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Reviewer’s Confession: I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and that no one is genuinely concerned with what I think about it (maybe my mother). If your reading this review you’re probably just one of those fans that already owns the old Blu-ray release and are wondering if it’s worth the re-buy. Well, I haven’t seen the older release, and my Profile 1.0 player prevents me from watching most of the extras (which almost all appear to be available on the previous DVD releases). I’m also super busy with other reviews, so I’m going to do the ultimate in lazy and send you all to Chris Gould’s UK review for the real down low the technical bits. It’s the same disc, and he’s frankly better at this kind of thing than me.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: Skynet Edition
But hey, just in case fans were considering disliking me for this easy street approach I’ll offer a few words on the film itself. T2 is a great popcorn film, without a monochrome of doubt. Strangely, despite its R-rated base, the film works best as teenage entertainment. The original film, which is the better film in almost every respect outside of technical achievements, is a dark, terrifying, and single minded chase film. It appealed to teenage boys, but it wasn’t aimed at them. James Cameron took his familiar bigger and better approach for the sequel, then added an annoying kid lead (I even found him annoying when I was his age), and filled his mouth with dumbed down expositional dialogue. It’s a kid’s movie in every A-story aspect. Only Sarah Conner and Miles Dyson’s B-stories equate anything beyond a twelve-year-old boy’s most epic wish fulfilment fantasy. Not that there’s anything wrong with a rock ‘em sock ‘em child’s wish fulfilment story.

The unmistakably great aspects of the film are all in the narrative, which perfectly develops Cameron’s rich and infinitely mineable mythology. T2 goes down in my book as one of the greater movie sequels because it continues the story so successfully, even if the basic plot retreads the first film (something Cameron so deftly avoided when he sequelized Ridley Scott’s Aliens). The film’s technical achievements don’t impress as directly as they once did (hi-def really gives away some of those effects), but minus memories of the better digital effects that followed, things still stand up. Cameron’s control of camera, motion, and editing are all still nearly perfect, and should still be studied by film students the world over. Sure, we could accuse Cameron of just ripping off early ‘90s John Woo, but that would be rude.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: Skynet Edition
I do greatly regret not ever being able to experience Terminator 2 blindly in 1991. I was young enough that my parents still didn’t let me see the film in theatres or the original film. I saw the movie only after reading the comic book tie-in (which includes all the stuff cut out of the Special Edition, by the way), and I had no concept of the first film’s mythology. I’d loved to have been able to assume that Arnold was the villain and Patrick was a human sent back to protect him. I’d love to start over without the popular culture mind meld, and find out how good the film really is.

Video


I’m going to make a few statements that might sound invariably negative, but I assure you they are not, and that this is truly a great, great looking high definition transfer. I was tricked by Chris’ screencaps though; I was expecting a flawlessly executed transfer without a lick of grain. I was somewhat mislead. In fully lit scenes, especially the white halls of the mental hospital and the blue glow of Cyberdyne, the grain isn’t quite so obvious, but the low-lit shots, especially outdoor shots, are pretty grainy to these eyes. Like so many other catalogue content Blu-ray releases this one is best for its superior colours, which are definitely cleaner, brighter, and more crisply separated than previous DVD versions. There’s a sizable difference between this and the perfectly impressive Ultimate Edition and Extreme Edition DVD releases in detail levels, and sometimes this isn’t a plus for suspension of disbelief (Arnold’s stunt driver on the motorcycle has never been so obviously not Arnold). Still, I’ll echo Marcus’ comments in saying I’m not really all that impressed with the detail levels overall. Unlike a lot of hi-def releases with dated computer effects, the problem here isn’t one of too much clarity in the effects in question, but an actual loss of definition in many of them.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: Skynet Edition
But it’s likely I’m so far behind on my reviews that everybody here knows more about this transfer than I do. Either way, check out the two UK reviews on this site for the real nitty-gritty on the transfer.

