From the Archive: Terminator 2: Judgment Day


I find it a little dismaying that I can reach back twenty-five years to find reviews that are incredibly pertinent to new blockbuster-wannabe releases. James Cameron attests that the latest stab at perpetuating the franchise, Terminator: Genisys, is the true follow-up to his own final cinematic word the adventures of Sarah Connor and the cyborg assassin from the future. (I’m pretty sure he also once maintained that the theme park attraction he helped direct is also canon.) I don’t blame him for disavowing the other movies, but I know at least a couple people who would argue vehemently (preferably over beers) that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles needs to be given its due. The review pulled up from the archives here was written for an edition of our radio show that served to wrap-up the summer, hence the concern about grosses and budget. And isn’t it cute that there was incredible worry about the precedent of a nine-figure budget? On that front, it’s also worth noting that the 1991 summer-topping gross is well below the opening weekend earnings for Jurassic World, a development that isn’t entirely explained by inflation. I apologize for my abuse of the word “literally” in the opening paragraph.

In retrospect, it should have been absolutely obvious what the number one movie of the summer was going to be. The biggest star in the world, a gargantuan budget that had literally everyone talking, a Fourth of July weekend opening date, and it’s the sequel to a film that dig respectable in its initial release but has developed a strong and sizable legion of fans ever since. Did we really all think that the inevitable R rating was going to keep people from going to see TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY?

Well, I suppose the big letter did keep some people out of the theater, but not enough to stop T2 from plowing over all the competition for the month of July and becoming the top grossing film of the summer and the year to date. And people had a lot to talk about after leaving the theater. There were the mind-blowing, staggering special effects that director James Cameron and the Oscar-bound visual effects crew dreamed up. There was also the attention-getting performance by Linda Hamilton, who may have put the Beauty and the Beast image to rest forever with her urgent, tough-as-roofing-nails turn as Sarah Connor. And then there was the message among the mayhem. Though T2 was full of the carnage expected and demanded from a summertime actionfest, it didn’t celebrate it, effectively making the point that human life is a precious thing, a thing that doesn’t deserve to be mindlessly terminated.

And of course people still talk about the budget that came desperately close to the one hundred million dollar mark. But after the opening weekend grosses were in, it seemed like a far less important subject. And by the end of the summer, when it was reported that TERMINATOR 2 had brought in $183.1 million dollars, people didn’t talk about that budget much at all.