Terminator 2: Judgment Day DVD Review

Time travel is such a tough subject for movies. No matter how much you think through it, there will always be a problem somewhere you couldn't possibly have considered and the film instantly loses credibility. "Terminator 2," even with some of the usual issues, remains strong with brilliantly designed action sequences and great continuity from the original film.

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), now in a mental institution due to her insistence that a cyborg from the future tried to kill her, is unable to care for her son, John Connor (Edward Furlong). In a foster home, the rebellious teen who will someday lead the humans against the machines is being tracked by a new version of the of the human/machine hybrids, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). His only hope to survive is another T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), sent into current times with sole purpose of protecting John.

Even without some of the best action sequences ever put on film, "T2" would still succeed. Characters are formed with great back-stories, the performances are strong, and Robert Patrick steals the show as the cold killing machine. It's amazing to think someone could rebound their career after starring in "King Kong Lives," but Linda Hamilton plays her over-stressed and paranoid role flawlessly. Arnold now on the other side of the good versus evil fight is a little cheesy, but it gives the film some much needed comic relief.

Oh, and those action scenes? Unbelievable. The canal run is easily one of the most memorable chase sequences in the history of motion pictures and the liquid nitrogen truck crash is spectacular to behold. The special effects set a new standard, holding up perfectly 12-years later. The morphing T-1000 is ingenious and numerous documentaries detail how this process was completed (including a few practical effects).

This DVD features the extended directors cut of "T2." Adding in 16 minutes of character development related sequences, this puts the film at two and a half hours, a bit much for any movie. The scenes serve a purpose, but the original mix is likely a better choice (which is available on disc 2; more on that later). Anyway you watch it however, you're getting one of the best sci-fi action films ever conceived. (***** out of *****)

"Terminator 2" has been yet again restored for this release (which coincided with theatrical run of "Terminator 3). This time the film is ready for high-definition DVD when it comes around. Taken from a new 1080p 2.35:1 transfer, this is a gorgeous picture. Details show through brilliantly with sharp colors and solid black levels. Close-ups of the actor's faces show all of this perfectly. Knocking it all down just a notch is a little light grain and some very annoying compression artifacts while in the mental hospital. (****)

*Note: Disc 2 of this set includes an almost flawless transfer of the original theatrical version of the film, presented in the highest resolution possible. The insert included inside the case provides all the details. Only playable in DVD-ROM equipped PC's, this is easily the best possible way to view the film... ever. Problem? The hardware requirements eliminate 90% of the population. If you have the computer to do run this, go for it. *End note.

This is at least the fourth time (just off the top of my head) "T2" has found its way onto DVD. Each time, the sound has continually improved, but with this release, that's finally not true. This doesn't mean the 5.1 EX mix included here doesn't sound great (it does), it's that the previous release called "Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition" is stronger with a masterful DTS ES remix. The bass here just doesn't have the impact that disc did.

Regardless, the incredible use of the surround speakers create an audio experience that ranks amongst the best DVD's on the market. Small details like glass shattering or pieces of objects that have just exploded swirl around the room in stunning clarity. Ambient noise, like the brief arcade scene, is also used to enhance the quieter moments. But, like mentioned above, the bass of the explosions just doesn't have the impact it did before, but very few people will likely notice the difference. (****)

All of the special features here are new, but limited when (again) compared to the "Ultimate Edition." Disc 1 contains a new commentary track with James Cameron and William Wisher, one of the co-writers. This track hardly compares however to the "Interactive Commentary."

Informative text (which ranges from birth dates and filmographies of the crew to how a scene was done) appears at the bottom of the screen throughout the entire running time. At the top, the special effects scenes are deconstructed, telling viewers what styles were used to achieve the effect. The opening shots of the future show viewers matte lines and where James Cameron's brother makes an appearance. Even still, when the Teledyne logo appears in the upper right corner, you can view some extra video segments or listen to some audio pertaining to the scene.

Disc 2 contains some minor features, but none of this even compares to the "Ultimate Edition." "No Feat But What We Make" is a 24-minute documentary that shows how influential "T2" was to special effects. Brief clips from other famous effects films like "Star Wars" are included as well. "T2 on the Set" is an all too brief 8-minute segment featuring various clips from the shoot including a few outtakes. A few generic DVD-ROM features like being able to take an imported photo and add Terminator-style texturing to it is also available. (***)

The very informative insert included with this set explains that this is nothing more than a companion disc to the "Ultimate Edition." The video quality on this, the "Extreme DVD," is much improved over that release. The overall disc just doesn't compare, but if video quality is highly important to you, this is a better choice. The majority of people will likely be happier with the 6-hours of features on the previous release. Regardless of which disc you choose, the film itself deserves a spot somewhere in your collection.

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