talk about the movie that started it for James and turned Arny from a champion body builder and B-list actor into an A-list movie star (Which reminds me, at some point I got to review Conan, his other break-out hit!) And a warning, you can’t get into this movie without talking about Arny, a lot! So plenty of biopic info will be coming up throughout the course of this review, be warned! So without further ado, let’s get to reviewing this baddest of bad-boys!

(Background—>)
In truth, Arny was first approached by the studio to play the role of Kyle Reese. However, after reading the script, he said he would rather play the role of the murdering cyborg. After meeting with Schwarzenegger, whom he had no intention of casting in the role, Cameron became convinced. And it worked! Anry’s presence, his bad-guy face, and his imposing demeanor sold people on the Terminator. Even his accent, which was still pretty thick, seemed believable coming from a synthetic human. And while it got mixed reviews at first because of its violence, many critics saw unmistakable quality in it, hailing its tense pace, its cool action, and its storyline. In time, these positive reviews would become the general consensus, and Cameron was inspired to make the sequel. T2 did better at the box office, but compared to The Terminator‘s modest budget and overall gross, the original’s performance was far more impressive. He would NOT be involved in the later movies, which was good for him. They did not hold a candle to his original creations!

(Content—>)
The movie opens with a brief intro showing us the post-apocalyptic world of Judgement Day, explaining that there’s been a nuclear holocaust and that machines are waging a war on all those humans who still remain. Its just a taste of things to come, nothing long or drawn out. And then, we move to modern-day LA. There’s a big burst of light, and Arny standing naked in the street. He has a run in with some thugs, the leader of whom is Bill Paxton (or Hudson, as he was known in Aliens), and deprives them of their clothes. He even brutally kills one of them just to make his point: don’t mess with evil-Terminator Arny! Simultaneously, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, Hicks from Aliens. Holy recycling actors Batman!) shows up and is going through the same motions. Like Arny, he is in a rush to find clothes, weapons, and the whereabouts on one Sarah Connor. Yet somehow, Reese seems to be having a harder time of it. Funny how being a cybernetic powerhouse who’s not afraid to brutally kill makes life easier! In fact, after visiting a gun store and making only one gaff about plasma cannons, Arny ups his body count to two! But seriously, what was up with that line: “phased plasma cannon in the 40 watt range”. Really? Wouldn’t a Terminator be programmed with what weapons were available in 1984; them detailed files Arny mentioned in the second movie? Ah well, comic relief before he blew the unsuspected store owner away, I guess.

We also get to see Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton), who for all intents and purposes seems like a regular, run of the mill lady. Naturally, we are wondering why Arny is out to kill her, and what Reese wants with her. But one thing we are sure of, Arny DEFINITELY wants to kill her. The way he is tracking down and murdering anyone named Sarah Conner in the greater LA area would seem to indicate that. As for Reese, his intentions become abundantly clear when the three of them – him, Sarah and Arny – finally come together in a barroom shootout. I can attest to the fact that this scene is one of the most tense in the entire movie. Arny comes in, Kyle shoves his way through the crowd as soon as he sees him, Arny levels his gun at Sarah’s head, she is frozen with terror, and Reese brings his gun to bear. The sound is faint for much of this… but when Reese fires, the sound returns! BOOM, BOOM, BOOM… and Arny drops! Naturally, he doesn’t stay down, and Reese has to unload what’s left of his ammo into him before he can reveal his true purpose. He makes this abundantly clear when he bends down to grab hold of Sarah’s arm and says the classic line: “Come with me if you want to live!” Naturally, she does. And in the course of fleeing from Arny, Reese fills her in on the whole situation.

