I may not be the biggest fan of James Cameron, but when he approaches sequels, he hits the ground running and aims for the throat. First with “Aliens,” and then with “Terminator 2” in which a full fledged horror science fiction movie, becomes an action horror film with a wider scope and explorations of time paradoxes and the like. While I much prefer the original mainly for its tone and sense of urgency, “Judgment Day” is quite excellent. I saw it in theaters when it arrived, and years later, it’s still a stellar science fiction film from James Cameron.
Set years after the original movie, Sarah Connor raised John Connor to become an apocalyptic warrior. But after the confrontation with the T-800 cyborg at the bomb factory, she’s arrested and placed in a mental health facility. John is raised by his dysfunctional aunt and uncle and is mostly a wayward youth. The evil Skynet is once again intent on ending the war before it starts, sending a new advanced cyborg back in time to assassinate John Connor. Branded the T-1000, this new cyborg is made of liquid metal that can imitate anything it touches.
Just then, a new model of the T-800 is sent back in time, but this time its mission is to find and protect John and Sarah Connor at all costs. Now with the T-800, John races against the clock to find his mother and avoid every clever assassination attempt by the advanced new cyborg that will stop at nothing to end the Connor bloodline. Skynet also plans to initiate a Judgment day by unleashing a nuclear warhead that will destroy humanity and unleash a robotic rule on the planet. Sarah decides the best cause of action is to murder Miles Dyson, a Cyberdyne Systems engineer whose new computer processor will become the template for Skynet.
Where as the original movie was more centered on a behemoth rampaging through civilization to murder Sarah Connor, this time around Cameron opts for a sleeker new villain that really does pose an even more vicious threat to our heroes. B movie actor Robert Patrick gives a fantastic performance as the seemingly inconspicuous T-1000 whose façade of an average beat cop helps him blend in to civilization and infiltrate any strong hold. He’s made even deadlier with his ability to form massive blades, and sharp objects with his constantly shifting metallic body. Arnold Schwarzenneger shifts his title character in to the hero role, now becoming a protector who also gradually learns about humanity and emotions.
Linda Hamilton is also a welcome face as she reprises her role as the iconic Sarah Connor, whose welfare is of great importance to the fate of the world. Cameron approaches the continuation of his storyline well but never quite as seamless as he thinks. One thing that always bothered me is if they can create a robot made of pure metal that can become anything it touches, why not wait a few years and build a robot that can become a weapon of mass destruction? That way it can appear in John Connor’s general vicinity and blow itself up, thus ending the war? And if the robots can’t grasp concepts like emotions and feelings, why can they understand existential ideas of fate and inevitability? While Cameron never quite masters the ideas of time paradoxes, or time travel in general, “Terminator 2” still succeeds in being a raucous, beautifully directed action epic.