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Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Skynet Edition (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment / 1992 / 152 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: May 19, 2009
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Is 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' really the greatest sequel ever? I know 'T2' has many, many fans who rate it higher than 1984's cult sleeper hit 'The Terminator,' and I would never try to persuade them otherwise. But I dunno -- for me, 'T2' doesn't work quite as well as the original, if only because the first two 'Terminator' films are very different beasts. Much like what director James Cameron managed to do with 1986's 'Aliens' -- namely take Ridley Scott's dark, more-horror-than-sci-fi opus 'Alien' and transform it into a non-stop action film -- 'T2' doesn't so much replicate the scrappy B-movie thrills of the first 'Terminator' as morph its chintzy charms into a bombastic, special-effects-laden morality play. 'T2' isn't a remake or even a reimagining -- instead, it pumps up the best qualities of 'The Terminator' and grafts them onto a family drama, adding fable-like qualities. Weird, yes, but judging by its grosses, it worked.
No need to recap the story of 'T2' for the three people who have yet to see the film. Let's just say that Cameron wisely doesn't try to revert his main characters -- Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, and of course the Terminator -- back to the state where we last left them at the end of the first film, as most sequels-slash-remakes would. Rather, he turns Sarah into a nutjob who has effectively abandoned her son and turned herself into the martyr to end all martyrs, allowing the story to expand naturally into new directions. But even better, Cameron inverts the Terminator himself -- it is no secret to reveal that the mean ol' Arnie of 'Terminator' is all soft and cuddly in 'T2,' now the protector of the young John Connor (Edward Furlong). So not only does that give 'T2' a great spin on the original, but it allows for the introduction of a brand-new villain, the morphing T-1000 (Robert Patrick, still the best android-creature ever seen on screen). Let's just say had Cameron simply restaged the Sarah-Terminator battles from the first film only with more money, we wouldn't still be talking about 'T2' today.
Unfortunately, that brings me to my biggest gripe about 'T2' -- though what also, ironically, cemented its status as such an influential blockbuster. Quite frankly, the film's once-cutting edge CGI effects have quickly become outdated. Even back in 1992, I thought the film's effects coup, the "liquid metal" T-1000, looked lame. I know, I know, it unleashed the monstrosity that is "morphing" unto the world, but even by the rules and structure of the fantasy world Cameron created, the effect feels like a cheat. While in the framework of the film I could believe that a liquid metal Mr. Roboto could goop all around and kill people, I'm still confused as to how his clothes and skin miraculously reappear at a moment's notice. Are they liquid metal, too? And where is his CPU central processing unit located? How are all the individual molecules bound together? And how come whenever the T-1000 gets split apart or blown up, all the pieces can still function? And if the machine is supposed to be liquid metal by Earth standards (this is still, after all, supposed to be a "realistic future"), how does the metal heat itself up and cool itself off so quickly?
Perhaps I'm asking too many questions. Because strip away all the post-apocalyptic talk, all the Sarah-John intra-family melodramatics, and the numerous time-travel plot holes (though to be fair, time travel itself is one big plot hole), and 'T2' is filled with almost wall-to-wall gangbusters action. It is one great big spectacle full of explosions, car chases, lots of cyborg fighting and Furlong spouting lines like "Affirmative" in his mini-Keanu Reeves baritone. So what's not to love, even if I miss some of the low-budget charm and inventiveness of the original? And really, can any movie that features a Terminator asking, "Why do you cry?" be all bad?
Okay, I'm officially done with all of the endless rehashes of 'Terminator 2.' This movie has been bled to death by Lionsgate/Artisan/Live (or whatever studio currently owns it), with so many re-issues and box sets and Mr. Roboto special editions that it is impossible now not to be cynical whenever a new version of 'T2' is released. So here we go again with the 'Skynet Edition,' which Lionsgate is whipping out just in time for the theatrical debut of the upcoming sequel, 'Terminator Salvation.' But don't expect anything new -- this 1080p/VC-1 encode (2.35:1) offers no truly appreciable upgrade over the previous Blu-ray (which I reviewed upon first release back in 2006). Both the extended and theatrical versions of the film are also presented via seamless branching, and along with the extras, it's all crammed together on a single BD-50 dual-layer disc.
