Robots, Androids and AI’s

Let’s talk artificial life forms, shall we? Lord knows they are a common enough feature in science fiction, aren’t they? In many cases, they take the form of cold, calculating machines that chill audiences to the bones with their “kill all humans” kind of vibe. In others, they were the solid-state beings with synthetic parts but hearts of gold and who stole ours in the process. Either way, AI’s are a cornerstone to the world of modern sci-fi. And over the past few decades, they’ve gone through countless renditions and re-imaginings, each with their own point to make about humanity, technology, and the line that separates natural and artificial.

But in the end, its really just the hardware that’s changed. Whether we were talking about Daleks, Terminators, or “Synthetics”, the core principle has remained the same. Based on mathematician and legendary cryptographer Alan Turing’s speculations, an Artificial Intelligence is essentially a being that can fool the judges in a double-blind test. Working extensively with machines that were primarily designed for solving massive mathematical equations, Turing believed that some day, we would be able to construct a machine that would be able to perform higher reasoning, surpassing even humans.

Arny (Da Terminator):
Who knew robots from the future would have Austrian accents? For that matter, who knew they’d all look like bodybuilders? Originally, when Arny was presented with the script for Cameron’s seminal time traveling sci-fi flick, he was being asked to play the role of Kyle Reese, the human hero. But Arny very quickly found himself identifying with the role of the Terminator, and a franchise was born!

Originally, the Terminator was the type of cold, unfeeling and ruthless machine that haunted our nightmares, a cyberpunk commentary on the dangers of run-away technology and human vanity. Much like its creator, the Skynet supercomputer, the T101 was part of a race of machines that decided it could do without humanity and was sent out to exterminate them. As Reese himself said in the original: “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

The second Terminator, by contrast, was a game changer. Captured in the future and reprogrammed to protect John Conner, he became the sort of surrogate father that John never had. Sarah reflected on this irony during a moment of internal monologue during movie two: “Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The terminator, would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.”

In short, Cameron gave us two visions of technology with these first two installments in the series. In the first, we got the dangers of worshiping high-technology at the expense of humanity. In movie two, we witnessed the reconciliation of humans with technology, showing how an artificial life form could actually be capable of more humanity than a human being. To quote one last line from the franchise: “The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”

Bender:
No list of AI’s and the like would ever be complete without mentioning Futurama’s Bender. That dude put’s the funk in funky robot! Originally designed to be a bending unit, hence his name, he seems more adept at wisecracking, alcoholism, chain-smoking and comedicaly plotting the demise of humanity. But its quickly made clear that he doesn’t really mean it. While he may hold humans in pretty low esteem, laughing at tragedy and failing to empathize with anything that isn’t him, he also loves his best friend Fry whom he refers to affectionately as “meat-bag”.

In addition, he’s got some aspirations that point to a creative soul. Early on in the show, it was revealed that any time he gets around something magnetic, he begins singing folk and country western tunes. This is apparently because he always wanted to be a singer, and after a crippling accident in season 3, he got to do just that – touring the country with Beck and a show called “Bend-aid” which raised awareness about the plight of broken robots.

He also wanted to be a cook, which was difficult considering he had no sense of taste or seemed to care about lethally poisoning humans! However, after learning at the feet of legendary Helmut Spargle, he learned the secret of “Ultimate Flavor”, which he then used to challenge and humiliate his idol chef Elzar on the Iron Chef. Apparently the secret was confidence, and a vial of water laced with LSD!

Other than that, there’s really not that much going on with Bender. Up front, he’s a chain smoking, alcoholic robot with loose morals or a total lack thereof. When one gets to know him better, they pretty much conclude that what you see is what you get! An endless source of sardonic humor, weird fashion sense, and dry one-liners. Of them all “Bite my shiny metal ass”, “Pimpmobile”, “We’re boned!” and “Up yours chump” seems to rank the highest.

Ash/Bishop:
Here we have yet another case of robots giving us mixed messages, and comes to us direct from the Alien franchise. In the original movie, we were confronted with Ash, an obedient corporate mole who did the company’s bidding at the expense of human life. His cold, misguided priorities were only heightened when he revealed that he admired the xenomorph because of its “purity”. “A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”

After going nuts and trying to kill Ripley, he was even kind enough to smile and say in that disembodied tinny voice of his, “I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.” What an asshole! And the perfect representation for an inhuman, calculating robot. The result of unimpeded aspirations, no doubt the same thing which was motivating his corporate masters to get their hands on a hostile alien, even if it meant sacrificing a crew or two.

But, as with Terminator, Cameron pulled a switch-up in movie two with the Synthetic known as Bishop (or “artificial human” as he preferred to be called). In the beginning, Ripley was hostile towards him, rebuffing his attempts to assure her that he was incapable of killing people thanks to the addition of his behavioral inhibitors. Because of these, he could not harm, or through inaction allow to be harmed, a human being (otherwise known as an “Asimov”). But in the end, Bishop’s constant concern for the crew and the way he was willing to sacrifice himself to save Newt won her over.

Too bad he had to get ripped in half to earn her trust. But I guess when a earlier model tries to shove a magazine down your throat, you kind of have to go above and beyond to make someone put their life in your hands again. Now if only all synthetics were willing to get themselves ripped in half for Ripley’s sake, she’d be set!

