Sequels are hard. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. We may be living in an age when sequels are all the rage, especially when it comes to “shared cinematic universes”, with each movie essentially being a sequel of sorts to another movie (Civil War in relation to Age of Ultron, for example) but common wisdom used to have it that sequels were never as good as the original.
Unless you had the words The Godfather, or The Empire Strikes Back in your title. Or James Cameron as your director.
With Terminator 2, audiences and critics applauded the film, quite rightly, for being as good, if not better, than the original film, which really shouldn’t have come as any surprise after he also impressed with taking over the Alien franchise from Ridley Scott and making a follow-up, in this case Aliens, that some say is also better than the film it spawned from.
Amazingly, Cameron with his Terminator sequel, actually did a film that has many similarities to the first film. There are blisteringly good chase sequences, the use of trucks for spectacular stunt sequences, an unkillable villain, the line “come with me if you want to live”, but whereas the first film had its foot in the horror and slasher movie genres, T2 (as the cool kids call it) is a high-octane action adventure, the type of grandiose science fiction action flick that Michael Bay wishes he could direct, but alas can’t because he has no grasp on story or character the way Cameron does.
Yes, the action is great, the special effects, even after twenty-five years, still hold up quite well and the use of physically intense set pieces means it hasn’t aged a day, and of course Arnold has never been better, being both tough and yet bringing humour and a little bit of vulnerability to a T-800 who ends up becoming “Uncle Bob”. The final moments of the film are devastating and will bring tears.
However, the secret weapons that the film has at its fingertips? Robert Patrick and Linda Hamilton.
Robert Patrick, who I idolised in my later teen years for his underrated and wonderfully engaging performance as Special Agent John Doggett in The X-Files, is one of the best villains in a 90’s action film. This is a an emotionless killing machine who, like Schwarzenegger in the first film, is a special effect of sorts, but one made up of a quietly terrifying performance. Dressed as a police man throughout, his calm monotone delivery and his malleable, wiry body make him someone you would never want to encounter, even when the uniform fits as well and looks as suitable as it does here.
He also has one of the greatest running styles of any movie character. If Arnold in the first film is a tanker truck, then Patrick is a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini; lean, mean, slim and super fast. James Cameron even mentions on the film’s audio commentary on the DVD and Blu Ray versions that he was able to catch up to Edward Furlong’s stunt double on the motor bike the moment he chases after him. This is the last cop you want chasing you and may even have convinced me as a kid watching it to behave myself in future.
Then there is Linda Hamilton. Watching the film at a young age, I had never seen a female character like this before. Tough, mean and with arms that were seriously pumped, here was a female character who took no crap and could fire a gun like nobody else. She also gets the film’s most powerful story arc, going from someone who is cold and emotionless, who only sees her son as a future “military leader” to someone who realises that not only has she become an emotionless killing machine like the machines that tried to kill her first time around, but has judged someone for actions they haven’t even done yet. The “home invasion” sequence is masterfully portrayed by Hamilton and Joe Morton and is probably some of the most powerful moments from any 90’s blockbuster action film.
There is also great catharsis to be had when she tells John that she loves him and finally sees the boy as her son and not the means to an end.
It is amazing that she was never nominated for an Academy Award, this level of character development and a performance like this is the type of stuff that should win awards, and feels more like a human drama the likes of which one would thought impossible in a film featuring a cyborg and a liquid metal man fighting it out.
Although those scenes are pretty damn cool too.
COMING SOON: “In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.“