Okay, to be fair -- 'T2' looks very good on Blu-ray. Shot in James Cameron's beloved Super35 process, 'T2' has always looked a little grainy, and there is some here, but overall the source is cleaner than past DVD and LaserDisc versions, with no irritating blemishes or speckles. Most aspects of this presentation are just as good as before -- great blacks, clean and consistent contrast (aside from the Sarah Connor apocalyptic sequences, which are intentionally blown-out) and strong visible detail. Close-ups are particularly impressive, and though not dripping with depth, the image does exhibit a frequent dimensional effect, particularly on darker interiors.
The film's color palette remains as steely-blue as before. Unfortunately, daylight scenes, as well as some of the hospital interiors, still look a tad flat. Nighttime sequences are superior, with rich colors that don't bleed and a surprising lack of noise. Fleshtones have never looked realistic in 'T2,' with the film's blue cast further adding to the artificial effect. The film's CGI effects are most problematic, however. Some of the composite shots look a little blurry, with minor fluctuations in brightness. The disc's VC-1 encode is far better in terms of artifacts than the previous Blu-ray, however, with none of the motion jappies, edginess or pixelization that so rankled last time. I'm sure someone out there will find something to complain about with this transfer, but I'm not sure how much better this film is going to look on any format.
Lionsgate's previous Blu-ray release of 'Terminator 2' featured only a Dolby Digital EX mix, and no true high-res audio option. The studio has rectified that here, giving us a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 6.1 Surround track at 48kHz/16-bit). This presentation is superior. (Note that alternate audio options include the original Dolby Digital EX mix found on the prevous Blu-ray, a Dolby Headphone Audio Track, English, French and Spanish subtitles, plus a TheatreVision Descriptive Narrative Audio for the Blind option.)
'T2' really raised the bar in terms of surround sound when it was first released in 1992 and I can still remember seeing the film in the theater and just being amazed at the sound that was coming out of the speakers all around me. The film's sound design remains aggressive, with very active use of the rear channels for both loud action as well as minor atmospheric details. The added center surround channel improves transparency of pans, and also increases overall heft of the rear soundstage. Brad Fiedel's iconic score is also very well integrated throughout. The mix is not consistent in terms of providing a sustained "wall of the sound" as with the absolute best Blu-rays I've heard, but it is impressive for an almost twenty year-old film.
Dynamics are better here as well. The source is not different compared to past releases, low bass extension is heftier, which is easily discernible during the action scenes. Fiedel's score again benefits here... the low rumble is deeper and more sustained. Highs are fairly wide if hardly warm -- 'T2' is about as gentle as clanging metal. But dialogue is well balanced and the overall front soundstage is expansive. Lionsgate has finally delivered the high-res audio mix that 'T2' deserves.
Oh, boy, here we go. Lionsgate has raided all of its previous DVD editions of 'Terminator 2' to compile this 'Skynet Edition.' Sure, there are a few archival bits of footage missing here or there, but for the most part, this set is packed enough to please most completists. And let's face it -- we've seen all of these interviews and commentaries and storyboards before, as nothing new has been produced for the 'Skynet Edition.' This is just another rehash, so don't expect any surprises. (Note that most of the making-of materials have been repurposed as picture-in-picture modes, so I will discuss those in the section below.)
Oh, and a note to Lionsgate and any future producer of a 'T2' special edition: can we please stop with the overdone menus and endless THX and DTS logos!? This damn disc not only takes forever to "load confidential Skynet information" before booting up, but the menus are ludicrously arcane with their cluttered graphics and weirdly-labeled subsections... and that's before you start the movie, after which you have to sit through another endless series of logos. I found it all supremely annoying.
- Audio Commentaries - Two "archival" tracks included. Director James Cameron recorded his first-ever audio commentary for the 'T2 Extreme Edition' DVD, along with co-writer William Wysher. It is a very strong effort indeed. Say what you want about the one-time "King of the World!", but he is a very intelligent, articulate, and passionate guy, and along with Wysher he imparts a great deal of detail on all aspects of the film's development, production and release. He explains every technical decision, as well as maintaining consistent story points with the first film with Wisher. Definitely a must listen.
The second track is just as good, though 'just" an assemblage of audio interview extracts (meaning the participants do not address directly what is onscreen). However, with 26 members of the cast and crew of 'T2' on board and all the major players are represented -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, and most of the main technical team -- how could it not succeed? I really like these compiled, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink tracks, because they are so informative and no one person gets to dominate. So I'm afraid that along with the Cameron and Wysher track, you're going to have to watch 'T2' yet again.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 minutes) - As this disc provides both the extended and theatrical versions of 'T2,' there are only two deleted scenes properly presented. One is a short bit with the T-1000 searching John Connor's bedroom, and the other the much-maligned alternate ending, featuring Linda Hamilton in hilariously bad old-age make-up spouting a feel-good monologue about hope and tranquility. The scenes look great, though, as they are presented in full 1080p/VC-1 video.
