How do you make a sequel to Terminator? It seems like the perfect movie to create a franchise with, featuring the possibilities for labyrinthine time-travel plotting, self referencing paradoxes and a villain who can be killed, but can also always return, but therein lays the biggest stumbling block. The villain from the original, Schwarzenegger’s unstoppable mechanical monster, the main draw of the first film, surely must return for the second, especially seeing as, in 1991, he was one of the biggest stars in the world. But how could the same robot come back as the villain? The sequel must somehow build upon the original, develop it further, else why bother? Having the same villain, with essentially the same plot, would seem a waste of time. So, proving that necessity is indeed the mother of invention, director James Cameron pulled a full character flip on not just Arnie’s T-800, now here as protector rather than foe, but also of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, discarding the ditzy 80s hairdo for some badass fighting skills, tank tops and a permanent ticket to the gun show. The introduction of John Connor (Edward Furlong) as a ridiculously irritating teenager spouting laughable phrases (Asta-la-vista, baby? Seriously?) is also a diversion from the expected, as he’s the so-called saviour of mankind, but he’s so goddamn annoying that whenever he was onscreen I found myself rooting for the bad guy.
And what a bad guy. Tackling the insurmountable challenge of topping the Governator’s performance in the previous film, Cameron used Robert Patrick as the liquid metal T-1000, able to mimic anything it touches. The T-1000 is superior to the T-800 in every way, making the formerly unstoppable Terminator now seem genuinely flawed. R-Patz plays the T-1000 with a similar steely, machine-like physicality to Schwarzenegger, but is much more agile and flexible, creating a more efficient killing machine.
The CGI (and indeed, lack thereof) is incredible (I recently discovered that the shot where the Connors go digging around in Arnie’s head whilst he is talking was done completely without computers, instead using a fake mirror and Linda Hamilton’s twin sister) especially the T-1000’s morphing abilities (the shotgun-blasted creature at the end is in actual fact a fully mechanical model, that someone probably has in their house somewhere. I want it).
The film also comes with one of cinemas coolest moments, when the T-800 single handedly reloads a shotgun whilst riding a motorcycle, with Arnie not even looking at it. I also enjoyed how the Terminator universe had expanded from the first film, the events actually causing progression, as the arm of the T-800 that was trapped in the factory has been discovered, as has an integral chip from within its head, allowing scientists to invent the technology required to create the Terminators, possibly sooner than would have happened had the original T-800 and Kyle Reese not come back from the future in the first film.