Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as The Terminator in this explosive action-adventure spectacle. Now he's one of the good guys, sent back in time to protect John Connor, the boy destined to lead the freedom fighters of the future. Linda Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Connor, John's mother, a quintessential survivor who has been institutionalized for her warning of the nuclear holocaust she knows is inevitable. Together, the threesome must find a way to stop the ultimate enemy - the T-1000, the most lethal Terminator ever created. Co- written, produced and directed by James Cameron (The Terminator, Aliens, Titanic), this visual tour de force is also a touching human story of survival.
Another 'Terminator' film is currently trying to make a splash at the box office so that must mean fan and franchise favorite 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' is getting yet another release on disc! After the decently solid "Skynet Edition" release of 2009, many folks had figured that would be the end all be all HD presentation - or at least until James Cameron was given the opportunity to personally oversee a remaster on his own. Alas it is not to be. Lionsgate has taken upon themselves to release yet another edition of 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' with a new image remaster and a few changes to the disc. But is it worth the triple dip?
When a good plan doesn't quite work out, it's not a bad idea to tweak the variables and give it another try. What is logical to most of us humans makes plenty of sense for a sentient computer program that has deemed humanity a threat to its survival and is dedicated to wiping us off the face of the earth. After failing to kill the mother of the human resistance, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), Skynet aims to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong) when he's just a small child. Rather than sending back an obsolete model Terminator cyborg, Skynet ups the stakes by letting it's big dog of the chain; the liquid metal morphing T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Luckily the resistance captured and reprogrammed one of the T-800 cyborgs (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and zipped it back through time to serve as a protector for the young and rebellious John Connor.
As the T-800 is programed to follow John's orders, it must do everything the young child demands, including not killing any humans and helping the boy free his mother who has been committed to a mental institution. As John, Sarah and the T-800 learn to work together and survive, they set out on an even bigger and more important mission: stopping the robot holocaust before it even happens. With an underground arsenal at their disposal and the T-800's extensive files of historical events, the trio set out to prevent the well-meaning computer programer Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) from reworking the CPU from the first Terminator cyborg and causing the near extinction of all man kind. Only their mission won't be an easy one. Not only do Sarah, John and the T-800 have every cop in California looking for them, but the T-1000 will be nipping at their heals every step of the way.
Laying out the story for 'Terminator 2' is probably best described as an exercise in redundancy, after all who in the world hasn't seen, heard of, or at the very least knows of the awesomeness that is 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day?' My family has a long history of frequently going to the movies. My first movie going experience was 'E.T. The Extraterrestrial' as a newborn. Even though my mother was going to hold me in her arms the entire time, the theater still made my parents pay for a ticket - we still have the stub! Long story short, I grew up going to the movies frequently. 1991's release of 'Terminator 2' stands the test of time as one of my absolute favorite theater going experiences. Throughout the summer of 91 my family and I saw this beast of a sci-fi action adventure flick no less than four times. We simply could not get enough of this movie. It was a visual and auditorial feast and we've been dedicated followers on home video ever since.
While many people follow the idea that bigger doesn't always mean better - I for one feel the opposite when it comes to this sequel. 'The Terminator' was a small budgeted science fiction thriller that told a simple story about two people in love fighting for their lives. Writer/Director James Cameron and cowriter William Wisher simply could not repeat that story again. It would have been boring. By going big and painting the picture on a larger canvas, they opened up the world this franchise could exist upon. Where the first film was about two people in love fighting for survival 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' is probably best described as a dysfunctional family drama where the family must come together if they ever hope to survive. By working with real world themes and ideas as a base, the action and science fiction elements resonate all the cleaner and clearer. While the theatrical cut was already very strong in these departments, I've long felt that the Director's Cut with an additional 16 minutes of content works much better. The longer cut knows how to take its time and let the human notes resonate. In addition to some great character development work, there are a bunch of additional scenes with the T-1000 that makes him an all the more intense and sinister villain.
Because this film has a heart is the reason that it holds up so well. Sure the special effects still hold up and the action set pieces still pack a lot of excitement - but it's the base story that helps this movie shine bright. As we near this film's 25th anniversary one can't help look at this movie and the three following sequels and start analyzing why the latter installments fail to measure up. They just do not have the same heart as the first two films. By trying to surpass the visual wonder and action splendor, the sequels 'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' and 'Terminator Salvation' fail to have a real purpose for being other than as a cash grab for a dollar hungry studio. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how I feel about 'Terminator Genisys.' Part of me likes it but another part of me is irritated by its very existence. In fact that's how I feel about all of the sequels after 'Terminator 2.' Without spoiling anything for those two or three people left who haven't seen this movie - 'Terminator 2' ends perfectly. Not only does it end the film well, but it ends the franchise in the best way possible. As the sequels proved, there is some wiggle room to keep things going, but they fail to give a reason why the story needed to continue other than to get more people to put their back sides in theater seats. Few sequels ever live up to or surpass their predecessors. While I feel stronger for 'The Terminator' as a whole, 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' is an insanely close second. They're both five star films in my book as they've provided me countless hours of entertainment for the last two decades and I rarely watch the first film without immediately watching the second as part of a double feature.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This third Blu-ray release of 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' from Lionsgate comes with many of the extras from the previous 'Skynet Edition' but is still a very different release. Pressed on a Region A locked BD50 disc, this edition boasts a much faster disc load time forgoing all of the internet enabled Skynet-themed hoopla favoring instead a more simplistic menu layout. Additionally the easter egg for the Ultra Extended Edition with the alternate ending was not included for this release. This disc does come with an Ultraviolet HD Digital Copy code.