- Theatrical Trailers (HD) - Three trailers are included plus a couple of extra previews. We get the film's teaser and two theatrical trailers. Also here is a video promo for the 'T2' special edition DVD, and the 'T2' THX logo that seems to be so beloved by fans. All of the clips have been mastered in 1080p/VC-1 video and looks quite good.
It's mind-boggling, considering how many editions of 'T2' have hit home video, that a truly comprehensive making-of documentary about the film has yet to be produced. In the meantime, Lionsgate continues to regurgitate the same old archival interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and text materials that fans have seen forever on its 'T2' video releases. So here we go again -- there are a load of "interactive modes" available on this disc, but it's all the same old stuff. That technically makes these features exclusives, but again, don't expect anything actually new here aside from the Blu-ray-fancy window dressing.
Unfortunately, even the glitz failed to impress me here. I just don't like these overly-cluttered navigation systems. There are so many PIP options that just navigating all the buttons and options is a pain. There is also no explanation about which modes work together or overlap, and also no markers (that I could find) that tell you which chapters have material -- I spent more time watching dead space and empty PIP frames, waiting to click a button to call up some video clip or storyboard, than just sitting back and enjoying the content. There is such a thing as too complicated, and this 'Skynet Edition' proves it -- sometimes less is more.
- Visual Implants (BonusView) - The first of no less than eight(!) interactive modes, "Visual Implants" has repurposed the video-based archival interview and making-of material from past DVD versions of 'T2' to create a sort-of visual commentary. Again, the lack of freshness hurts -- I learned nothing I didn't know before, so this track will only really benefit someone who has never picked up 'T2' before on video (if such a person still exists on this planet).
- Trivia Data Overlay/Production Data Overly/Linked Data Modules (BonusView) - These three modes are all lumped together under the same heading in the menu (I'm not sure why, as each is a separate track). "Trivia" is just that, mixing text commentary (taken from the cast & crew audio commentary and excerpts), with factoids. It is a good track, if familiar. "Production Data Overlay" gives specific technical details aka "shot methodologies" in text form throughout the film. Finally, "Linked Data Modules" is actually a branching feature that takes you to audio-enhanced still slideshows at pre-determined points during playback. These are kinda neat, actually.
- Source Code/Schematics (BonusView) - These two seem to be exclusive from each other, i.e., I couldn't get both to engage at the same time (even though they are listed together on the menu). "Source Code" is the film's entire screenplay, synced very well to the action on-screen. "Schematics" are animated storyboard sequences, also specific to the action we're watching.
- Query Mode (BonusView) - Just as it sounds, what seems like close to a hundred questions pop-up throughout the film, testing your knowledge of 'T2' lore and legend.
- Processor Tests (BonusView) - More games. Unfortunately, I activated this mode, and am still waiting for the promised "mindgames" to appear. I sure wish some sort of chapter markers were included so I knew where, exactly, during the movie the games are supposed to appear...
- Data Center (BD-Live) - Finally, 'T2' also comes with BD-Live connectivity. Lionsgate promises a "Skynet Data Center" will launch soon (at press time, it is not active) with additional content. (For some reason I'm expecting lots of 'Terminator Salvation' promo tie-ins.) As always, watch this space.
So far we've been alerted to one Easter egg on this Blu-ray. Under Version, then under play special edition, there is a space for a skynet unlock code. Enter 82997 and you unlock the extended special edition of the movie. Thanks to Joey Robinson for the tip!
Found an egg? Please use our tips form to let us know, and we'll credit you with the find.
Please, Lionsgate, can we finally put 'T2' on Blu-ray to bed with this 'Skynet Edition?' We get plenty here -- both versions of the film, all of the major extras on past video releases (including multiple picture-in-picture modes), downloadable BD-Live content, and very good video and audio. Only the overdone menus and PIP options prove too cumbersome. It's a shame that all of this repackaging of 'T2' over the years has dulled my enthusiasm for the movie, but if you still haven't picked up 'T2' on video, this 'Skynet Edition' is probably the best choice you have. And hopefully the last.