Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time
The Terminator Films

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator Films
The Terminator (1984) | Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) | Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator Salvation (2009) | Terminator: Genisys (2015) | Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

The Terminator Films - Part 2
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
d. James Cameron, 137 minutes or 152 minutes (Sp. Ed.)

Film Plot Summary

The film took place 11 years after the events of the first movie (in which the original T-800 Series Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was destroyed by crushing in an hydraulic press). It was the year 1995 -- two years before a scheduled nuclear holocaust. The film opened with the voice-over of 29 year-old Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who envisaged the August 1997 nuclear holocaust.

Three billion human lives ended on August 29, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare, a war against the machines...

The computer which controlled the machines, Skynet, sent two terminators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the human Resistance...John Connor - my son.

The first terminator was programmed to strike at me, in the year 1984...before John was born. It failed.

The second was sent to strike at John himself, when he was still a child. As before, the Resistance was able to send a lone warrior. A protector for John. It was just a question of which one of them would reach him first.

The camera panned in on the figure of John Connor, the rebel, freedom-forces leader, who scanned the combat with night-vision binoculars. He led the remaining human Resistance forces after the nuclear disaster left the world under the domination of evil, killer cyborgs in a life-and-death struggle. His face was rugged with heavy scars.

Two cyborg Terminators were sent from future Earth (the year 2030) back in time to Los Angeles -- an older T-800 model (or Model 101) (Arnold Schwarzenegger) similar to the one from the first film, and the other, a seemingly-indestructible, advanced prototype T-1000 android (Robert Patrick) made of liquid metal ("a mimetic poly-alloy") who had the uncanny ability to 'morph' his body into any solid shape, impersonate other persons (mostly, police officers) and even camouflage himself with the background (like a tiled floor).

They were both in pursuit of Sarah's rebellious, 10 year-old foster child son John Connor (Edward Furlong) - who was the savior of future humanity in a war with a deadly machine complex called SkyNet. Now a muscle-bound warrior-woman, Sarah was hospitalized in a mental institution (Pescadero State Hospital) for acting delusional and insane over thoughts of an apocalypse. She had been arrested for attempting to blow-up Cyberdyne Systems (and the SkyNet computer labs to wipe out any trace of Terminator technology).

It was revealed that the Terminator T-800 was a reprogrammed cyborg -- sent from the future by John Connor to protect the future leader, while the other was sent to kill the boy who would lead humans to victory over the cyborgs. Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), a Cyberdyne Systems engineer, was shown entering a high-security vault where he viewed the CPU and arm of the Terminator from the first film, proving Sarah's claim about the existence of future Terminators. The two Terminators located young John in the LA area Galleria shopping mall which led to a gunfight-confrontation in a hallway, and a chase scene down within LA's flood control channel. The T-800 rescued John and revealed his mission to protect him.

Both Terminators entered the mental hospital to save/kill Sarah Connor, eventually revealing to her that the T-800 was actually there to help save her (with the familiar words: "Come with me if you want to live"). After their successful escape, they fled southward to Mexico in a stolen station wagon, while Sarah learned that Miles Dyson was "directly responsible" for building SkyNet after inventing a revolutionary new microprocessor - he was the "director of special projects at Cyberdyne Systems Corporation" - and when "human decisions are removed from strategic defense" - the defensive computer network system SkyNet became "self-aware" or sentient by late August 1997 and it was too late to disarm the system. In retaliation against being unplugged, SkyNet launched missiles against Russian targets, causing the nuclear holocaust termed Judgment Day. [The microchip that Miles was designing at Cyberdyne was based upon the salvaged CPU from the original T-800 - "it didn't work, but it gave us ideas, took us in new directions."]

At the Mexican desert camp led by rebel Enrique Salceda (Castulo Guerra), there was an underground weapons cache in preparation for war. There, John began to bond as the Terminator learned about human emotions and feelings, and John had a male/parent/father figure to relate to. Sarah experienced further nightmarish, end-of-the world cataclysmic dreams, in which she envisaged the fiery effects on a children's playground and herself. Sarah drove off in the station wagon without stopping to speak to anyone. John realized she was fulfilling her need to make future generations safe by somehow changing the present and subsequently the future. Her actions would prevent Skynet's creation, the war with the machines, and Judgment Day: "The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves." She was headed to the home of computer scientist Dyson to "blow him away" - she had become a cold-blooded, unfeeling, "Terminator" assassin.