Audio


I’m actually a little surprised at how dated the sound design of the film is. It seems that countless revamps and remasters can only do so much to cover up nearly twenty years of non-modernity. As with my video quality comments though, this statement is not meant in a negative sense. Terminator 2 is almost twenty years old, and I like it to sound like it did (the film did take the sound effects editing Oscar after all). Modern action films are more aggressive and noisy than this one, which works for modern films, but can become overwhelming. T2 has some really memorable and pointed audio elements, and around them is relatively little, save maybe ambient wind or hum effects.

I’ve got a few minor quibbles that I believe have little or nothing to do with Cameron’s initial intent. The dialogue track is a bit inconsistent in volume, especially for the expected level considering the surrounding audio. There are no points in where the dialogue is incomprehensible, but occasionally lead dialogue is too soft, while background chatter is unnaturally loud. Brad Fiedel’s electronic score is nicely represented throughout all the channels (especially up front), but is a little thin in the LFE channel, and sometimes mixed a little low. The rest of the track fulfils any realistic audience expectations and requirements.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: Skynet Edition

Extras


I’m still stuck with a Profile 1.0 player (does anyone have any job leads?), so I can’t review even half the stuff on this disc. It makes me a worse reviewer, I know, but I’d probably still complain about the 2.0 enabled extras even if I had a player that could handle them. Picture in picture and branching extra options are great, but I personally find it rather tedious to have no other option for watching behind the scenes and interview footage. I appreciate the attempt at using the full breadth of Blu-ray technology, but mostly pine for the good old days (those days being just over ten years ago, making them not particularly old). Almost equally frustrating is the fact that more or less all of these extras were already available via the Ultimate and Extreme edition DVDs, and on top of that not all the extras are even here.

The first extra feature, I suppose, is the presence of multiple versions of the film. The ‘seamless branching’ isn’t quite as seamless as I’d expect from Blu-ray, there were several brief pauses between versions. It’s interesting to note that I no longer consider the Special Edition the ideal version of the film. The only two things that made it better are the CPU changing scene, and a brief couple of glimpses of the T1000 glitching out. Otherwise it’s all pretty extraneous, unlike the long version of Cameron’s The Abyss, which is the only way to see the film.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: Skynet Edition
Both the Ultimate Edition twenty-six cast and crew member interview track, and the Extreme Edition Cameron and co-writer William Wisher commentary track are included here. The twenty-six man track was never particularly great because it’s clearly not scene specific, and the interviews could be found elsewhere in the extra features (mixed into the PiP option here, apparently). The Cameron/Wisher track is more like it. Again, there’s a lot of repeated material, but the scene specific nature makes a difference, and allows for the commentator’s personality to make a difference. These tracks are augmented by a revamped version of the original trivia track, with added arrows to more easily specify what is being referred to by the text. Also included is the aforementioned PiP interview subject option, production data track (similar to the Trivia Track), ‘Linked Data Modules’ (which are all things included in the DVD versions, about half of which worked for me), a quiz mode (lame), and PiP screenplay and storyboards. None of the mini-games worked for me either.

Under the limited stuff one can access outside of the film are HD versions of the original teasers and trailers. It’s kind of incredible to note that the only ‘cannon’ image of Terminator flesh generation is found in a teaser trailer. There are also two deleted scenes under ‘Terminated Data’ (03:15 HD), one of the T-1000 searching John’s room, and a future coda. The scenes feature optional commentary.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: Skynet Edition

Overall


Thumbs up to Terminator 2, the movie that made me believe that they shipped liquid nitrogen in bulk in tanker trucks—silly me. It’s not a perfect film, or even as intelligent as I remember it being (though a great example of tight scripting), but it’s surely a visceral achievement in simple kinetic filmmaking. This Blu-ray release isn’t quite what I’m sure hard core fans were expecting from a special edition. The video isn’t that much beyond the previous release (apparently, as I never saw the thing), and the extras are mostly only available as part of an ‘in-movie’ experience. Where’s my damn retrospective documentary?

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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