In short, on Aug. 29th, 1997, a nuclear holocaust will take the lives of 3 billion people, in an event known (appropriately) as Judgement Day. The culprit is a machine known as Skynet, an AI created by humans that turned on them and spawned an entire race of machines that were designed to hunt down and destroy all human life. They are known (also appropriately!) as Terminators. Most survivors were herded into camps for what Reese refers to as “orderly disposal”, echoes of the holocaust. But one man rallied them turned them into the Resistance. His name: John Connor, Sarah’s unborn son. Shortly before Reese traveled back in time, the Resistance had broken into the machine HQ and destroyed Skynet. Hence, the machines sent a Terminator back in time to kill John Conner before he ever existed. What makes this semi-believable is the fact that at first, Sarah doesn’t believe him and tries to flee. There’s none of this “you saved my life and your we have obvious chemistry… so sure, I’ll go with you” crap. But Reese’s insistence plus the sheer unbelievability of his story manages to convince her. Cyborgs created a time machine so they could travel back in time, from the post-apocalyptic future, and kill the woman who will give birth to the boy who will lead humanity to victory over them. Hell, you can’t make shit like that up! Unless you’re James Cameron… The fact that he’s protecting her while a homicidal Arny will stop at nothing to kill her might have been an added push.

What follows in some more tense scenes where Reese and Connor attempt to flee from the Arny bot. Both he and Reese are wounded in one exchange, forcing Arny to cut out one of his synthetic eyes and wear shades. The look was born! But then Reese and Sarah Conner are arrested, Reese is charged with kidnapping, and Sarah is told that he’s a psycho, and not to listen to him! The chief also tries to allay her fears with what immediately becomes some famous last words: “There are thirty cops in this building. You’re safe.” Arny of course find them, enters and gives HIS famous words to the clerk who tells him visiting hours are over: “I’ll be back!” And boy was he ever! After driving his car through the front doors, he whoops out the artillery and proceeds to murder seventeen officers. That’s ballsy for any bad guy, lord knows the only policemen who are allowed to die in an action movie are the ones who are three days to retirement! But in the carnage, Reese manages to escape and pulls Sarah Connor out. They both then double-time it out of town.

Then, with a little privacy and some trust established, we get to see the relationship that’s taking root between Reese and Connor. Cameron also takes this opportunity to give us additional glimpses of the future. Up until this point, this was done through Reese having flashbacks and nightmares. At this point, it takes the form of Reese conveying everything John Connor told him to share with her, which includes anecdotes about the war. This is important since she will give birth to the future commander of the resistance and he needs to be prepped! Some cool temporal paradox stuff happening here. But wait, it get’s better! Eventually, Reese confesses that he always loved Sarah – well, not so much her, but the idea of her. Her picture is something he’s kept, its a little worse for wear, but still manages to capture her determination and beauty (keep this in mind, it comes up later!). Then, they have sex, and Sarah gets pregnant with – drumroll! – the future John Connor! Yes, as it turns out, Reese is Connor’s father due to this same temporal paradox, whom he will meet and become the protege of in the future. So in addition to this being a post-apocalyptic, time-travelling sci-fi thriller, it comes complete with a big twist! And not just one…

Back to Arny, who must get creative in order to find Connor again. This he does by finding her mother and takes her call when she does the obligatory good daughter thing and calls just to let her know she’s all right. He then gets the address of the hotel where they’re staying. Luckily, Connor and Reese are on top of things. Like good soldiers, they were ready to mobilize, even did some shopping so they could build some homemade plastic explosives. Another car chase ensues, Reese gets severely wounded this time, and Arny gets unseated from his motor bike, hit by an 18-wheeler, and has more of his face ripped off. The look evolves! We also get famous one-liner number two when Arny commandeers the 18-wheeler. After tossing the driver, he turns to the passenger with a half-revealed cyborg face and says… “Get out!” Of course, the guy does! When a killer cyborg steps into your vehicle with half his face missing and tells you to move it, you don’t say no! Shortly thereafter, the 18-wheeler crashes and they think Arny is dead. But no! The fully revealed Terminator crawls from the flames (symbolism moment here, harking back to the intro!) and advances on them.

