Directed by James Cameron. USA. 1991

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Arnie by Richard HuntHaving come of age with The Abyss and failed in Hollywood terms, it was unfortunate that James Cameron's newfound maturity would be discarded for a bankable sequel. Terminator 2 is hardly mentioned without "budget" in the same breath and Hollywood has not yet dared contemplate the results had the movie flopped. "Aren't we changing things right now?" asks Mrs Dyson of their efforts to alter the course of future destruction and Terminator 2 sadly, can only serve to create a false future of financial - and not creative - fixation. 

The irony here, though, is that the vast proportion of the budget is spent on lavish effects and thus spent on creativity itself. As essential as the T-1000's ability to change shape is his indestructible nature, Cameron makes no bones about spelling out the complexities of effect to his audience: A doctor stands mouth agape as the machine melts through the bars of a locked door and our excuse for disbelief is made for us. Similarly Schwarzenegger's skin-ripping Meccano-revelation as proof to the Dyson family of his Terminator-ness is exhibited for our own unpleasure. Sarah's own "What the f*** is goiní on?" recalls the wink-wink "You've got to be f***ing kidding ! at the similar shape shifting in John Carpenter's The Thing

Beyond the gallery of effects lie the exhibition of Schwarzenegger himself. The obligation of The Terminator's naked arrival through time and the subsequent donning of leather to Bad To The Bone create a male equivalent of Julia Roberts. The self-consciousness of self-parody as constructed by Cameron and Schwarzenegger not only dictate the now fundamental macho unsubtleties of lines such as "I need a vacation" after the ultimate Arnie-bash but more mocking and hence satisfactory quips: "It's definitely you", John wryly observes as The Terminator grapples with a mother of a gun. 

The relationship between the John and The Terminator ideally provides the laughs as he fumbles with John's alien coolness which slyly leads to his own contemporisation. The process of learning, briefly considered, places John and his defender in vying - and therefore oedipal - positions of paternity. The cyborg protects yet John teaches. 

Recognition of one's own identity is paramount here and is thematically supported. The T-1000 frowns at a silver, soulless mannequin and Sarah ruthlessly offers, "If you can't pass for human, you're not much good to us", not realising that she has become a machine herself. She remains protective to John but only as The Terminator protects, caring not for her son or for the world but for her mission. Indeed, she uses John as a psychological battering ram to her councillors in trying to obtain placement in a minimum-security institution. Cameron emphasises this alienation and incites fear of the mother for even John's foster mother has become a machine. Furthermore, the T-1000 ultimately becomes Sarah and not The Terminator... 

This lack of maternal love, one presumes, is a comment on the destruction of nature and Cameron destroys in style. Along with the elaborate pyrotechnics lie the trampled roses and crushed sunglasses which both serve to conceal The Terminator's aggression and intent. The confidence of annihilation compliments the complete sense of slickness in Terminator 2. Advanced technology has been captured and turned inside out and like the T-1000 itself, a machine has been created that is remorselessly seamless and efficient for the Hollywood market. 

Ed Cooper

See Aaron Asadi's review of T3
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