'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' is one of those movies that has had a long and sordid history on the home video market. While the "Skynet Edition's" VC-1 image was in my opinion quite strong and an improvement over the previous theatrical cut only Blu-ray release - the use of DNR was a bit off-putting, leaving the cast looking waxy and very shiny, but it was still pretty good. In a bit of a course correction, it appears that Lionsgate has done a bit of a stealth remaster with a new AVC encode that retains the film's grain structure. The results may be tough for some to spot. Detail levels in my eyes are just a hair stronger all around. The first real immediate difference appears to be intricate facial features and some of the detailing in costuming in close ups. Wide shots are also greatly improved but may be a but tougher for some to notice. The previous release also felt a bit flat. Part of this "flatness" is due to the Super 35 film stock and processing, but the DNR employed in the previous disc flattened the image even further. Now with the fine grain retained, the film takes on a more pleasent three dimensional feel - especially during daylight scenes. Colors were already pretty good, but they appear to be tweaked ever so slightly for this release. These results aren't immediately apparent but on a closer examination flesh tones look a bit more natural and a little less pinkish. Where this new release is truly noticeable is during the red "Terminator Vision" sequences. Where the Skynet Edition looked a bit smeary and "video" this new transfer restores the grit, improves the detail, and kicks the depth up a notch or two. Compression artifacts like banding are virtually non-apparent with this 2015 release so when Sarah walks through the grass in her dream or Dr. Silberman's coat for example don't have that irritating effect any more. Both discs use the same print and feature the same mild instances of speckling, but I tip my hat to this transfer as being the strongest of the two. The included screenshots I managed to snag may not highlight the noticeable differences as the results are much easier to see when the images are in motion.
*I'll include additional screenshot comparisons in the forums section as soon as this review is posted.
Audio has long been a strong point for every release of 'Terminator 2' on disc. The movie demands a surround sound system that is fine tuned and ready to rock. With the Skynet Edition we got a solid DTS-HD lossless 6.1 audio mix that was a four star winner across the fidelity board. For this new 2015 release, Lionsgate seems to have opted for a 5.1 mix. Now this may sound like a bit of a downgrade but this new mix actually sounds and feels a bit more stable. One of my small quibbles about the 6.1 track was that it felt like during the films' quieter moments I had to ride my volume button to hear the softer spoken dialogue - in this case, I didn't have to do that. Dialogue seems to have a better balance while not impacting the oomph factor of the sound effects and Brad Fidel's amazing score. Grading this audio presentation is like comparing Gala apples to Honey Crisp - they're both apples and can be quite tasty in a pie. The differences are very subtle.
The only reason I can figure for the move to a 5.1 mix is that this disc now has room to include a DTS Headphone X track that is amazingly robust and is a massive improvement over the old Dolby Headphone track. While I'm not usually in a position to watch my movies without my full surround setup, this is a nice track for those who want to keep the sonic experience of this movie to themselves. For this Headphone track I'm awarding an additional half a point to the score because it is a clear improvement.
The Making of Terminator 2 (1991 Featurette): (SD 30:38) This is a dated but fun behind the scenes look at the film.
T2 Special Edition "More Than Meets The Eye" (1993 Featurette): (SD 22:02) Produced for showtime, this is a look at all of the deleted scenes that made it back into the film for the Special Edition releases on Laserdisc and VHS.
T2 No Feat But What We Make (2003 Featurette): (SD 24:22) This is a look back at the digital effects and especial effects advancements from 'The Abyss' to 'Terminator 2'
T2 On The Set (2003 Montage): (SD 8:22) this is a quick behind the scenes that isn't really structured, just some quick cut aways.
As you can see from this list of special features, this aint the whole show. The most noticeable absence from the list of extras is the James Cameron and William Wisher Audio Commentary, why this was left out is beyond me because it was a really strong and informative track. Also missing is the Assembly Commentary track that featured the cast and crew. Absent from this disc are the deleted scenes that were in the previously mentioned Ultra Extended Cut, but also the collection of teasers and theatrical trailers. Considering all of the many releases of this movie on disc over the years, it's become doubtful that everything produced will ever make it into a single release - at least not any time soon. The main problem I have with the extra features of just about every DVD or Blu-ray release ever produced is that I feel like I've seen all of these features before. Nothing new has been assembled for a disc release of 'Terminator 2' since 2003 - and that's a real shame. If you're an extra feature completionist, you're going to need to hold onto those old discs.
Another day, another release of 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' on home video. I don't think I can really add anything more to the dialogue about this film - it's just an amazing piece of cinema that built on its predecessor in every way. Whether or not one feels that it is as good as or surpasses the original is subjective, 'T2' will always be a classic movie in my book, and one that I frequently revisit. As far as the necessity of this 2015 Blu-ray release from Lionsgate goes - it's a bit of a toss up. On one hand I strongly feel the picture quality offers a noticeable improvement in the areas of depth, color and detail - but if you were already impressed with the previous Skynet Edition release, the modest image improvement may not be enough of an impetus to warrant another purchase, regardless of the bargain price point. The audio, while being a 5.1 mix, is just as strong and impactful as ever. The biggest issue for many will be the fact this release doesn't include all of the previous editions' special features. While I'm personally glad Lionsgate cut the crappy games and online functions that rarely if ever loaded that were featured in the "Skynet Edition," I'm a bit peeved that the Audio Commentaries didn't make the cut. Considering this movie is almost 25 years old and we're on the cusp of yet another advancement in home video viewing with Ultra-HD Blu-ray - this will hardly be the final release of 'Terminator 2 Judgment Day' on disc. I'm still calling this release as highly recommended since the film is still amazing and the picture poses a nice upgrade over previous releases, but my advice is if you own this film already on Blu-ray, buy with a hint of caution. If you've yet to purchase 'T2' on Blu-ray then this is your better option of what's out there on the market.