And of course, Reese sacrifices himself to blow the thing in two, but Sarah is forced to deliver the finishing blow by crushing it in an hydraulic press! But before she does, she gives her own big one-liner: “YOU’RE TERMINATED, MOTHERFUCKER!” Hey, Arny can’t get em all! The movie then cuts to several months later, with Sarah, now pregnant, driving through Mexico. She’s making a recording for her John, and a small boy comes and snaps her picture. Remember that photo Reese had of her, the one that made her fall in love with him? Yep, this is it! And as we will learn in the movie that’s to come, the remains of the Arny bot were recovered… the seeds of Skynet’s creation have been sowed. The paradox is complete! And Sarah drives off into a coming storm, which is both literal and metaphorical. Yep, good line to end it on. “There’s a storms coming,” says the Mexican man. “I know,” says Connor. Cue apocalyptic music and roll credits!

(Synopsis—>)
All throughout this movie, there is a tension that in undeniable. Whether its Reese’s painful flashbacks, the Terminators constant pursuit, or the fact that the police are pursuing them as well, there’s a pace and a tempo that never lets up. It’s downright uncomfortable, the feeling of danger and impending death always there. Though the sequel was arguably more fun and a lot more impressive in terms of effects, the original was a lot grittier and emotionally honest. In a way, it kinds of like Alien and its sequel, the former being packed full of terror and claustrophobia, the latter being a big-ass thriller that relied more on action. Unfortunate that Cameron was only involved in the creation of the latter, otherwise you could say there was a clear pattern. The original sets up the plot and has a deliberately harsh tone, the latter finishes it off and is entertaining in the process. And while the latter might have overshadowed the former in terms of box office gross and overall impact, the former remains the more critically acclaimed cult-hit because its arguably smarter, if less flashy. Not to mention that from top to bottom, the feel, music and direction of the original are faithful to its central themes. One really gets the feeling throughout that this is a movie about the apocalypse and a horrific war that is yet to come. Not only that, but the time travel stuff is intriguing and thoughtful. As Sarah says at one point to Reese: “You keep speaking about things I haven’t done yet, past tense!” She is abundantly clear on the fact that she’s not comfortable with how Reese and people from his time see her, as some kind of hero. But in the end, she has to find the strength to become what she needs to be, something which she passes on to John Connor, a sense of terrible purpose.

In any case, it made for a good movie. But the real points came in the form of the plot, which was a compelling story about fate and free-will. The future is happening because of what happens in the past. They are trying to prevent the machines from altering the future, but in the process, they end up creating it. Cool, and virtually seamless. Because, as I’m sure I said in my Terminator: Salvation review, the good guys not only ensured the birth of John Connor (and hence their eventual victory over the machines), they also ensured the existence of the machines in the first place. Funny how that works, temporal tampering has the power to give and the power to take away. The real genius of it, and the thing that always bakes my noodle, is the notion that the future we know is the result of all our actions. That might seem like fatalism, but its actually far more complex. Fate implies that the future is set, when in fact, things don’t happen in spite of what you do, but because of it. Oy, I just went cross-eyed! These plot twists also set up the plot for a sequel very nicely. Now that John Connor’s existence is assured, he must prepared for the future. At the same time, he and Sarah must see what they can do to prevent it. And of course, with the war still on the horizon and the rise of the machines still to come, we can bet our bottom dollar that they will make another attempt to kill Connor before they lose the war.

And like I said, this movie set Arny and Cameron up FOR LIFE. Cameron would go on to make Aliens before directing his big-budget action-packed sequel, and Arny would land role after role in the big action line-up of the 1980’s. Funny too how that worked out. Arny had all kinds of difficulty getting work at first because of his accent and, amazingly, his name! Director’s initially thought it was too long and hard to pronounce, and that his speech would always be a stumbling block. But thanks to The Terminator, Arny went on to be famous and all those agents and producers who doubted him were left eating crow! And of course, when it came time to make the sequel, Cameron would bring Arny back and give him a chance to reprise his role, this time as the good guy, which was in keeping with Arny’s true character. Linda Hamilton would be back too, reprising her role as Sarah Conner and raising the stakes by becoming the ultimate female bad-ass!

More on that in my review, T2! Like Arny, I too will be back! (Sorry, I had to!)

The Terminator:
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Direction: 9/10
Total: 8.5/10