Minutia Monday: Terminator 2: Judgement Day Edition
By Bret Dorman
(As always, SPOILERS! may apply to the movie in discussion.)Everyone knows what makes a movie good. Blurbs like “compelling”, “powerful”, and “explosive non stop thrill ride that will leave you on the edge of your seat!” are common place on movie posters. In reviews (including my own) people point out how the direction is “great”, how the writing is “awesome”, and how the acting is “wonderful”. Every once in a while you can find a really great essay from a smart film critic (a real one) or film maker that actually explains why a movie is good and helps you as a viewer become a better film watcher.
But what about those small moments that fall in between the cracks? I understand the need to talk about a movie in the broad sense, its the easiest most SPOILER! free way of saying if you liked or didn’t like a movie. I prefer people to talk in specifics, to actually know why something is good or bad. But this goes beyond all that. This is blowing the tiniest detail way out of proportion. This is what makes me a film nerd. This is Minutia Monday!!!
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Written by James Cameron and William Wisher Jr; Directed by James Cameron
What better way to celebrate the upcoming Fourth of July holiday than by taking a look at a movie that celebrates the two things America is all about? Allowing foreigners to come find fame and fortune and our eventual destruction through technology that is supposed to make things easier. While the first Terminator served as a ‘modern day Frankenstein’, the second ramps up the adrenaline, Armageddon, and everything masculine. Similar to what Cameron did with Aliens, here he doesn’t settle for just one scary killer, but plural scary killers. After all, sequels are about giving you MORE than the first, right? More Terminators, more abilities, and more explosions.It seems like having your own personal Terminator bodyguard would be pretty awesome. Nothing could really hurt you. Nothing, except a more advanced Terminator. What’s great about T2 is that even though it takes time to recap and expand on what happened in the first, it doesn’t try to slowly build up suspense in the action department from scratch. You need to see T1 to fully enjoy T2 (its a rare sequel that actually goes into the consequences of the actions it brings up originally) but you never feel bored or like you’re just going through the same old motions. Why? Because Terminators are brutal, relentless badasses. And when it comes to achieving their mission, they don’t care about playing it safe or stealthy. They’ll kill innocent people, survive impossible situations, and push kids over at an arcade. They just don’t care, as long as they win.
Right away the two technological titans trade gun shots like they were wild animals puffing their chests. They don’t know the meaning of holding back. Every decision is a cold and calculated one designed with the utmost of finality in mind. Here is the first encounter between the outdated future Arnold and one of the most recognizable villains in cinema history:
This Minutia Monday may not be one of those super subtle or hidden gems, buts its one worth blowing way out of proportion. The way Arnold uses his back to shield John Connor from being assassinated? Yeah. One little gesture that reflects how when you care about your movie and want to have fun with it, the movie as a whole will benefit. The thing about Terminators is that they know they are Terminators. They know what they are capable of and usually their opponents (humans) can’t hurt them. They are willing to take bullets because it really doesn’t effect them. Terminators are male machismo personified. Backing down is considered weak, therefore not even an option in their programming. Their success is achieved by being the strongest and the toughest. You don’t have to take shit from anyone because no one can hurt you. You are the best. And because of this mentality and ability to follow through on it, to actually be an indestructible fighting machine, when it comes to anything else other than what they want… Terminators just don’t give a fuck.
Early on even in the invention of the idea of robots, some people knew of the dangers they could bring as well as the good things. Isaac Asimov created 3 basic Laws of Robotics to ensure that nothing like an uprising would ever happen. Here they are:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Terminators don’t just ignore these laws, they are designed and built to aggressively break them. They aren’t just indifferent to people, willing to co-exist but feeling superior. No. They view us as a pest and want to wipe us off the face of the Earth. Their indestructible physical perfection is something humans could never have, but all secretly strive for. Cameron doesn’t just understand how the machine would think (“He’ll live”), but how it would act in every exciting situation he could dream up for it.While the best action movies should have good stories, characters, dialogue, acting, and everything else required of any other good movie; they should also have those small touches that show the people making the movie are thinking things through, paying attention, and having fun. A bunch of movies come out that seem to just go through the motions. Not T2 though, it doesn’t just rely on its caliber of talent to sell tickets, its good because its caliber of talent performs above and beyond.
And this is just the starting point! Very immediately later there’s an awesome chase scene featuring Arnold flip-cocking his shotgun, a stealthy prison break, Arnold shooting many, many grenades and a mini gatling gun (Classic), the T-1000’s thrown-into-a-wall-reverse-melt-switcheroo, and enough quotable lines to ensure people would be talking about Terminator 2 for years to come.
So what do you think? Does The Action God Himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger and crew deserve this pat on the back? Or am I just crazy for focusing on this minute detail?