C3P0/R2D2:
For that matter, who knew robots from the future would be fay, effeminate and possibly homosexual? Not that there’s anything wrong with that last one… But as audiences are sure to agree, the other characteristics could get quite annoying after awhile. C3P0’s constant complaining, griping, moaning and citing of statistical probabilities were at once too human and too robotic! Kind of brilliant really… You could say he was the Sheldon of the Star Wars universe!

Still, C3P0 if nothing if not useful when characters found themselves in diplomatic situations, or facing a species of aliens who’s language they couldn’t possibly fathom. He could even interface with machinery, which was helpful when the hyperdrive was out or the moisture condensers weren’t working. Gotta bring in that “Blue Harvest” after all! And given that R2D2 could do nothing but bleep and blurp, someone had to be around to translate for him.

Speaking of which, R2D2 was the perfect counterpart to C3P0. As the astromech droid of the pair, he was the engineer and a real nuts and bolts kind of guy, whereas C3P0 was the diplomat and expert in protocol.  Whereas 3P0 was sure to give up at the first sign of trouble, R2 would always soldier on and put himself in harm’s way to get things done. This difference in personality was also made evident in their differences in height and structure. Whereas C3P0 was tall, lanky and looked quite fragile, R2D2 was short, stocky, and looked like he could take a licking and keep on ticking!

Naturally, it was this combination of talents that made them comically entertaining during their many adventures and hijinks together. The one would always complain and be negative, the other would be positive and stubborn. And in the end, despite their differences, they couldn’t possibly imagine a life without the other. This became especially evident whenever they were separated or one of them was injured.

Hmmm, all of this is starting to sound familiar to me somehow. I’m reminded of another, mismatched, and possibly homosexual duo. One with a possible fetish for rubber… Not that there’s anything wrong with that! 😉

Cameron:
Some might accuse me of smuggling her in here just to get some eye-candy in the mix. Some might say that this list already has an example from the Terminator franchise and doesn’t need another. They would probably be right…

But you know what, screw that, it’s Summer Glau! And the fact of the matter is, she did a way better job than Kristanna Loken at showing that these killing/protective machines can be played by women. Making her appearance in the series Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, she worked alongside acting great Lena Headey of 300 and Game of Thrones fame.

And in all fairness, she and Lokken did bring some variety to the franchise. For instance, in the show, she portrayed yet another reprogrammed machine from the future, but represented a model different from the T101’s. The purpose of these latter models appeared to be versatility, the smaller chassis and articulate appendages now able to fit inside a smaller frame, making a woman’s body available as a potential disguise. Quite smart really. If you think about it, people are a lot more likely to trust a smaller woman than a bulked-out Arny bot any day (especially men!) It also opened up the series to more female characters other than Sarah.

And dammit, it’s Summer Glau! If she didn’t earn her keep from portraying River Tam in Firefly and Serenity, then what hope is there for the rest of us!

Cortana:
Here we have another female AI, and one who is pretty attractive despite her lack of a body. In this case, she comes to us from the Halo universe. In addition to being hailed by critics for her believability, depth of character, and attractive appearance, she was ranked as one of the most disturbingly sexual game characters by Games.net. No surprises there, really. Originally, the designers of her character used Egyptian Queen Nefertiti as a model, and her half-naked appearance throughout the game has been known to get the average gamer to stand up and salute!

Though she serves ostensibly as the ship’s AI for the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, Cortana ends up having a role that far exceeds her original programming. Constructed from the cloned brain of Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey, creator of the SPARTAN project, she has an evolving matrix, and hence is capable of learning and adapting as time goes on. Due to this and their shared experiences as the series goes on, she and the Master Chief form a bond and even become something akin to friends.

Although she has no physical appearance, Cortana’ program is mobile and makes several appearances throughout the series, and always in different spots. She is able to travel around with the Master Chief, commandeer Covenant vessels, and interface with a variety of machines. And aside from her feminine appearance, he soft, melodic voice is a soothing change of pace from the Chief’s gruff tone and the racket of gunfire and dead aliens!

Data:
The stoic, stalwart and socially awkward android of Star Trek: TNG. Built to resemble his maker, Dr. Noonian Soong, Data is a first-generation positronic android – a concept borrowed from Asimov’s I, Robot. He later enlisted in Star Fleet in order to be of service to humanity and explore the universe. In addition to his unsurpassed computational abilities, he also possesses incredible strength, reflexes, and even knows how to pleasure the ladies. No joke, he’s apparently got all kind of files on how to do… stuff, and he even got to use them! 😉

Unfortunately, Data’s programming does not include emotions. Initially, this seemed to serve the obvious purpose of making his character a foil for humanity, much like Spock was in the original series. However, as the show progressed, it was revealed that Soong had created an android very much like Data who also possessed the capacity for emotions. But of course, things went terribly wrong when this model, named Lor, became terribly ambitious and misanthropic. There were some deaths…

Throughout the original series, Data finds himself seeking to understand humanity, frequently coming up short, but always learning from the experience. His attempts at humor and failure to grasp social cues and innuendo are also a constant source of comic relief, as are his attempts to mimic these very things. And though he eventually was able to procure an “emotion chip” from his brother, Data remains the straight man of the TNG universe, responding to every situation with a blank look or a confused and fascinated expression.

More coming in installment two. Just give me some time to do all the write ups and find some pics :)…

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