T2: Judgement Day’ is still one of the pinnacles of action filmmaking. I’ll never forget being 8 years old and seeing the ads for the film on television. I begged my father so much too let me see the movie that he actually used our Betamax to edit me a PG-13 version of the film in order to appease me. Then, I wore that Beta tape out. The movie was just special. It followed a similar formula to the original, but turned the whole thing on its head by using the relationship between man and machine to critique the very nature of humanity. Yet, it also never missed a beat. It’s action and characters are still some of the best of all time.
This new film is the first since ‘T3’ to understand what it was that made that formula so special and follow it with expert execution. However, the problem with ‘T3’ was that it killed off one of the series best characters off screen and then crammed the formula in without the heart that made ‘T2’ so special. This new ‘Terminator’ brings back the iconic character of Sarah Conner, along with the wonderful Linda Hamilton, but concentrated on a new generation. Mackenzie Davis is the new version of Kyle Reese from the original. Her name is Grace, and she is an augmented human that’s sent back to protect a young woman named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) from a new Terminator. Sound familiar? It should, and that’s a good thing. This movie understands the formula well and digs in quickly.
The twist here is that Sarah Conner has been chasing Terminators for 30 years, but she hasn’t known who was sending her to find them or where they were coming from. Well, Grace has all the answers for this, and her backstory is the heart of the film. The soul belongs to Dani. She is the new Sarah Conner here and Sarah is a reflection of her future. All the women in these lead roles are fantastic. Still, it’s Arnold that steals the show in the final act. I won’t give away in spoilers, but he gets some big laughs and provides some of the same depth he gave us back in ‘T2’.
Then there are the action sequences. Director Tim Miller showed he likes to keep things bloody in ‘Deadpool’ and he doesn’t shy away from the gore here either. James Cameron finally returns to this franchise with a story and producer credit. Which shows very clearly in the R rated approach to the action. Although, despite the intensity of the brutal hand to hand fights in this film, it’s the airplane sequence that steals the show. This scene is relentlessly propulsive and not an action sequence you will soon forget.
The ‘Terminator’ franchise has been a bit of a mixed bag for the last 28 years, but it’s in firm hands here. I don’t know if this will result in a box office success that warrants anymore films, but it certainly is one hell of a way to end a franchise if that’s the way it goes down. One way or another, this is the sequel that true fans have been waiting for.
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