At Dyson's home, Sarah shot and wounded him, but couldn't complete the act in front of his family. John and the Terminator followed her to the home and kicked in the front door. She explained how Dyson and his research would be responsible for the deaths of three billion people. After being convinced, Dyson became their ally in a mission to destroy the fateful Terminator artifacts at Cyberdyne (the CPU and arm from the previous Terminator), and any chip-design research.

In the subsequent lab sequence at Cyberdyne, the Terminator T-800 held off police and SWAT teams as fatally-wounded Dyson met an heroic death by triggering the detonator to destroy the building. In a hijacked helicopter, the T-1000 pursued John, Sarah, and the T-800 in their SWAT van. He then transferred to a liquid nitrogen truck, that crashed into the concrete supports of a steel mill - spilling a river of liquid nitrogen. The T-1000 was covered with the frozen liquid at -230 degrees - his body became a huge icicle. His feet froze to the ground as he walked, and his legs became so brittle that they broke off at the ankle like pieces of glass. A single shot from the Terminator's .45 handgun blew the T-1000 into tiny fragments of frozen polyalloy ("Hasta la vista, baby"), but the pieces thawed and he reconstituted himself.

This led to the final sequence at the steel foundry where the two Terminators dueled and battled one final time. The 'good' Terminator sent the T-1000 to his death in a vat of molten steel with a blast from a grenade launcher. It flopped around in its death throes, transforming itself into various mutations - Janelle with her blade arm, the hospital security guard, and the chrome motorcycle cop. Unable to re-form, it finally dissipated into the fiery molten steel. John tossed both the metallic hand of the first terminator and the chip into the smelter.

The Terminator also knew that he must be destroyed (and his own CPU micro-chip) to insure that he would never fall into the wrong hands and set the awful, nuclear-war-torn future of Skynet back into motion. Emotionally attached to the Terminator, surrogate son John was devastated and broke down, making one last attempt to order him to stay. The android touched the tear on John's cheek with his metal finger before committing his sacrificial act for humankind: "I have to go away...I must go away, John...I'm sorry...It has to end here...I know now why you cry, but it's something I could never do." They hugged each other, and the Terminator shook Sarah's hand. As he stepped out onto the chainfall (to be lowered by Sarah, since he couldn't self-terminate), he told both of them: "Goodbye." Slowly, the Terminator machine nobly descended and sank into the steaming hot steel. His metal hand was the last thing to disappear - it formed a "thumbs up" in the final seconds. The Terminator's ThermoVision showed glitched read-outs and then collapsed to a bright red, solid line that turned off like a television set - it signaled his technological death.

The image of John and Sarah at the mill dissolved into a shot of a traveling highway strip at night under a car - an ambiguous ending. Sarah delivered an epilogue voice-over, an optimistic tribute to honor the cyborg whose actions were of a higher nature:

The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it for the first time with a sense of hope, because if a machine, a terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can, too.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

This box-office hit, budgeted at about $102 million, brought in almost $205 million in revenues (domestically), and almost $520 million (worldwide). It was also the first film in history to cost $100 million to produce. The film's trailer alone cost $150,000. Arnold Schwarzenegger's salary was reported to be between $12 and $15 million.

The film acquired four technical Academy Awards (Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Effects Editing) from its six nominations.

The film explored issues of fate, responsibility, loyalty, and the essences of humanity. The sequel was made possible by Cameron's hugely successful blockbuster Aliens (1986) and The Abyss (1989). Unlike The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day would gross half its budget in its opening weekend, despite a running time of over two and a half hours, and end up making back twice its budget in the United States alone.

The chief selling point, aside from the computer-generated special effects and dazzling, non-stop action sequences, were the two major stars, Schwarzenegger and Hamilton, who starred in the original.

Set-pieces: the Terminator T-800's biker bar confrontation with rednecks, the Galleria shopping mall and the Flood Control Channel Chases (with Arnold's one-handed Harley-shotgun cocking-reload), the scene of Sarah's breakout from the hospital, Sarah's attempt to terminate Dyson at his home, the Cyberdyne Systems building infiltration and police-team assault, followed by the T-1000's helicopter and liquid nitrogen truck chase, and the final action sequence at the steel foundry.

John Connor
(Michael Edwards)

Terminator T-800
(Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Terminator T-1000
(Robert Patrick)

Sarah Connor
(Linda Hamilton)

John Connor
(Edward Furlong)

Dr. Peter Silberman
(Earl Boen)

Miles Bennett Dyson
(Joe Morton)

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